Chris Sharma: From Pro Climber to Gym Owner
For more than 25 years, Chris Sharma has been one of climbing's highest-performing athletes, whether it's bouldering or sport climbing. Beyond his exceptional athletic career, he is also a sound businessman and has started his own climbing gyms in his adopted country of Spain. The first gym opened in Barcelona in 2015, and the second is in the process of being completed in Madrid. Just a few weeks away from opening day, it was the perfect opportunity to sit down with Chris and talk about this successful transition.
October 29 2020
In a nutshell, tell us your life story.
I was born and raised in Santa Cruz CA, a surf town with very few options for rock climbing. Thanks to the local climbing gym, Pacific Edge, I discovered the amazing world of climbing and the rest is history, I guess. Reflecting on things now, it's interesting that I was essentially the first generation of kids that began climbing indoors in climbing gyms, instead of in the mountains as was the more normal way back then.
How did you create climbing gyms as a logical next step in your career as a professional climber?
As climbing has grown over the years through indoor climbing, and I've always had an innate connection to this through my own personal story, it felt like a really obvious next step for me. I'm forever grateful for what the climbing gym gave to me as a kid starting my path as a climber, and I'm very honored to now be in the position of facilitating that to other people.
What do you like about managing climbing gyms?
It's incredible to see the community that has grown around our gym. We have put so much into creating these places, and it's incredible to then see them enjoyed by thousands of people. Of course they are important to me but what really moves me is to see how Sharma Climbing has become so important in the lives of this community that is much bigger than ourselves. Aside from creating an amazing installation for people to climb, it's an incredible feeling to facilitate a place for a community to flourish.
Do you set routes and/or boulder problems in your own gyms?
We have a great team of setters but I also enjoy setting boulders with them.
Do you train young climbers?
I've never had a regimented approach to climbing, so I can't exactly say I train others. For me climbing is about exploring your limits and the best way to do this is climb with other people who push you as well. So, my way is to climb alongside everyone else and through this, share with and motivate them.
How is your new gym project going in Madrid?
We are very excited to open our new gym in Madrid. It's a big step forward for us. It's about four times the size of our gym here in Barcelona and is a full service facility with roped climbing on high walls, as well as tons of incredible bouldering and fitness. We have put so much effort into creating the most amazing facility possible. We can't wait to open our doors and see people's reaction. I think they are going to be blown away!
Do you plan to open gyms worldwide or start a world concept?
For me it's a one step at a time thing. Right now we have our hands full with our current projects, family, and still trying to climb at a high level.
Do you still climb a lot?
Yeah! I'm still very motivated. Climbing really is my base. I climb about four days a week. Usually two days on rock and two in the gym!