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Sisu Masters 2013: Finland’s Unique Bouldering Competition

A competition where athletes set their own problems? Athletes set their own problems and try do outdo eachother. It's the ultimate game of HORSE at a very unique bouldering gym.

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Dave Graham, the only American competitor at Sisu Masters.  Photo by Leo Zhukov.Imagine the following: Dave Graham joins Nalle Hukkataival in Finland for an indoor, invitation-only boulder competition. Before the competition, they go climb on Hukkataival’s secret Sisu project before heading to Finland’s largest indoor climbing gym, the Toyota Kiipeily Arena, to set their own routes for the upcoming competition. Sound impossible? What if Hukkataival and Graham also invite the World Cup winners Anna Stöhr and Kilian Fischhuber from Austria, Mélissa Le Nevé from France and three more Finns – Anna Laitinen, Anthony Gullsten and Eevi Jaakkola – to join them?

Well that’s how it went down at Finland’s Sisu Masters 2013. The country’s first international boulder competition followed a format that is popular in Northern Europe in which the competitors set their own routes for each other. While some set routes that suit their styles, others create beautiful lines with cryptic sequences. Graham, on the other hand, screwed 19 holds onto the wall to set the longest endurance problem in the competition. Some competitors, like Anna Stöhr, set their first ever routes.

The event took place at a downtown Helsinki beach-volleyball-court-turned-rock-gym rented by Kiipeily Areena. While the volleyball nets are all gone, sand still blankets the floors around the impromptu climbing walls. When the arena opened a new bouldering wall this year at its main location, the owners founded the Sisu Masters Open in celebration, an event during which hundreds of eager climbers of all ages ticked off problems up to V11. With the highest walls in Northern Europe, Kiipeuly Areena offered a perfect venue for a the open competition. The Sisu Masters, by contrast, was organized by Hukkataival himself, who invited his pro-climber friends to participate at the volleyball hall.

On October 5th, 2013, a crowd of 500+ people watched the 2013 Sisu Masters unfold from the comfort of their beach chairs as some of the world’s top climbers attempted to send problems set by fellow athletes. Before each round, the setters for that particularly round gave descriptions of the problems they had set. The atmosphere was relaxed, as were the athletes, many whom earned a few laughs during their descriptions.

While Fischhuber and Stöhr were the favorites to take home the 1st prize, it was Hukkataival who won the competition, topping out on three of four routes on his first try. Melissa La Neve won the women’s competition when she climbed all three of her boulder problems on the first try. Fischhuber and Stohr finished 3rd and 2nd respectively in their divisions.

Nalle Hukkataival, pictured here, organized the event. Photo by Leo Zhukov.

In the end, the athletes celebrated with champagne, mingled with the crowd, and planned their next adventures. Overall, it was a hugely entertaining event for both the crowd, who for the first time could see top-level climbers compete, and the athletes, who could climb in a pressure-free competition. Let’s hope that we’ll see the Sisu Masters again in 2014!

If you would like to view the event, then head to the Live Stream website and hit play.

Please see below a video of Sisu Masters 2013, subtitled in English.

Sisu Masters 2013 from Blue Kangoo Films on Vimeo.