Los Angeles climbing gyms have been graced these past two weeks by two blonde-ponytailed Brit crushers in pink shorts and a penchant
for acro yoga. World Number One Shauna Coxsey and her best friend and training partner Leah Crane were in L.A. to rack up
some miles on stateside climbing walls in preparation for the World Cup, which is scheduled to kick off in April.
Shauna is the current world IFSC Boulder World Cup Champion and is the first British Climber to hold the title. Last year, in the same weekend that she
became World Champion, it was announced that she was to be awarded a MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth
during her 90th Birthday Honors for “Services to Climbing”. This is quite an accolade for the 24-year old—as an aside, if you missed
her Instagram pictures regarding the Royal event, check them out: the girl looked like a million dollar bill.
Leah Crane is no stranger to the competitive climbing scene either. She started climbing at age five, has been on the G.B. Team since she was 12, and was
two-times British Champion in 2009 and 2010. Last year was the first year that Leah trained and competed full time, and her hard work paid off when
she finished 11th in the IFSC World Cup Series. She also works as a route-setter and is involved in coaching in the U.K.
I managed to get a rapid-fire half hour phone interview with the inseparable duo while they were hanging at Five Ten Headquarters in L.A. to hear—amid
contagious excitement and giggles—more about their trip to California, the benefits of training away from home, and how they spend more time
with each other than their boyfriends.
Q: Firstly ladies, just to set the scene, can you tell me a little bit about your friendship and your relationship as training partners?
Shauna: Leah and I train together full time now. We realised the other day that we’ve been climbing together, on and off, for 15 years.
We’ve comp climbed together, are in the British Team and have been on trips together. But it’s only the last few years that we have started training
For me, every time I see friends or give an interview, the first question is “How are you” and the second is “How is Leah?” I wouldn't have it any other
way and it has been a large part of my success. I can train on my own but I don't get as much out of it as when Leah is there. We push each other,
which is vital and not easy to find.
She’s also the person who’s been there: we pick each other up. If one of us is negative, the other is positive. It’s so much fun. And she can put
up with me!
Leah: Training with World Number One definitely has its benefits. I’m more of a realist than Shauna, who is an optimist, but that means
we ground each other and balance each other. How compatible we are makes it worth it. We spend a lot of time together: I see Shauna more than my boyfriend!
Q: What are you guys up to this trip?
Shauna: We came over to visit Five Ten Headquarters and have been discussing lots of exciting ideas and products for the future: who knows,
maybe we’ll come up with the perfect climbing shoe!
We also wanted to come over and train. Mainly to climb on U.S. walls, use U.S. holds and get accustomed to U.S. style, which is very different [to the
style at home].
Coming away on a training trip is different to training at home, as there are very few distractions. Instead of fitting in everything that you do day-to-day,
you can focus solely on training. It’s much easier to come away and train than be at home and do it.
Q: And what’s your training looking like here?
Shauna: We’re pretty strict with ourselves out here. For example, yesterday we went to the climbing gym, warmed up on some boulders,
had a Beastmaker session, had lunch, went back to the gym for endurance training for long boulder problems, then did a rowing session for fitness,
and finally had dinner. Essentially we’re doing a high volume of training!
Q: Are there any particular climbing goals for this trip?
Shauna: We both love climbing in the U.S. but this trip is about training; although, we’re hoping to go rock climbing at the weekend,
maybe to Bishop or Joshua Tree, but it’s all weather dependent.
Q: Do you think that the attitudes towards indoor climbing are different either side of the Atlantic?
Shauna: I’ve don't think we've been here enough time to know. In the U.K. the scene changes from place to place and I assume that it varies
city to city here, too.
Sheffield [where I live at the moment] has such a great scene and everyone is psyched to train,
even on sunny days when you could climb outside. People might make a little joke about not going outside, but everyone is just psyched to train!
Leah: I currently live in the Lake District, which has a very anti-indoor climbing mentality: it’s considered a last resort when the weather
is too bad to get out. The vibe I get over here is that [indoor climbing] is a sport in itself. You go to the climbing gym to work out, and gyms have
a fitness gym attached too, which is very different to the U.K. It’s more of a complete experience going to an indoor gym over here.
Q: Does the U.S. World Cup comp stand out on the World Circuit?
Leah: The U.S. World Cup is always held as part of a festival in Vail, which is at a high altitude and the boulders are long, so it stands out as a hard round in that sense.
Shauna: Like Leah said, the Vail World Cup is part of the GoPro games and so the crowds are big and loud. I enjoy going there as a competitor.
It’s hard and you’re out of breath within two moves, but the crowd are always so psyched and also very knowledgeable, so they get behind the climbers
at the right moment: they understand the movement. The crowd at Innsbruck is very similar.
Q: Is there anything you can say about the professional climbing industry over here in the U.S. compared to in the U.K.?
Shauna: It’s bigger! There is so much more money in it.
Climbing is growing at a rapid rate and you can see that in the U.K., then you come to the U.S. and
its just so much more visible because of the size of the country and the number of people involved. It’s not just climbing; it’s the whole outdoor
Q: What about comp setting in the U.S. compared to that back home in the U.K.? Are there any stylistic distinctions or things you’ve come to expect in U.S. comps?
Leah: For me the thing I find about U.S. setting is I can be absolutely knackered after 10 minutes of climbing. I’m generalizing here,
but I would say that on whole there is a lower level of technicality to the problems that at home, instead the problems are often based around strength
and power. U.S. style is something that I lack in my climbing resume, so to speak. I’m really excited to get over here and train this different style.
Shauna: Going to the World Cups you need everything. Bouldering is unique because when you step out on the mat, all problems are new: you’ve never seen the problem before. It’s unlike most other sports in that respect. You don't know what you’re going to be faced with and so you need to have a diverse array of skills and techniques to get to the top.
We don't have walls like [the one’s over here] in the U.K. The walls aren’t as big or as steep. The selection of holds is different. It’s amazing to be climbing on these different walls. I don't really need to be burlier in my climbing, but to have experience on different holds and walls is important. The length of the boulders is different too: they’re often longer here.
Q: Do you feel that the grades correspond exactly between countries?
Shauna: No, definitely not, but there isn’t correspondence between grades from city to city, or even gym to gym! There are some gyms at home where nothing is graded harder than V8, but elsewhere you will find V10 or V11 grades. Grades are different at every gym.
Q: Shauna, how is your shoulder doing and how do you view your injury?
It’s doing really well. I am probably stronger now than before my injury.
Q: Your injury was only five months ago. Do you put your speedy recovery down to being very strict with your physio?
Shauna: I was very lucky in that Redbull and Adidas helped out and Harrison Ross worked very closely with me on my physio and recovery.
They’ve worked with a lot of elite athletes and they have a “come back stronger” attitude. I had no doubt that I would come back stronger, and I had
Leah, my boyfriend Ned and my family to help pick me up.
Coming back stronger wasn't ever a question; it was just going to happen. In my mind injury isn’t a low point, it's a blessing in disguise.
You can follow Shauna and Leah on Instagram to see more of their training antics, acro yoga and giggling @shaunacoxsey and @leahcraneclimbing.
Thanks to Cameron Maier @bearcam and Five Ten @fiveten_official for the photos.