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21 February 2022

Boulder Together: Meet the Athletes

We’re excited to partner with Affinity Initiative & BlocHaus to present Boulder Together – an event designed to celebrate diversity in climbing spaces and amplify the talented climbers-of-colour and routesetters-of-colour in our community.

Mike, Featuered Athlete

After another round of postponed events late last year, Boulder Together is back on the calendar and the community is ready for it. Built up by The Affinity Initiative, the event seeks to amplify the talents of climbers-of-colour and routesetters-of-colour.

The event will start with a Climbers-of-Colour Showcase, where twelve climbers will demonstrate their skills on comp problems, set by a team or routesetters-of-colour. A PumpFest will be open for everyone to climb, and be part of the competition.

Ahead of the event, we’re sharing some of the experiences of the athletes-of-colour who will feature in the Climbers-of-Colour Showcase. Hear what they had to say, with questions from Jo Lee (she/her), founder of Women Uprising and The Affinity Initiative.

DONNA | @annodyo

Donna, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

I am Donna (she/her) and I am one half of the local climbing brand ChalkUp Climbing. I am an Australian born Chinese, at home I speak Cantonese and outside of climbing I also enjoy other sports like taekwondo and boxing.

How did you get into climbing?

I was introduced to bouldering about 4 years ago and, like many other people, completely fell in love with the sport as it challenged me both mentally and physically but most of all because of the community. I have met some of the most amazing people and made some incredible bonds through climbing and now it’s become quite a significant part of my life.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing at a high performance?

I am not a competitive climber or I don’t compete very much but I am constantly striving to do my best and improve. Climbing is an outlet and stress reliever for me so I will always find time after work or in between other commitments to ensure I climb and get outdoors as much as possible.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

It would be great to see and hear more stories about climbers that are similar to myself. It’s very inspiring to learn about POC from all walks of life that love climbing, not necessarily just the athletes and pro climbers.

One thing I am very passionate about is the importance of creating connections. It would be great to have more events where we can engage POC and meet new people, listen to each other's stories and together make a happier world.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

Climbing has been growing faster than ever and it would be great to see even more gyms and organisations open to allow for more spaces and access for everyone.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

That climbing is not just a sport, but a community of supportive and amazing people. Don’t be shy to say hello or ask for help.

PAT | @sweetpatatohead

Pat, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

I’m Pat (he/him). My parents are from Hong Kong, my brother and I were born in Melbourne. Outside of climbing I’m a pretty regular human. I enjoy spending time with my partner and our dogs, sewing (sometimes), and finding stuff in dumpsters.

How did you get into climbing?

I started climbing while I was living in Hobart. I met some great people at a climate action rally and they invited me to go climbing at the gym with them. After bumbling around at the gym for a few months I got the opportunity to climb outdoors, so now I mostly just bumble around outdoors.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing at a high performance?

Very poorly. I’m quite regularly stressed out when getting ready for climbing trips. I have a dog that gets sad when I’m not around, so that’s tricky as well. I’m not a very organised person and routines bore me, which is why I don’t train/climb at a high performance level. My strategy is to just try my best to live moment to moment, not compare my life to other people’s and be nice and have fun.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

Sponsoring/hiring people from a diverse background is a good start. As well as allowing that person an opportunity to achieve their goals, it also amplifies the voice of a community. Representation also really matters. For people from marginalised communities, seeing someone who looks like you/you can relate to can be surprisingly empowering.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

I would love to see climbing become more accessible. Climbing has given me so much, and it would be great if anyone who wanted to try it out could have the opportunity to do so.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

Approach climbing in the way that you want to approach it. Try not to get too caught up with what other people are doing, and just try to enjoy climbing the way you want to climb. Just remember to be respectful of others and the places you’re climbing in. Oh, and be safe, check your knots, always check your knots!

MOHAMED NISHATH MOHAMED NIZAR AKA NISH | @nishfishnish

Mohamed Featuered Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

I used to be a chemical engineer, but couldn't find work here because of my full name Mohamed Nishath Mohamed Nizar, I then transferred into Marine Science, and now work at the Melbourne Museum in the Invertebrates department. I am currently on board the CSIRO Investigator Research Vessel sampling down to 5km in the Indian Ocean near Cocos Keeling and Christmas Island. I am halfway through my 9 week voyage.

I am Sri Lankan born, I am of Arabic (Yemeni/Morrocan) and Dravidian blood (Srilankan/Indian). In Sri Lanka I am classified as a Sri Lankan Moor. My ancestors are of seafaring blood. I am slowly becoming a more devout Muslim, as it is the way I handle racism and a white and eurocentric worldview.

How did you get into climbing?

