Canadian climber Scott Semple recently posted a screed to his blog, railing against the perceived faults of climbing-industry sponsorship. If his point was merely that "liars are bad", then he takes a circuitous course to arrive at this self-evident truth. But he seemed to go far beyond that.
I disagree with Mr. Semple's view for many reasons, and the first one is that he's attempting to create a case of objective absolutes, built on a foundation of subjective judgments.
- "If sponsorship isn’t backed up by a legitimate accomplishment that is significant to the sport, then being rewarded for something insignificant is sad and undeserved. And it’s immoral, because it creates a facade, and facades are lies."
- Sponsorship is only defensible when the degree of self-promotion is equal to or less than the significance of the achievement. When Good Climber does something Rad and says, “This is Rad”, that’s fine. Kudos. Too often though, Wanna Be Famous does something mediocre and says, “This is Rad! Really! I swear!”
- The sad fact about our sport is that genuine devotees are the exception, not the rule. True athletes, masters and visionaries do exist, but only some of them are sponsored. Most are not.
There are only a small handful of folks who get money from companies, in addition to gear. Of these folks, even fewer make enough to afford a car, health insurance, rent, etc. Sponsored climbers work as guides, writers, carpenters, fishermen, photographers, or window-washers, often grabbing any odd-job they can while they get excited about their next climb. But maybe all that excitement is a facade, they can't genuinely be devoted, can they?
I am fortunate enough to have received some free/cheap gear from Outdoor Research, Cilogear Backpacks, and Trango Climbing, sometimes in exchange for photos, writing, or manual labor. Everyone I have met at these companies is genuinely devoted to the sport. My crew coach in high school told me that finding what you love is easy, but doing it, that is the hard part. If getting sponsored allows people the financial freedom to do what they love, more power to them. I'm curious to hear your thoughts or comments on the topic, you can post them below.
I also don't know Scott Semple, he's probably a great guy, I just couldn't resist a cheesy, yet alliterative title.
On an unrelated note, here are some pretty pictures (courtesy of Bryan Smith)