Paul Robinson joined the Petzl athlete team in 2014, bringing over 15 years of climbing experience, including ascents up V15 and 5.15. Paul's obviously a crusher on the rock, but did you know he's also into surfing? Petzl caught up with Paul and asked him a few questions about the differences and similarities between his two passions. 

Paul Robinson bouldering in Hueco Tanks, Texas. Photo: Eddie Fowke Photography

Paul Robinson on Point and Shoot (8a) in the Grampians, Australia. Photo: Eddie Fowke Photography


You are really into climbing and surfing, right? 

Climbing and surfing are for sure my two obsessions in life! I also have a BFA from the university of Colorado at Boulder and I love to incorporate art into my life as much as possible, whether that means doing clothing design, designing surfboards and crash pads, or going to a new art museum in a city I'm traveling through.


Which have you been doing longer, climbing or surfing? 

I was fortunate enough to start climbing at the age of 11. Climbing is my life, always has been always will be. I have been climbing for over half my life and could not think of a better activity to associate my life with.  I started Surfing in 2011 in Cape Town. I wish I had started earlier but… c’est la vie. You can’t have everything!


How did you get into climbing?

I went to a birthday party when I was 11 [laughing]… just kinda took off from there.


What about surfing? 

I always had a great interest for the ocean. My dad grew up in Hawaii and loved the ocean and all sports revolving around the water. I tried surfing a few times when I was younger, but never really got into it. It felt too hard at the time, but i always loved being in the water and exploring the ocean. When I first went to Cape Town [South Africa] to help establish some climbs there, my friends Marijus and Maciej, who I was staying with at the time, were psyched on surfing on rest days. I decided why not give it a try? Since then it has been just like climbing: addicted for life!


Do you see any similarities between the two activities?

Both activities are very much failure-oriented. I think this is what drew me to both of them. I don't know what it is about me, but I love failure; I thrive off it. It just makes me want to try harder and harder to get to that next level in any activity I am doing. In climbing I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve sat under a climb day after day just wondering when I was actually going to do the damn thing. But it’s all a process. You can’t do a boulder or route until you’re ready. Surfing is similar in the sense that making sections on hard waves, doing more aggressive turns, and stuff like that, all comes with practice. It is a repetitive sport; you have to build on your skills and experiences. 


Paul Robinson surfing in the North Shore of Oauhu, Texas. Photo: Alex Kahn
Paul surfing in the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Alex Kahn


How are surfing and climbing different?

With surfing, each wave is unique and requires a lot of spur of the moment decisions, whereas in climbing we know what we have to accomplish because the rock is unchanging—we just have to muster our way to the top.


Do you have any surf sponsors?

[Laughs] No! Maybe one day, but I need to progress a lot!


About what grade surfer are you? Does it even work that way in surfing?

Yeah, I mean as climbers, we can put a grade on something as ridiculous as opening a jar of peanut butter. I would say I’m about a V5-level surfer.


Climbing is full of funny slang: beta, crimp, dyno, dab, etc. What are some of your favorite surfing terms?

Dakine, Lekker, slotted, pitted, groms, kooks…


In climbing, we have bolt wars and access issues and the ethics of free soloing, etc. Are there similar issues affecting the surf community? 

Over-crowded line-ups, crazy locals, water pollution, sea level rising, sharks, tow-in vs. not towing in, free surfers vs. ASP surfers…


Is there a spot where the surfing and the climbing are both world class?

Cape Town! The only place I know of that is just as amazing for climbing as for surfing.


Is it easier to climb or to surf?

They are both so unique it is so hard to compare them! And since I've been climbing for so much longer it’s hard to tell. I would say climbing, just because of where I have been able to bring my career with it. I don’t think this would have been possible with surfing. I think the movement of climbing fits me better than surfing's does. 


Who are cooler, surfers or climbers?

Climbers, for sure—way more mellow and friendly!