Sophia Park Santa Cruz
June 2019

Looking Down on the World From Up High: Extreme Adventures June 2019

By Kevin Painchaud

You ask most people what they are afraid of, the most common answer is heights.  Most people tend to get a bit of vertigo when standing on a tall ladder or peering over a bridge.  For 15 year old Sophia Park, she has no fear of heights — In fact, she craves it.  For the last four years, Sophia has been a competitive rock climber.  This has lead her to compete all over California and Nevada.  Sophia has won many competitions and consistently ranks high in the standings for her age division.  Last year in fact, she placed ninth in sport climbing in all of California and Nevada for her age division.  Sophia shows intense commitment when climbing and a lack of fear that enables her to conquer the most difficult of climbs.  When not climbing at Pacific Edge in Santa Cruz, you can spot her climbing in Yosemite, Tahoe, Castle Rock, or Bishop.

I got to sit down with Sophia and dig deep about her climbing.

Tell me about yourself.  How old are you, what grade are you in?  What school do you go?

I’m 15 years old and I am in 10th grade at Santa Cruz High School.

When did you first start climbing?

I started climbing when I was 10 years old. My parents threw my 10th birthday party at Pacific Edge. After that I climbed in summer camps there and really enjoyed it. 

Sophia Park Santa Cruz
Photo by Kevin Painchaud UPS AND DOWNS Sophia Park, 15, spends two hours a day, three or four days a week, climbing the walls at Pacific Edge in Santa Cruz or outdoors at Yosemite, Tahoe, Castle Rock or Bishop.

What inspired you to climb?

The way you feel once you get to the top of the climb. It’s the best feeling when you finally reach the top after working so hard both mentally and physically. It’s very rewarding.

Whats your favorite thing about climbing?

There are many things I love about climbing. I love the climbing community. When I go to the gym there’s always a good vibe. Everyone there is always so happy and encouraging. I also love the places it takes you. There are so many beautiful spots to climb around the world. 

Do you have any people in the climbing world that you look up to?

Yes. There are so many strong and powerful women in climbing right now. I definitely look up to people like Margo Hayes, Alex Puccio, Lynn Hill and all the women out there pushing their limits and sending hard. I feel lucky to have such strong role models. 

Have you had any scary moments when climbing?

I’ve had some scary moments while climbing but nothing too bad. I remember a couple times outside and being like 50 feet up without a rope and having to top out in the dark. 

Had any injuries or obstacles that you had to overcome?

I had a finger injury a year ago but it’s all healed now. I think climbing is very mental and sometimes people can feel discouraged and frustrated when they can’t do a move or send a climb. So, it can be hard to overcome but just keep trying hard!

Are your parent supportive of you climbing?

Yes, my parents are one of my main supports in climbing. They drive me to practice and competitions both close and far. They also take me climbing outside to places like Bishop, Yosemite and Castle Rock. 

What do you see in your future?

I hope to go to a university after high school and maybe climb on a collegiate team. I also want to keep traveling the world and climb everywhere.

What do you recommend to other kids that want to start climbing?

Come to the gym. There are many classes gyms offer for beginner climbers. Climbing is super fun and the more you practice the better you’ll be. 

How often do you climb?

I climb 3-4 days a week for a little over 2 hours each day. 

Where is your favorite place to climb?

Bishop, California. Bishop is a mecca for bouldering. It has so many different types and styles of climbs from technical slab to dynamic dynos. Its famous for having super high boulder problems (65 feet!). 

Any last thoughts that you have about climbing?

Climbing has given me so much in life. It has given me an amazing community of friends, more confidence, strength, perseverance and a true passion.

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