If you go
What: Battle in the Bubble
When: Events begin Saturday morning; competition finals start at 6 p.m.
Where: Boulder Reservoir
More info: thespotgym.com
In a town with so many climbers, organizers of Saturday’s Battle in the Bubble — a new bouldering competition and festival at Boulder Reservoir — are hoping their event will take off.
“This will probably, over the years, turn into a much larger climbing festival with a lot more things to do and a lot more ways to participate,” said Dan Howley, owner of The Spot climbing gym.
In its first iteration, the event will have festival activities, like slacklining, paddleboarding and kayak demos, plus food and a beer garden. But the meat of the Battle in the Bubble will be the bouldering competition. A new climbing wall is going up at Boulder Reservoir this week; finalists will compete on it Saturday; and it will go up in The Spot afterward.
Howley said The Spot has had a pro climbing competition every year since it opened. This year, the gym had an opening on its calendar, so Andrew Clinkingbeard and Jackie Hueftle, who work at The Spot, suggested putting on a new event.
“One of the big problems we’ve had at comps in the past — and the biggest problem with pro comps — is the size of our venue,” Howley said, referring to the lack of space for thousands of spectators at The Spot. “So these guys said, ‘Let’s do something outdoors, huge.’ ”
Clinkingbeard said they also wanted to make the climbing competition more understandable and accessible to everyone, including non-climbers. They’re hoping to see a few thousand people at the Battle, since there’s so much viewing space at the reservoir.
“The whole idea is to grow the sport,” he said.
To that end, they’ve changed the competition format. Some competitions use a scoring system that can make it tough for spectators — and even the athletes themselves — to figure out who is in the lead. At the Battle, competitors are going for a high point in each round, and those who climb the highest will move on to the next round until two men and two women remain; they’ll climb head-to-head.
“This new format — it’s exciting, it’s intuitive, there’s constant action, it’s easy to follow how people are doing on these elimination problems,” Howley said.
Boulder’s Sender Films will shoot video of the competition for a live stream on The Spot’s Web site — and a 24-by-13-foot screen for spectators at the reservoir.
Clinkingbeard said the competition is drawing competitors from around the country. But several of the top competitors already live here.
Paul Robinson, of Boulder, competes on the World Cup circuit and won The Spot’s competition series this year. He’d planned to compete in the Battle in the Bubble until an ankle injury sidelined him.
“I’ve definitely seen competitions evolve over the years, and this new scoring system of tops as the most highly regarded prize is definitely a way forward for climbing, because it’s definitely easy to understand, and it sets a new level for climbing competitions that hasn’t been reached in the past,” he said.
Robinson said he’s glad to see such a big climbing event in Boulder.
“I think this is a very good start for something that definitely could be really positive for the Boulder community,” Robinson said.
“I think that the more people that can understand climbing and can get enjoyment out of watching a climbing competition, the more our sport will grow and the more access climbing will be to the general public.”