By Brittany Basco
In a state full of marshes and swamps, it’s hard to find the challenges a rock climber craves this summer. But seasoned climbers and curious newbies alike no longer have to cross the country to find their thrills, thanks to the BREC Extreme Sports Park. The park offers several extreme sports, including a BMX track, a velodrome, and a massive rock climbing tower. Visitors should come ready for a great workout, because the climb is harder than it looks—though it’s not impossible. According to climbing instructor Lee Guilbeau, the climbing wall is designed for all ages and levels of experience
“There are four sides of the tower,” said Guilbeau. “Two of the sides are for more intermediate to advanced climbers, and the other two sides are designed specifically to get climbers higher than before. We are always adding new holds and trying to make it much more accessible to beginners every time we reset the wall.”
The wall sees many visitors every day, but beginners shouldn’t be intimidated by advanced climbers. The sense of teamwork and community is strong at the tower, where enthusiastic instructors can answer any questions and climbers are encouraged to help new arrivals once they’ve gained experience. For more structured learning, the staff holds technique classes held every Thursday at 6 p.m. all summer long.
The rock wall is open Wednesday Friday Saturday and Sunday to all climbers. Mondays are for members only from 4 to 9 p.m. A membership is only $20 dollars a month, which includes unlimited access to the wall five days a week, special instruction, themed climbing nights on Monday and belay lessons – which is a system of using ropes and belay devices to climb with a partner instead of just clipping into an auto belay (with no partner.) They are hosting the Miss USA pre-pageant week here during the day the first week of July, where the girls will come and hangout and witness some climbing competitions.
Tips from climbing instructor Lee Guilbeau:
Keep your eyes open and breathe
“Stress can serve as a blinder and place the climber in an awkward position, then they forget what is right in front of their feet, or hands which makes the next hold seems so far out of reach. When you forget to breathe, that adds to getting stressed and makes the climber start to shake.”
Watching the advanced climbers can really help one learn how to move.
“Pay attention to the details of the movement and how they shift their weight… Don’t pull straight down on a hole; you can pull sideways or push sideways or pull up with your palm up towards the sky. All the motion and body positions help to shift your weight and lean on the one toe so you can get your other foot higher, so it is connecting your hands to the balance and the whole rest of your body too.”
Mind your center of gravity
“Your center of gravity changes whether you are scrunched up like a frog or leaning back away from the wall or holding close to the wall. All these things change the dynamics because you’re climbing a three dimensional structure. It’s not just one plane of motion or two planes of motion. Think of a triangle between your points of contact and your center of gravity. If your center of gravity is outside that triangle, you are much more likely to fall.”