Norman Bouldering Competition History

This is the history of the Norman Bouldering Competition, the longest running grassroots home-based climbing competition in the country (maybe the world).

NBC 1 – March 1998

Location: Dereck’s house (back-room gym) and Paul Kerr’s garage

Flyer for the first Norman Bouldering Comp
Flyer for the first Norman Bouldering Comp
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First t-shirt from the Norman Bouldering Competition

 

The NBC had humble beginnings. The first competition consisted of a small group of local climbers, all friends. I think we had about 15 competitors. My brother Adam and I set all of the routes. We made some t-shirt designs on the computer and printed them out on iron-on paper using a cheap-ass computer program. We ironed the designs onto Hanes white t’s – the kind you get in a package at Wal-Mart or target – you know, six shirts for ten bucks or something like that. The t-shirts looked like crap. We used them for prizes. We were able to get some prizes from Pusher (our first climbing sponsor) and a friend of ours worked at Subway and managed to get us free sandwiches. A huge bonus. I think the entry fee on the first competition was $5. The event took place in two home-climbing gyms. The first gym was at Dereck’s house. Dereck was one of the few students at OU I knew that actually owned his own house – a very modest college-student-type place just feet from the railroad tracks, but it was a house nonetheless. Dereck didn’t climb much but became a climber by default because he was friends with climbers and he was motivated to learn. Next thing we knew we had him talked into letting us build a gym at his place. The gym was in a back room – from the looks of it, it used to be a laundry room. We cut the ceiling out to raise the height of the gym and we actually cut out portions of the plumbing out of the wall to construct the climbing wall (man, do I feel sorry for whoever bought that place after him). There were three main features to the gym: the central wall was a slightly overhanging wall about 15 feet tall, there was a box roof section to one side (adjacent to the hot water heater), and a dead vertical wall with nothing but tiny screw-on footholds – the crimp wall.

On competition day it rained all day. There wasn’t enough room for everyone inside so some people stood outside under an array of tarps we set up. No one seemed to mind the rain.

After Dereck’s place we made our way across town to Paul’s place. Paul’s gym was in the garage and the ceiling was cut out to allow for a longer wall. The main wall was about 45 degrees overhanging and about 16 feet long. We climbed the rest of the day at Paul’s and then awarded cash prizes and our horrible t-shirts to the winners.

NBC 2 – March 1999

Location: Judy Gibson’s house (garage gym) and Mike Kimberling’s house (garage gym)

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After building a climbing gym at my Mom’s house, my brother Adam and I decided to host the second annual NBC. We had quite a few more competitors than the first go around and we made some advancements in several areas – including t-shirts. I had the t-shirts screen-printed at a local shop. But I made one huge mistake – I misspelled the word “Competition” on the back of the shirt – instead it read “Norman Bouldering Compitition.” Of course I didn’t notice until someone pointed it out to me. At first I thought the screenprinter screwed up the shirts – but then I realized it was probably me. But no one really seemed to care – the competition was a huge success. The name of the game for this competition was “steep.” We had more overhanging and roof climbs than ever. It was definitely a power-based comp.

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From my Mom’s place to Mike Kimberling’s house. This was the first of three years using Mike Kimberling’s gym. Mike’s wall was always a favorite spot because of the amazing design he came up with for his walls. Whereas Adam and I’s gyms were always haphazardly and spontaneously thrown together, Mike’s walls, were always well-thought out and meticulously constructed. And it paid off. He was able to come up with some amazing features in a relatively small area. To top it off Mike always had great holds too.

For the second year in a row we had Pusher as a sponsor as well as Subway (free sandwiches) and OKC Rocks.

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NBC 3 – March 2000 (Y2K)

Location: Judy Gibson’s house (garage gym) and Mike Kimberling’s house (garage gym)

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Again at my Mom’s house and Mike Kimberling’s place. This year both walls were changed up a bit. We painted the walls at our gym – red, black, and yellow. It was pretty wild looking. We dubbed the look, “A Gym Called Tribe,” based on its very tribal look.

Mike added a few new features to his wall which gave us even more climbing space. It’s a good thing because the number of competitors was growing. We had several new sponsors, including Metolius who has been a part of the NBC ever since.

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NBC 4 – November 2001

Location: Judy Gibson’s house (garage gym) and Mike Kimberling’s house (garage gym)

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This year we took a diversion from our normal Spring competition date to Fall. Once again we held the competition at my Mom’s place and Mike Kimberling’s house.

By now there was marked improvement in the organization and execution of the competition. And the t-shirt designs were getting much better. We had quite a few sponsors for the NBC4. But this marked the last year that we would have Subway as a sponsor – no more free sandwiches.

NBC 5 – November 2002

Location: Judy Gibson’s house (garage gym and outdoor wall)

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This was a banter year for the NBC. I had a feeling that the fifth installment of the NBC would be bigger than the previous competitions but I had no idea how big. We had over 60 competitors – it was incredible. This was the first year that I held the entire comp. at a single location – my Mom’s house. In preparation for the event I talked her into letting me build an enormous freestanding climbing wall on the back patio. The wall was divided into two sections, the first section was a gradually overhanging wall that was 16 feet high. The other section was a twelve-foot vertical wall with a couple of large triangle features built-in. We still had the gym in the garage to work with which really helped to divide up the crowd. But more people favored the outdoor wall. Everything about the NBC 5 was perfect: we had a ton of prizes, the weather was beautiful, and I received great feedback on the boulder problems. The shirt design for the NBC 5 was definitely my favorite so far.

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NBC 6 – March 2004

Location: Judy Gibson’s house (garage gym and outdoor wall)

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Another year another competition. There was a break between the NBC5 and the NBC6 because of moving, etc. Plus the competition had evolved into a full-scale event which required a ton of time to coordinate. It takes some serious energy to pull something together like this. Sometimes I wonder why I do it. And then I see how much fun everyone is having and who much they appreciate it and it inspires me to do it again.

I took another step with this competition. The free-standing wall from the previous NBC was deconstructed and in its place I built a wall that was attached the house on the back porch. How cool is my Mom? The wall was awesome – I was really proud of it.

This year was also the most nerve-racking for me – mainly because of the weather. Using an outdoor wall is always a risk. If it rains the event is pretty much a wash. So I kept my fingers crossed. Even with it drizzling people still wanted to climb outside. Eventually the clouds parted and everything dried out – the rain held off and it turned out to be a great day.

Click here for all of the photos from the NBC6.

I’d like to thank all of the sponsors that have supported the Norman Bouldering Competition through the years.

Now, on to the NBC 7!!

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