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Christchurch set to become a climbing mecca

3 September 2018

Entrepreneurs entrenched in Christchurch’s climbing scene plan to transform an old brewery near the CBD into a state-of-the-art climbing venue.

Sefton Priestley and Vaughan Jones are already business partners in Uprising Boulder Gym – the city’s only facility dedicated to bouldering, a discipline of climbing making its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020.

They also design, manufacturer and install climbing walls around New Zealand, with plans for overseas expansion. This is where Uprising HQ - their new venture at the old Harrington’s brewery site on Ferry Rd – comes in.

“It will be a climbing, yoga and adventure exercise facility … with the most visually-impactful climbing walls people have ever seen,” Priestley says.

It will also be a giant, tangible marketing tool – a life-sized showroom, where potential clients can see what it looks like when Uprising makes something of such scale and complexity.

“Our current facility caters for a wide range of abilities, but I think it’s fair to say it best caters for people who are probably regular climbers,” Sefton says.

“This new facility will be amazing for absolutely everyone – from two-year-olds to world class athletes.”

The venue will take over a massive 1250 square metres, with a mezzanine floor, and will have a café. Climbing will be exclusivity bouldering over protective mats rather than rope-assisted climbing, which requires harnesses.

Sefton says bouldering is a good alternative for those people who are “bored just pumping iron at their local gym”. The new facility will be “a place where people can explore the potential of human movement”, he says. “Bouldering is about trying various exercises, using your mind [and] problem solving.”

Vaughan, who works for international company Clip 'n Climb as a project manager, says the venue will showcase some innovative climbing wall technology and features. “Generally, up until recently, [people] have tried to make indoor walls look like real rock by painting them various shades of brown. But we don’t like doing things the normal way.”

Most importantly, it will be fun, with a huge section dedicated to a kids’ adventure climbing area – a place of “semi-controlled chaos”, with lots of options for climbing, swinging, sliding and jumping. “The whole place is going to be a kids’ playground – big and little.”

Sefton, who has a side business designing and manufacturing creative and “practically unbreakable” climbing holds that are sold around the world, says they’re aiming to open the new venue in March next year, with a five-month design and build timeline. They’ll also try to repurpose as much of the brewery’s fit-out as they can. For example, old freezer panels might end up cladding a cosy, warm yoga studio. “It will be a cool transformation. And it’s a part of town which we think is going to see some further revitalisation in the next few years.”

The facility will also be home to a dedicated Ashtanga-inspired yoga studio with regular classes. Sefton says climbing and yoga go hand in hand. “People think of climbing as being real strength based but the elements that are so much more important are things like balance, flexibility, body awareness and breath control.”

Sefton, himself a national climbing champion, says Christchurch has a reputation as a base for innovation in the climbing world worldwide. Clip 'n Climb was originally set up by two Christchurch locals and now has 150 climbing centres around the world, factories in the United Kingdom and China and one of the way in the United States. Most of the new climbs and challenges for Clip 'n Climb still come from the factory here. And in a full circle, Sefton says Clip 'n Climb is one of his climbing hold company’s biggest customers. Even better, local climbers have already proven to be great product testers.

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