DWS Exeter makes a big splash

By Nick

The Quay in Exeter has seen merchant ships floating along its channels since the 16th century. Now you are more likely to see kayaks, rowing boats and paddleboards but this Saturday the residents were treated to a wholly new unexpected spectacle, a floating climbing wall. This was to be the venue for the first deep water soloing competition to be held in the UK.

The location was ideal, set in a piazza with little coffee shops, a bar, a watersports shop, adventure centre and of course the Quay climbing centre. It provided a natural ampitheatre for the spectacle.

Our role at the event was to make the registration and isolation area both comfortable and inviting for the competitors. We would see nearly 200 competitors over the weekend across the under 16, female and male open categories. Registration was transformed with bean bags, boulder mat chairs and an endless roll of bunting! Refreshments were catered for with a neon litminibar serving soft drinks and snack bars.Our teepee made a little snug facing the wall and giving competitors a tantalising view of the large enthusiastic crowds throughout the weekend.

The centre piece of the weekend was the Entreprises wall which floated on a barge tethered to the quay side. The routes were set and reset against the side by the route setting team of Gaz Parry, Gav Symmonds, Mike Langley and Ben West. Once ready it was rotated out in to position tethered centrally in the quay facing the piazza. Once out the only way to access it was via a ferry boat which added to the theatre of the event.

Event VIPs were visiting American climber Sierra Blair-Coyle and DWS guru Neil Gresham. As well as presenting the evening lectures they were also competing in the event which started Saturday morning with the under 16 qualifiers. The event had sold out quickly and attracted climbers from far and wide. Experience of DWS was not a perquisite but swimming certainly was! It wasn't long before the expectant crowd were treated to their first splash down, and with many fearless and enthusiastic climbers in attendance there were to be many more spectacular ones to follow.

Sunday's programme featured the semi-finals and finals with the qualifiers going through from Saturday to join the invitational teams and team GB climbers. Team Alpkit consisted of a strong bunch of climbers from Nottingham; Gracie Martin, John Nightingale, Billy Ridal, Paul Philips and our own factory bouldering machine Ben Meakin. Gracie qualified for the finals with Billy missing out by a single point.

The routes were reset and competitors were ferried out to observe the routes from the ferry boat, waving their arms as if they were trying to communicate via signing with an alien lifeform. The final routes were longer and made diagonal rising traverses from each side of the wall.

By the evening the sun and blue skies had given way to a bank of cloud which cast a grey shadow over the wall making the canal waters feel cold and ominous.

First out were the juniors, as fearless as their larger and older contemporaries they wowed the crowd with improbable moves and daring leaps. The women followed in quick succession; a great feature of this format was that there was rarely nothing going on making it very crowd friendly.

As the men came out for observation someone flicked a switch and the wall was bathed in a warm orange light. A fitting and deserved manifestation which made the climax to the weekend even more dramatic.

The majority of the crowd waited around for the prize giving ceremony, a great measure of their interest and support of the event. For us it was a fantastic event to be involved in and full credit to the team from the Quay climbing centre headed up by Paul, Alison, Damian and Aaran who had the vision to start the ball rolling and perhaps to be one of many DWS events we'll see around the UK. The format was simple enough for even non climbing spectators to be able to understand and enjoy the event as well as providing a social setting for climbers to meet up and share in the sport they love.

For more photos check out our DWS Exeter Facebook gallery.

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