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  • Video Spotlight
    Tsunami 5.12c (7b)
    Tsunami 5.12c (7b)

    TNB: A Short Talk with Sierra Blair-Coyle

    28-Jul-2014
    By

    Sierra Blair-Coyle bouldering in Sedona, two hours from home in Scottsdale. Photo by Dave Clifford Photography.

    On June 10, Sierra Blair-Coyle hit 100,000 Facebook likes.


    The week before, during the GoPro Games in Vail, Colorado, June 5-8, the 20-year-old was interviewed by NBC Sports for a July 8 segment profiling her and two other athletes. On July 26th, she appeared on ESPN “World of X Games.”

    She has been interviewed by Teen Vogue; in April appeared in a bouldering photo in Outside Online; in May was on the cover of Scottsdale Health. It’s been a big year for Blair-Coyle, primarily a boulderer, though she also climbs routes.

    So—who is this person?

    Sierra, of Scottsdale, Arizona, is no newcomer, was 12 and just out of sixth grade the first time she attended the Teva Games (precursor to the GoPro Games) in Vail. I remember her there at 13—a poised 13—and as a regular in ensuing years at North American events, climbing solidly on steep walls to place, for example, fifth and fourth in consecutive years in the Mammut Bouldering Championships held at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. 

    She is also a polarizing figure in American climbing culture, for her visibility in various ways. When rockandice.com posted a Sanuk (sponsor) video of her climbing a V4 roof in a swimsuit-like spandex shorts-and-top outfit, our site went nuts, with complaints about the film’s up-close angles, and equally strong defenses: “Why all the negativity? …. She likes climbing, and she's damn good at it.”

    Meanwhile, viewership spiked through the roof.

    You can perceive Blair-Coyle in different ways. There are those who’d wish that if anyone were the face of the GoPro Games, it were Alex Puccio from Texas, a consistent Bouldering World Cup finalist who climbs V13 on rock. Or Megan Mascarenas, 16, of Colorado, who at Vail rocketed into the finals. Blair-Coyle finished midfield.

    Meanwhile, another young competition regular says, “She’s really nice.” 

    A leading photographer calls Sierra and her parents exceptionally pleasant to work with. 

    In any case, she’s a force. Today Blair-Coyle’s Facebook page is up to 113K. Media has a snowball effect. And in today’s world, people can create their own audiences—and the audiences can exponentially create more—in ways never before possible.

    ***

    Aside from Facebook, Blair-Coyle also tends a Tumblr site, with scheduled question-and-answer sessions. She fields questions on learning to climb, training and more, with quite a few coming in as the climber equivalent of, “Will you go to prom with me?”

    People ask anything: Favorite fruit? Favorite TV show? Which do you like better: kale, potato or spinach?

    Anonymous asked: “Are u single?”
     
    Yes.

    SBC at ABS Nationals, Colorado Springs City Auditorium, Colorado Springs. Photo by Megan Abshire.Oh, she keeps them at arm’s length pretty well: nicely, blandly.

    Anonymous asked: hi Sierra maybe i M coming in Arizona in august! Can we climb together?

    I might not be in town, but I can point you in the direction of a great training facility!

    Anonymous asked: Do you feel like you get too much attention for your outward appearance rather than your climbing ability? If so, does that bother you at all?

    I am very lucky to have a successful climbing career and I appreciate everyone’s support.

    Blair-Coyle has just finished sophomore year at Arizona State University, on an academic scholarship. She qualified in 10th grade, the first time she took the entrance exam, gaining the required “exceeds” scores in its three categories. Her college major is in digital media. 

    She lives with her parents, and one or both of them accompany her to “99 percent” of comps, practices and outdoor climbing sessions. Her mother, a gymnastics coach, oversees nutrition and strength training. Her father, an investment banker who played hockey, baseball and basketball, handles all of his daughter’s media and business. To interview her, you go through her father, who stays on the extension. 

    Sierra trains at the Focus Climbing Center gym. This year her best comp result was third at the Dominion Riverrock festival’s Boulder Bash, in Richmond, Virginia, in May. She was 21st at ABS Nationals (she went into semifinals in seventh place), 28th at the World Cup in Vail, 24th at the World Cup in Toronto. 

    She pulled all A’s last semester (her G.P.A. is 3.6), even while traveling about every two weeks, mostly for comps or photo shoots. On May 14 she noted on Facebook, “First time I have been home for more than 10 days since before Nationals. Off to Richmond in the morning.”

    She is a mainly a gym climber, with vacation-like interludes on rock, such as bouldering on the black lava of Hawaii, and her climbing predilection is for steep, juggy terrain and dynamic movement.

    How much do you climb? 

    Four or five days a week. Two to four hours [at a time], more around three. Depends how I’m doing and if my friends are there. 

