I remember the first time I met Dylan Barks. I was at Planet Rock with some friends when we started to see a crowd form and hear some cheering. I looked up to see this young ‘kid’ upside down on this route just going for it. He looked determined and utterly unstoppable. He ended up sending the route and I felt excited for him, even though he was a total stranger.
Afterward I began talking with him and his dad, Jon, and was intrigued by this ‘wonder kid’ even more. He was 15 and had just won 1st place in “The SCS Nationals Competition” in Atlanta in 2010. His first competition was only one year prior. But Dylan didn’t want to talk about himself. He asked me questions about how long I’d been climbing and how long my kids had been climbing. He had the kind of smile and quiet charm that could instantly make the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes larger. (And my saying this will probably really embarrass him, sorry dude!) Dylan definitely has the quintessenial uber-chill personality you often find with rock climbers.
I have since seen Dylan and Jon around the gym frequently, but knew he wasn’t on the climbing team and I never saw him with a coach. When asked about this, he said he just climbs on his own with his dad who belays him. He said he started off climbing on his own and it seems to continue to work for him. He feels being on a team would have too many possible distractions for him and he just wants to stay focused, which is an exemplification his complete dedication. Dylan and Jon spend many days in the gym and many weekends at The Red River Gorge in KY where he has on-sited some notable climbs such as Flour Power 13b, Convicted 5.13a, Skin Boat 5.13a and 8-Ball 5.12d.
Climbing is so much more than physical strength; it is also being able to control your mind and thoughts. I asked Dylan what it is like for him when he climbs and he said it is a balance between thinking about the moves but not over thinking them at the same time. He said he is totally focused when climbing and sometimes tunes everything out around him. At one of his competitions, he was going for the final move, but was on the wrong route. Apparently, the whole crowd was trying to warn him of this, but he was absolutely oblivious to the beta. He said he never even noticed the shouts and finished in the wrong place. I asked if he ever liked getting beta and he said only on an outside flash.
Dylan recently competed in the 2010 “Youth World Climbing Competition” in Edinburgh, Scotland. However, much to his disappointment, finished in 26th place in the category male youth B. He fell on an easy move that shouldn’t have given him any trouble. He said he became too complacent and didn’t keep his focus, which caused the fall. Prior to that, he was in 18th place when he qualified for semi-finals.
Dylan wishes to pursue climbing and would like to turn professional in the future. He is actively seeking sponsorship by some pretty big names in the climbing world. Watching and talking to Dylan tells me that he is going to make his dream happen and lucky will be the sponsor who is first to swoop him up.
Be sure to watch Dylan working a V4 bouldering problem at Planet Rock.
*Since this story has been published, Dylan has received sponsorship by La Sportiva.
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