Climbing was integral to having a bath in the rivers my father was from, the highland jungles of Ulapane. I grew up in Dubai and had one or two sessions in the gym before Nif told me to go deep water soloing in Oman, (before Alex Honnold went!), then met a girl on Tinder and she said she was a climber and then started climbing at Northside boulders. Been climbing there ever since as it is a place I can take my dog, and I find the community quite accepting, although there are many times I still feel out of place.

I met another girl called Liv from Denmark and Rio from Japan, they took me to Gariwerd (Grampians) a lot and that's really when my climbing started to improve. I had their backing in me and I excelled that way. Tim Carne and Charlie Brown also egged me on to start rope climbing.

My most inspiration comes from my younger brother Nif, he is an animal at times, and I have too much pride and try to keep up to him. Otherwise climbing is really not my sport.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing at a high performance?

Right now I'm eating loads of cake and not really climbing fit, hard to climb while at sea, but I intend to start training in two weeks time. I’m pretty exhausted after working 12 hours shifts 7 days a week at the moment. Otherwise I try to climb three times a week, surf/skate and play other sports to vary things up. Sport in general has been a way of life, and my main sports used to be tennis, swimming
and rugby. Keep moving.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

Climbing in other countries is starting to pick up, and really POC have always been climbing, more so for existence rather than for fun. Once people have more disposable income, POC will start climbing more for outdoor recreation, it is a matter of time.

I wish brands would cater to low income people and have more workshops across the globe. POC have loads of resistance, and if they can channel that towards climbing you will get some great athletes.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

Stop being so much about gear, train hard, be humble, be inclusive of everyone, be truthful and push your own boundaries, grow like a leaf, throw your ego and smile.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

It's a good escape, a great way to keep fit, you learn about how resilient your body is. You connect to loads of people from different backgrounds and is a great way for POC to be respected on the same wavelength.

SOPHIA | @sophiaguardiolav

Sophia, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

I’m Sophia (she/her), and I was born in beautiful Mexico. I consider myself as a really active person that loves to move, be creative and explore. I’m always seeking new challenges and experiences. I’m a big nature lover.

How did you get into climbing?

I was formally introduced to the climbing world by one of my best friends (Elsa), about 4 years ago. I describe that moment as “love at first sight”. I fell in love with the idea of solving boulder problems and what also fascinated me was the way we have to use every single part of our amazing body and mind while climbing. Not less important, the beautiful community that surrounds this sport also made me get into climbing.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing at a high performance?

For me, climbing is a lifestyle. This sport has given me my Aussie family and it seems to suit all my different emotional states. Every time that I feel like having fun, connecting with people or being in nature I go climbing. I also go climbing when I feel energetic or when I feel down. Climbing is always there, it balances my daily routine. I also like to listen to my body, so I take rest when I need to or do a different activity like running, which is another passion of mine.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

It’d be great to see companies creating different events/activities for those communities that don’t have the same approach and access to climbing. It'd be nice to see that we are welcomed and integrated in the climbing community, and encouraged to connect with new people interchanging our different life stories.  I think raising awareness on our different lifestyles and backgrounds could make a really positive contribution not only to POC climbers, but the entire climbing community.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

From my perspective, the future of climbing looks pretty promising. We are at the Olympic games now, which is a huge step for the climbing community in recognition of the sport. We also have to support the environment, for amateur and more experienced climbers, in order to make sure we coexist with nature. We should all understand that we are privileged to experience nature through climbing and honour that climber-nature relationship. So I understand that protecting and taking care of nature is our duty as climbers.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

Climbing for me is an active meditation, where I have to connect my body and my mind. It's not just about the grade I climb, but more about my personal achievements and how I’ve learned to use parts of my body that I was not aware of. Climbing has taught me how to hold on with all my strength and at the same time to let go: let go of expectations, outcomes and fears. It has also taught me to enjoy and embrace the process of things. Climbing, as in life, shows us how we can all solve problems in different ways, using our own strengths and capacities. Climbing is so much more than a sport, it is a lifestyle.

EDEN | @edenth_

Eden, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

My name’s Eden (she/her) and I’m a queer Vietnamese Australian. I currently work as a landscape architect in a small studio where I get to work on cool projects from small residential gardens to playgrounds for kids. Besides climbing I like to dabble in painting, music and most recently dancing!

How did you get into climbing?

My friend introduced me to climbing back in late 2018 at Lactic Factory; after going consistently enough to meet familiar faces time and time again, I was able to connect with everyone, and I guess found my happy place within the climbing community.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing at a high performance?

