Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interview > Jody Miall

The Tour De Bloc is here, for Canadians it's comp season and we figured that as we've been speaking to some setters why not sit down and talk to Jody a good friend of ours and a great setter. We sponsor Fred Charron and Dustin Curtis, and we'll catch up with them later in this series of interviews and of course we had that great video interview with Tonde that Dustin put together for us. This interview was to talk mainly about the new wall that's gone up at Coyote Rock Gym in the last month or so, but we cover life, climbing as an Olympic sport and routesetting, all of the images are from their new wall being built

So with little further ado lets meet Jody, a hard charging setter, hard party machine and sometimes household guest here at CHR when he's in town.. he's also pretty good looking in a Snuggie :)

So Introduce yourself to our readers... because I know you as a setter for the Tour De Bloc, you're one of the most qualified setters in Canada right now. Let's talk a little bit about that... How many years have you been climbing and setting?
My name is Jody Miall and I'm the manager and head setter at Coyote Rock Gym.  I'm also technical director of the Tour De Bloc...which basically means I just set bunches of comps.  I've been climbing since 1989 and setting since 1993.  I started setting competitions outside my home gym in 1998 I think

What goes through your mind when you begin setting for a bouldering comp?
When I start setting  a bouldering comp I start by looking at the venue and dividing the climbing surface into zones.  In each zone I will allot how many problems will be set and their approximate difficulty.  This allows a good spread of difficulty in each area and helps prevent overlap of problems of the same difficulty.  This helps spread competitors out during a comp and smooths things out.  As well zones keep problems from overlapping and allows more people to be climbing at the same time.  Anything to help prevent long lineups.  I like to know whos coming or at least how many people are in each category, this way I can decide how many problems of each difficulty to set.  As often as possible I will make a whiteboard of the gym which shows all the walls, the zones, the diffuculty of problems in those ones, initials of who set them, and details as to whether they have been forerun, graded, etc.  Often it waill have a schedule of which order we will be setting the walls in, as many gym want to stay open as much as possible before a comp so as to affect business as little as possible leading up to their event.

Do you sit and fondle holds before you start setting, or are you like me and know what you have in the store room?
If I'm at a new gym or one that I'm not very familiar with I will, as often as possible, lay out the holds on the floor to see what I have.  This also allows me to hoard the holds I think I might want for finals and piss other setters off.  I'm kidding...but it does piss them off.  When I'm in my gym or one I've set at bunches I know what I have and what I want to use.

Does your method change for a route comp?
Methods for a route comp are very similar...I do essentially the same thing but hate my life more cause hanging in harnesses for hours sucks.  I try and pick all my holds first so as to minimize my time up and down the wall.  Mistakes in hold selection are magnified when you have to stop everything, hit the ground, find another, and jug back up.  Just thinking about that makes me tired.

Ok, how about day to day setting at the gym?
 Day to day setting at my gym happens before and during hours.  I have a lot more responsibilities now compared to a few years ago so I dont get to set as much as I like.  I have a very solid setter in Kellen Tapley who has been working with me for a couple years now.  He's also way more computer literate than me and has made spreadsheets indicating the age and grade of the routes in the gym.  when routes get taken down and put up its all recorded and anyone who comes in to set can see in a second what needs to be done. We have some great setters here and so ther is good variety in styles and such. I try and climb or at least look at every route that goes up to look for consistancy in quality and in the grades.  We try and hold ourselves to a pretty high standard at Coyote and my guys know that.  Ego has no place in setting and that means we are pretty...lets say "direct" if we feel a route or problem doesn't live up to that standard.

You're well known as the head setter for a lot of the Tour De Bloc competitions, how many years have you been doing that?
I've been setting Tour de Bloc comps since season one, so eight years or so, but really started setting a lot of them in 2005. I think I've set around thirty five of them including Nationals for the last five years.

How long does it take you to set a comp?
How long?   Depends...but really its been my experience that it takes as much time as they give me.  I try not to worry about it because its never happened that comp day came along and we had to say "Sorry, we didn't finish."  Anything is possible if you don't sleep and aren't afraid to cry in front of people.

