Climb North in Hampton produces nationally ranked competitor
Mainstream sports are most popular to watch as well as play. But thrill-seekers often go off the beaten path.
For children who want to try something different, Climb North at Jewart's Gymnastics in Hampton Township may be a good place to start.
Climb North celebrated its 25th anniversary Saturday. Head climbing coach Justin Mech has worked at the gym for the last half of its existence and has seen the competitive climbing youth team grow from three to about 25 kids, and up to 80 children take classes.
“Things like American Ninja Warrior help,” Mech said. “But climbing is just erupting all over the country. I think it's more of a millennial type of thing. You have your old-school climbers who are set in their ways, but then you have these 8-year-olds climbing around them.”
One of those talented climbers is 10-year-old Pax Carslaw, who made it to the USA Climbing Youth Nationals on Feb. 9-11 in Salt Lake City. Carslaw was the only climber from the area and one of 50 nationally to qualify. The athletes have four climbs and four minutes to complete them each time, testing physical and problem-solving skills.
“Winning divisionals was just outstanding,” said Pax, who finished and is ranked 39th nationally. “It was just so awesome just learning how the really advanced people do it. I really like it because it makes me stronger. My dad showed me and right at that moment I fell in love with it.”
Carslaw's mother, Lainy, a gymnastics coach at Jewart's, started Pax and older son Koda in gymnastics as a base. As it turns out, gymnastics skills transfer well to indoor rock climbing, which is seen as a starter to get participants into outdoor rock climbing.
“He's built for it,” Lainy Carslaw said. “He's got awesome flexibility, a calm demeanor and presence, and is super-strong and light-boned. All of this caters to being a climber. He's just really taken to it and realizes he has a knack for it.”
Part of the appeal is the novelty of exercising in different motions and the cerebral aspect.
“Definitely if you're not into going to the gym and lifting the same weights,” said Mylauna Swango, who serves as an assistant coach after seeing a Groupon for Climb North four years ago. “It's also about the problem-solving.”
Climb North will continue to benefit from rock climbing's growing place in the national spotlight, as it will be featured as a sport at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.