I enjoy climbing (mainly indoors) in my free time with friends and sometimes my cat Tofu if she feels like an adventure. But, when there's a chance to go outdoor climbing I always take it. I don’t really train full time as I like to juggle around with my hobbies but it is definitely something I always look forward to doing when I have it planned.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

I believe that having a platform for us to voice our stories as well as providing safe spaces for people to be comfortable to be themselves without judgement is key. For people to see and hear that there are others with similar narratives that they’re currently living through inspires everyone to be themselves freely.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

I hope to see more and more people try it out! I’ve gained confidence in myself and learnt so many lessons (that apply to both climbing and life in general) from the time I’ve started climbing - I’d love to see others experience the same.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

Climbing as a whole has such a warm community, you can trust that there’ll always be someone to spot you and have your back.

SERGIO | @sergioroman77

Sergio, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

My name is Sergio Roman (he) and I am a Venezuelan Australian and Melbourne has been my home for the past 13 years. I’m an adventure seeker/outdoor lover and proud father of 3 and I work as a mechanical engineer in a local brand producing healthy nut spreads, so you will find me enjoying super spread toasty between climbing training sessions in North Walls.

How did you get into climbing?

I was introduced to rock climbing through a friend during high school back in the 90s. I began my climbing journey bouldering outdoors and doing a lot of alpine climbing in my hometown Merida in Venezuela. I used to work as an alpine mountain guide in my early twenties and it brought me closer to the mountains and sparked my curiosity in becoming a climber. Since then I’ve been on a climber's journey.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing at a high performance?

Rock climbing is a lifestyle I learnt to balance with family and work, so I often combine pleasure with climbing. I enjoy handboard training sessions with my 15 year old son during the weekdays and during the weekends we head to the climbing gym to train & also gather with friends. When the weather allows, I often take my family & friends to Gariwerd (Grampians), Djurite (Arapiles) for the weekend to work on my climbing projects and to spend quality time in nature.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

The best way to engage the climbers from different backgrounds is to give them a platform to share their climbing stories/knowledge & adventures. Brand representation (via various activities) is important to raise awareness of equality & inclusiveness.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

Rock climbing has been growing quite a lot in the last 10 years, now rock climbing has been included in the Olympics and very important world competitions like bouldering, difficulty (sport) and speed are happening, the future of climbing is progressing.

We need more support from governments to educate new generations in the outdoors conservation aspects. We need more support to address the problems that have come out with outdoors climbing bans which could affect negatively our climbing communities bringing behind it serious problems with the sport and the outdoors lifestyle which I consider beautiful and very healthy for kids, families and the young generation which is the future of every country.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

Climbing taught me the untapped potential that existed within me, and I’ve learnt to enjoy the process/journey of my climbing rather than the end goal. So, I would like any aspiring climbers to seek to fulfill the potential they have & remember to enjoy the process instead of being focused on ticking boxes/projects.

KAM | @leftdrop

Kam, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

I’m Kam (she/her). I was born in Hong Kong and came to Melbourne when I was 4 years of age. Outside of climbing, I would be the biggest health and fitness nerd you will come across. I am a certified Personal Trainer and hold a handful for coaching certifications to recreational sports such as Scuba diving, surfing, sports trainer and calisthenics. Currently studying to become an exercise physiologist and working as a lifeguard and coach on the side.

How did you get into climbing?

I was working as a scuba diving instructor in Thailand and one of the companies I’d work for offered sports climbing as a day trip activity. We were allowed to go on any tours we wanted when we had a day off, so I did that. When the climb guide left, I fell into the role of climb guide.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing at a high performance?

I don’t think of myself as a high performance climber. I enjoy climbing for what it is. I would take my laptop to the gym most days and squeeze in a cheeky climb whenever I can. Working from the gym means I can always pull on and work some drills even if I don’t get a full sesh in.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

I would like brands/companies to connect with local communities and provide more focus on everyday climbers in the community and not just athletes. It would be cool to see some spotlight on the local scene and promote the sport from there.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

Climbing is growing at a rapid pace and it’s wonderful seeing people give it a go. It would be great to see more community activities surrounding the sport, bring more people together and grow the community inclusively.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

Climb for the joys of climbing. Everyone is different and has different strengths and weaknesses so don’t compare yourself to the next person. Don’t be defined by a grade of the climb and remember to have fun!

TAO | @tao_climbs

Tao, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

I am Tao, my pronouns are she/her, and I am a competitive climber. I was born in Japan, and I came to Australia at the very start of 2020. Outside of climbing I am an ordinary student at high school. Other than climbing, I like playing the flute and being adventurous.

How did you get into climbing?

When I was living in the United States, I came upon a climbing wall at a huge recreation store. I really wanted to try it, but at the time, I was not old enough. So my dad took me to a climbing gym a few weeks later and after I got on the wall, I knew this was what I wanted to do.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing at a high performance?