    How much outdoors?

    With school, training in the gym for me works better for comps. I climb about 20 days a year outside, over 300 in a gym.

    Do you do any other sports, such as running?

    [laughs] I’m a pretty poor runner.

    ==

    What is your schedule?
     
    Sierra Blair-Coyle, between problems at the Bouldering World Cup, Vail. Photo by Eddie Fowke, The Circuit Climbing Media. My summer schedule is a lot more relaxed. I don’t have to go to class, do homework. I wake up and work out at my house, hang out by the pool, read a book a day, take a nap, go to the gym.

    What are your hardest outdoor climbs?

    My hardest outdoors was a V9, Paleozoic in Hueco. I did it when I was 11, and everyone was trying to out-boulder each other grade-wise, and then I realized that didn’t matter to me. 

    I don’t think I’ve ever bouldered a V8 outside, but a lot inside.
     
    Other outdoor climbs?

    M.O.A.B., a V7 at Priest Draw, and Moonstone, a V6 at Groom Creek [both Arizona]. It’s super fun. 

    Do you have a summer job?

    I’m a professional climber. That’s my job, and that’s what I get to do.

    I think it’s cool to be diverse. I compete, I’ve been doing some modeling, I get to do a lot of social media. I climb outside as well. There’s a lot going on.

    [Professional climbing is a] 40 hour-a-week-plus job. A lot goes into it that people don’t see. You’re training, doing your stretches, having phone calls, doing interviews, social media, a lot for sponsors.
     
    What about your schedule during the year? 

    When school starts, I still put the same into climbing, also school. I take 15 to 18 credits every semester. Twelve credits is full time. It can be rough at times, but I always manage to make it through. 

    I’m just proud that I’ve been able to climb for so long, honestly. A lot of people drop out when they hit high school and college. 

    And after graduation? 

    Honestly, I don’t know what my life will be like in two years. My plan is just to keep climbing and competing. My main goal is I want to help climbing become a more mainstream sport. It’s so much fun, and I want to share that with everyone. 

    I think it’d be fun to have some lines of clothing. Working with a company, pushing their brand, designing my own line.

    Are you a hard worker? Organized? 

    A hard worker, oh, definitely. And I’m super organized, except for my bedroom. Everything is organized—my computer, my books, my shoes by color [laughs] … except if you look at my bedroom, it’s like a tornado.

    Can you describe what you are like—your demeanor or what you’re like to be around?
     
    I’m a pretty mellow person, and I think I’m funny, or I try to be funny. I’m persistent and confident. I try my best at everything. 

    How far away is campus?
     
    Thirty minutes. I always try and make my [class] schedule two days a week.

    Do you ever wish you lived in the dorms, for the convenience and fun factor? 

    Not at all. I really like where I live in Scottsdale, and my family. I like having my own space and not having to deal with roommates and that kind of thing. My sister did the same thing, and my parents did that when they went to college. My sister went to ASU and so did both my parents.

    What books do you read?

    Upside-down at the GoPro Games Bouldering World Cup, Vail, Colorado, in June. Photo by Eddie Fowke, The Circuit Climbing Media. For genres, romance and mystery. I just read Cherry Cheesecake Murder. Not, like, super gory or anything.

    I love reading. It’s my favorite form of entertainment by far. My recent favorite series were The Cat in the Stacks mysteries. They were all so good.

    You are an entrepreneur—who are your role models in that way?

    An Olympic skier for Canada, Travis Gerrits. I really like what he’s doing. Trying to do it all. Build his brand, work with media. Luke Niccoli [musician]. He’s really trying to do it all. They don’t have to be athletes. I just like it when people do everything.

    Was it a big deal to pass 100k followers on FB, and how did you do it?

    It was. I started out with 45,000 at the beginning of 2014. I was excited. It was an accomplishment. There’s not really a secret. I interact with people, I try to post interesting content, I try to reflect myself as someone who really loves climbing.

    You usually wear spandex shorts and a sport bra. What are your reasons?

    I grew up in Arizona. It’s really hot here all the time. It’s my natural attire. I’ll be around the house in a bikini.

    I wake up in the morning and work out in a sports bra and shorts, go to the pool in a bikini, then work out again in a sports bra and shorts.

    Are you ever recognized in, say, a supermarket?
     
    In a [climbing] gym, someone might know me. Outside a gym, the only time it happened was in a bookstore, which was kind of cool.

    It’s fun. I love to meet people. I enjoy being able to do that.

    How is it to be known? It is a fun ride, or harder than it looks, creating pressure?

    It’s not a problem. I’m not too concerned with what other people think of me. The only person I need to keep happy is myself, and if I feel I do a good job and am being a good person, that’s enough.

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