Drew Ruana and the Next Generation of Boulderers

Yesterday when I was watching the Tenaya interview of Drew Ruana that I posted in yesterday’s post I was stoked to hear them talk about “the next generation of boulderers.” This got me stoked because I hadn’t really thought about this explicitly but had kind of intuited, just in my brief year plus of loving bouldering, that a changing of the guard is currently taking place. Who is the old guard? Guys like Jimmy Webb, Daniel Woods, Dave Graham, Keenan Takahashi, Paul Robinson, Nalle Hukkataival. Women like Nina Williams and Alex Puccio. And then you have the new guard, and these are names I don’t know as well but of which group Drew Ruana, at 21, is definitely a prime member. You also  have guys like Sean Bailey, Nathianel Coleman, Shawn Raboutou, and on the women’s side Brooke Raboutou and….well I don’t know of a ton others, but there are mid-gen people like Giuliano Cameroni on the men’s side and Isabelle Faus on the women’s side. But the point here is not the names, not who makes up the next generation of boulderers, but what are they like? What does the future hold for the next generation of strong boulderers and bouldering in general? What is the new standard? When will the next real V17 be laid down? What, if any, is the ceiling for grades?

You don’t have to look any further than Drew Ruana to get REALLY psyched on the next generation of boulderers and bouldering in general. Drew Ruana is a good poster boy for this group. He’s strong as a wildebeest, currently studying chemical engineering, has sent several V16’s, tons of V15’s and 14’s, and is currently working on at least one (probably to be proposed) V17 (there’s an epic moment in the Tenaya interview where Drew takes the audience to check out his “white board” where he’s written down all the V14 and harder climbs in his immediate vicinity. He talks throughout the interview about a really gnarly project he’s been working on and on the whiteboard you can see “Megatron V17” written . Holy shit!!!! Send/video coming soon??????) (see him send Tron V14 here). It makes you think: If this kid is only 21 years old and already crushing V16’s, and only thinks he’s going to get stronger, why isn’t V17 next? Maybe even V18 at some point in his career, though as he talked about in the interview, V18 would be something with moves like the moves in Nalle Hukkataival’s Burden of Dreams V17, but like, eight or so of those moves in a row. So, like, pretty gnarly. Like, probably not boulders I’ll be getting on anytime soon. Though I feel like my recent send of Toto V4 is sort of somehow in the same league.

(You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Big Island Assis (proposed V17) so far in this talk of elite boulder grades. This is because there’s no consensus concerning this boulder, since it’s only been climbed once. Now, it’s very possible that this proposed grade will remain. I mean, Jimmy Webb tried the boulder a bunch and couldn’t pull it off, and Jimmy Webb is mildly herculean. And of course there’s no consensus on Burden of Dreams V17 either. But since it took Nalle like five years and something like 80 sessions to send Burden of Dreams and people have tried it since and not even been able to do the first move I feel like it has a better chance of standing the test of time. Though who the hell knows).

Anyway. What were we talking about. Sorry, I have a hard time adding all these links to the blog post but I want you guys to know what I’m talking about and also watch the Drew Ruana video. We were talking about the next generation of boulderers, I know that, but then I got distracted by that video of the dudes trying Burden of Dreams and I also got some yogurt out of the fridge and now I kind of feel like the moment has passed. The point is this: I’m super stoked for this next generation of boulderers, and super stoked to see what kinds of lines they put up and what kind of footage comes out. Because there’s NOT THAT MUCH FOOTAGE of the next gen boulderers. The overwhelming majority is of the old guard, which makes sense, since Drew Ruana for example just started climbing outside seriously fairly recently. Before that he was mostly a comp climber.

The final question you’re probably asking yourself and one that I should address is: Mark, what guard are you a part of? Old gen, middle gen, new gen? And, well, I’m 37 years old. I’ve been bouldering for just over a year and spent a decent amount of that time injured. But I’d say I’m probably somewhere between “next gen” and “middle gen.” So far there have been no Tenaya interviews with me, but that probably comes after you send V5 or V6 outside. Maybe V7. So hopefully some kind of interview will drop by the end of this summer.

It’s a rainy-ass day on the boat and I’ve already had some Hop Tea and a matcha latte and some delicious yogurt and it’s almost time to do my physical therapy. Knee feels a bit gnarly today cuz I ran (mostly) a mile yesterday. 8:27!!!! That was my time. My goal was to beat my previous post-injury best of 10:57, and hopefuly break 10:00. So I was over the moon stoked on my time. And plan to do it next week and try to run the whole thing without stopping. There wasn’t really any pain yesterday, but I’m feeling it a tiny bit today. All the more reason to do some phys ther!

I hope you all are having a wonderful Friday and have fun weekend plans that involve sending hard blocs are just seeing the ones you love.

Try hard,