I always love your "speeches" before the climbing starts, especially the part about cheating... what are your views on the current competition scene (not just Canada but world wide)
I've been trying to tone the speeches down in the last couple years what with all the youth competitors...don't think I've threatened to light anyone on fire in a while.  As far as the comp scene goes I think it's coming along nicely.  Overall they are getting better organized and each year they get bigger and bigger.  The Tour has been instrumental in raising the standards of setting and organization of competitions in Canada.  It seems that way around the world but I'm not everywhere.  I'm really liking the amount of comps happening in the states where they have outdoor events set on walls designed for the venue's.  Comps in Central Park and events like the Nor' Easter and the Teva Mountain Games are great for getting our sport seen and understood by the masses.

Should climbing become an Olympic sport and if so in what format? Routes or bouldering?
The fact that its being considered for the Olympics is huge.  I'd like to see bouldering as the medium that gets used because its so easy for non climbers to understand and way more fun to watch.  The reality is that worldwide, route climbing comps are much bigger so it will probably go that way.  I will never get over it if they choose speed climbing...that would be a travesty

Recently you've added a new wall at the gym, why?
 Coyote has been around for a long time.  We are currently in our third location and have been here for thirteen years.  Needless to say our gym has some sections that are dated.  This summer we decided to tear down one crappy top rope wall and build a cave, it quickly turned into us tearing down about twenty percent of the gym and rebuilding not just a boulder, but a significant (12 top rope) section of the gym.  This opened up for floor space, gave us way more top out bouldering, made for better lines of sight and we put in all new flooring.  Basically we turned the worst part of the gym into the best part of the gym.  Why did we do it...because it was time.

How long did it take to build and what planning went into getting it built?
From tear down to completion of the everything it took us a month and a week to do everything including the flooring.  We were given the wrong paint so that is a bit of a problem but only cosmetic in the end.  We'll fix that up in the next little while.  We pretty much designed things are we went along.  Really, our plan for the boulder was to build something steep.  From initial drawing to completion there were a lot of changes but the overall Idea of building something steep with a big head wall that topped out remained.  As for the top rope walls...that changed about ten times.  First there were like four computer designs, Then when we tore the panels off the existing walls and saw how good it looked open, we tore it all down and built a freestanding tower and another spine that came out from a side wall.  The changes in light and lines of sight are amazing.  Oh yeah we made one lead-able and I will probably do that to the other one too.

How big and what are the angles of the new wall?
The toprope walls range from 1 to 5 degrees with subtle overhanging aretes and dihedrals they aere all twenty five feet.  The boulder is almost fourteen feet tall with a 20 degree kicker for four and a half feet, eight feet of 70 degree, at fifteen degree headwall that rounds out at the top out.  The sides ar a whole bunch of intersecting triangles that blend into the old boulder.  Probably at least twenty different angles there.  Greg, the owner is pretty savvy with freestyle wall design.  Check the photos.  In the end we added about 600 square feet of bouldering.

Has the wall gone over well with your clients?
Nothing but positive feedback so far.  People love the new bouldering, the new toprope angles, the leadability,  and the open feeling the gym has now.

What comps are you setting this year?
So far this year I'm just setting the Coyote Tour event in Feb, and the Kitchener comp in Dec. I may pick up one or two more but I wanted to take a step back this year and see what other people like Fred Charron and Dustin Curtis are going to do.  I've hogged a lot of comps and its time to let other people do their thing for a bit.  I'm always around though.

Is the fact that you're away setting a lot a strain on our home life?
I've definitely made some sacrifices and let things get out of balance at times with the amount of time I have spent away from home.  Overall Laura understands how much setting means to me and has been really supportive.  My son is two now and I'm really liking spending time with him, so the lighter setting load this season is nice.  Plus I haven't been on a real climbing trip in five years.  In a couple weeks all three of us are going to Rocktown to climb on rock for a couple weeks...novel idea for me.  Maybe Bishop in Feb.  I can't wait.

Lets talk holds :) What are your go-to holds and companies? And why?
Holds.  Friction, Pusher, Climb-It, , DRCC. and Teknik.  Friction, Pusher, Climb-it have amazing variety of shapes for all angles...I can go to any gym with them and get it done.  I love the dual texture and asthetic of the DRCC holds.  They make pretty problems.  Teknik has the widest variety of pinches out there,  their No Shadows and their Aphids are unequalled anywhere.

Coyote will be hosting their round of the Tour De Bloc on the 11th February 2012, we'll let you know how the new wall is because we'll be there! Our thanks to Jody for taking the time to answer some questions.

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