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  • Writer's pictureDaria Danila

Exploring Bouldering Ahead of the 2024 Dutch National Championship

Bouldering enthusiasts are gearing up for the 2024 Bouldering National Championship, which is taking place this weekend in the Hague. The Groninger set out to understand why this sport has become so popular.

Bouldering hall in Groningen © Daria Danila

According to the Dutch National Association of Climbing and Mountain Sports (KNBV) the organizers of the championship, over 400 people will be attending this weekend’s event to watch some of the best Dutch climbers scale their way towards a national title. 

Although the Netherlands is not a suitable place for outdoor climbing (note the lack of mountains), there are more than 100 indoor gyms where people can develop their skills in bouldering. This has been a well-loved sport for some time, but it soared to popularity following the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, when it was introduced as an Olympic sport. 

The KNBV estimates that bouldering is one of the fastest growing climbing sports in the Netherlands. “ You can see different types of people going to the boulder hall now, and a lot more of them. It can be very, very busy,” says Karen Stuitje, a student who has been bouldering on-and-off since she was a child.

Bouldering hall in Groningen © Daria Danila

For Karen, what makes bouldering an attractive sport is just how accessible it really is: “You don’t need to know anything except what the rules of the bouldering hall are.” When she first started bouldering, having some previous experience with climbing, Karen felt comfortable on the bouldering wall “I just went up there on [intuition], and it did get me somewhere.”

She explains that, as a beginner, it is not necessary to invest in much equipment, to have any knowledge of specific techniques or be very fit. All you need is a pair of climbing shoes, the rest you can learn along the way. 

In the growing number of people who practice the sport, Karen also notices a change in demographics. Alongside veteran members of the climbing community who “have been wearing the NorthFace gear for a while,” she feels that more and more young people are joining climbing gyms. 

“Bouldering is more a young, student activity, and also part of a more alternative vibe. You know, you have a mullet, and you boulder,” she explains.

Karen bouldering © Karen Stuitje

Watching other people boulder may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but for Karen and the 400 people who will be in the crowd of the championship competition this weekend, seeing professional climbers in action is engaging: “You see someone really struggling with a certain step, or a certain hold, and then suddenly they got it, or they don’t. It’s really exciting, ” she says.

While bouldering may seem a purely physical sport, studies have shown that its benefits extend to developing good decision-making and puzzle solving skills. The KNBV also has this in mind when creating the course for this year’s championship, promising to put the participants’ “climbing skills to the ultimate test.”

This is precisely what makes watching professional bouldering competitions so interesting to Karen, who will tune in to this weekend’s championship: “You really see them trying to solve a puzzle.”

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