At the moment, I am focusing more on studying than climbing, but I still continue training and climbing the way I have been for the past year or so. After a climbing session, I always try to fit in a study session. Climbing is a part of me, and I am ready to climb anytime.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

I feel more involvement and support from outdoor brands, companies, and local suppliers to our community and its activity would be great.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

I would like for people to be not afraid of their differences and be more inclusive, so everyone feels comfortable with who they are.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

It does not matter what level climb others get. Just do your best and that’s all that matters.

MIKE | @llmikeyj

Mike, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

Hi I’m Mike, my pronouns are he/him. Outside of climbing, I work as a lawyer and am a very amateur film photographer. I'm also rediscovering food from my Filipino heritage, attempting to cook vegan/vegetarian versions of some classic dishes.

How did you get into climbing?

I was very fortunate to have been introduced to climbing by my best mate, Morgan. I could not have anticipated 6 years ago how life changing climbing has been for me - developing deep, life-long friendships and being able to climb at beautiful locations such as Gariwerd and The Rocklands in South Africa.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

I would like to see brands show that they're committed to inclusion: (a) consistently, and not just during certain times of the year, such as Pride Month; and (b) because it's the right thing to do, not just because it makes financial sense.

Ultimately, I'd like to easily see myself represented in marketing communications of outdoor brands. Too often, POC and people of the LGBTQIA+ have to settle for unrepresentative figures as brand ambassadors and forces them to play mental gymnastics to relate (if at all).

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

I acknowledge the growth in diversity and inclusion in climbing, particularly of late. It has, for me, created a richer community of individuals who can share in something that for me has been life-changing. I would love to see all stakeholders continue with an active intention to remove obstacles from having more diversity in climbing.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

Sometimes you just have "high gravity" days. For whatever reason, even with thebest preparation, climbing can feel exacting and tough. And that's OK. It means the highs of sending your projects even more sweeter.

NGAN | @bangana.climbs

Ngan, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

I’m Ngan (she/he/they) and I am a queer genderfluid Vietnamese-Australian. I've just completed my PhD in Biomedical Engineering, which was basically a 4 year investment to obtain a top tier gender neutral title. My pronouns are she/he/they, but you can call me Dr.

How did you get into climbing?

A friend introduced me to bouldering a few years back. I never even heard of the word before but he described it as "rock climbing without a harness". Naturally, I thought that sounded absolutely insane but I gave it a chance and have loved it ever since.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing?

I'm here to represent the average person and inspire the vertically challenged. I make time for climbing after work hours because it's a great destresser and helps clear my mind.

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

I would like to see more POC and queer POC models featured to accurately reflect the multiculturalism and diversity of the climbing community today. It'd be great if climbing gear/clothing was also more inclusive in their sizing and naming conventions (i.e. "men's" and women's"), opting for more gender-neutral terms.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

I want climbing to be more accessible. It's great to see so many new gyms opening up in recent years. I would love to see one in every corner of Naarm so not only do I always have somewhere to go for my bouldering fix, but also so others can experience the joy in climbing, like me. More discounted nights, especially for those from marginalised groups would also be fantastic.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

I found my home in the climbing community and met some amazing people. There's a place for everyone, no matter the shape, size, or colour, so if you're considering it, I'd say go for it! You got this!

DINESH | @dsekhar2

Dinesh, Featured Athlete

Who are you outside of climbing, and what is your cultural background?

I am of South Indian origin, born and raised in Malaysia.

How did you get into climbing?

A friend asked if I was scared of heights. I said yes - next thing I knew, I was in a harness.

How do you juggle your time with life and climbing?

I try to train every day in one way or another, be it boulder, rope climb or gym. I find that I perform at my best when there is balance in all aspects of my life. I love the outdoors and do my best to spend as much time out on real rock as I can!

How would you like to see outdoor brands and companies support POC climbers/climbers from marginalised communities?

It is always inspiring to see POC pushing new boundaries and showing just what we are capable of. We’re onto a good start but there is a long way to go.

How would you like to see the future of climbing grow?

Climbing has taken off in the last 5-10 years, I would like to see it combine organically with respect for the land and the place that we live and occupy. We are all one, at the end of it all.

What is that one takeaway from climbing that you want any aspiring climbers to know?

You. Can. Do. It. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Eden, Featured Athelte

Kim, Featured Athlete

Yi, Featured Athlete


We would like to thank Jo Lee, founder of Women Uprising & The Affinity Initiative, as well as the athletes featured here for sharing their experiences, as we all work to increase visibility of diverse groups in climbing spaces.

See these athletes compete at Boulder Together, taking place at BlocHaus Melbourne on February 26th. Find tickets on Eventbrite

To learn more about the work of The Affinity initiative, follow along at @affinity_initiative

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