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'Intrinsic': New Video and Interview Share Climber Chris Sharma's Life in Spain

Chris Sharma is one of the most amazing and well-known rock climbers in the world. Born and raised in Santa Cruz, California, Chris now lives in Spain where he has established a string of 5.15 routes in the area around his home. So we were quite happy when our friends at prAna—one of Chris’s sponsors—let us premier his new video here on The REI Blog.

The new video, called Intrinsic, gives a glimpse of Chris’ life in the Catalunya (Catalonia) region of northeastern Spain. As Chris points out, the climbing opportunities there are practically unlimited.

Check out the video and our Q&A interview that follows with Chris.

REI: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself because of climbing?

CS: I’ve been climbing for most of my life and, looking back, climbing has been woven into almost all of my experiences.  What’s so great about climbing is that it’s not only a sport but a lifestyle. Of course, the amazing activity of climbing rocks is at the center of it all, but I’d say the friends you meet along the way, the amazing places we get to visit, being in a foreign country and trying to communicate in a different language are all things that have equally made climbing so enriching for me. 

However, going back to the basics: Working on these extremely challenging routes, has forced me to confront my fears and weaknesses, to dig deep and not give up even in super frustrating moments.

Even though climbing is much more than just a sport, the athletic side of it is fascinating. To discipline your body and mind to do what you tell it to do, is an amazing feeling when it all comes together. These are things that come naturally up to a certain point and then the only way is hard work and to be 100% committed to go beyond our comfort zone. Some prefer the structure of a regimented training program. For me, however, the climbs that I strive to achieve are the structure, the program and the goal all in one.


REI: In the video, you talk about not forcing yourself to go climbing because you feel like you need to go, but rather following your motivation to climb so that it’s genuine. Has it always been that way for you?

CS: I think I’ve always had a bit of a laid back, intuitive and spontaneous approach to climbing. Climbing is such a personal thing, and that’s one of the things I loved about it when I was just getting started. Everyone has their own way, and whatever works for you is your way. Of course, there are times when you have to work really hard, and it’s a struggle and it’s not easy. To take our climbing to another level, we have to try harder than we've ever tried before. But at the same time I think it’s really important to not lose sight of why we are doing it (that we are passionately in love with climbing). I’ve seen many people turn climbing into this frustrating, anguishing thing, where there is no joy in the process (and in climbing, the process is what it’s all about).

The moments of success in climbing are really brief when we get to the top of our project and celebrate, whereas the moments of slogging through the trenches are the majority. It’s not always easy to see this, but if we lose sight of it then climbing stops being enjoyable, and we won’t be climbing our best either.  

Climbing is a lifelong pursuit, and in that way I think it’s normal to not always be 100% motivated. It’s important to recognize that and not get frustrated. For me, the most important feeling is to be motivated and inspired, and the rest always happens naturally. Sometimes the motivation isn’t there, and we have to be patient and not force things. Sometimes taking a step back and taking a breath of fresh air helps us see clearer why we love climbing so much and reaffirms our commitment and motivation in our projects.

REI: Climbing continues to grow in popularity, with more and more kids being introduced to the sport at young ages. It’s produced some young standouts, like Adam Ondra who you’ve climbed with. What do you think the future of climbing looks like? What will the next generation accomplish?

CS: It’s amazing to see the new generation of climbers!  In the same way I stood on the shoulders of the past generations achievements to achieve the first 5.15, climbers like Adam, Sasha and Ashima are doing the same and will take climbing to yet another level!  In this way it’s really neat to see the continuum from the early pioneers to the present day and see how all our experiences and achievements are all so connected.


You’ve traveled a lot, all over the world. How’s life now that you’re slightly more settled down, with a house in Spain and endless climbing right nearby?

CS: For me, it was so important to travel and see the world.  It opened up my eyes in so many ways.  It’s been a huge privilege to see what’s out there and get an idea of things.

At some point, though, it was like I needed to stop moving from place to place and start applying all of those experiences to one place and develop my own vision for climbing and living. In many ways, things just fell into place here in Spain; mainly meeting my partner, Daila Ojeda, and settling in a place where there is so much amazing climbing that I didn’t have to travel constantly and where I could dedicate myself to finding new routes and doing first ascents. The process of putting new routes takes a lot of time and energy. It really is something you have to live nearby to do because some of these climbs take years to complete.

So, settling here in Spain has given me the opportunity to really explore how far I can push myself in climbing while at the same time creating more of a family and stability in my life. 

REI: Do you have any upcoming climbing plans in the USA?

CS: Actually, I’m really excited to come back to California for some serious climbing. I’m always back and forth from Europe and the US, but since my time is so spread out I haven’t had the chance to climb much recently in the US. I would really like to go back to Clark Mountain and work on the direct start of Jumbo Love, which will be a new level in difficulty for sure. Also I’d just really like to go bouldering with old friends like we always used to do, have fun, try hard and find some amazing things in nature!

Still photos of Chris Sharma by Boone Speed; courtesy of prAna.

Posted on at 2:00 PM

Tagged: Chris Sharma, Climbing and Rock Climbing

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wow. tough guy, good job really.

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