4 February 2022

Daniel Woods: 8C+, 9A and 9A+ progress interview

Daniel Woods has been one of the best boulderers in the world since he at age 15, in 2004, did his first 8B+. From 2005, he won the American Nationals for ten years in a row and he has also won one World Cup. In total, he has done 40+ 8C and harder, including the FA of Return of the Sleepwalker (9A), which is by far, the most in the world. Although the first 8C+ was suggested in 2004 by Mauro Calibani, Boulder World Champion in 2001, there were, besides traverses, no real 8C+ boulders in the world some ten years ago. During the last few years, the progress has been dramatic and there are now some 20 boulders graded 8C+ or 9A, out of which Daniel has sent eight. (c) Dave Burleson - Grand Illusion 8C+

Do you remember our talk during the TNF Festival in Kalymnos 2013 about grade deflation and that possibly some 8C's could be upgraded?
Haha, I remember bits and pieces but that was a while ago.

Today (including upgrades) there are some 20 boulders graded 8C+ or 9A. How can such rapid progress be explained?
I mean for one there are a lot more climbers in the world compared to ten years ago. Also more climbing gyms, training resources, video beta. I believe all this has allowed for more people to get stronger and perform at a higher level. There will continue to be more climbers getting into the game, perfecting movement, and sending hard shit. I’m excited to see what future climbers bring to this sport/lifestyle. Also, it will be exciting to see how our current standards hold up over time. All we are doing at the moment is proposing next level grades.

How have you been able to continue progress? Getting stronger or is it also that you are smarter and project longer?
I feel like my body strength has stayed somewhat the same. I def fluctuate but know how to get myself back in shape. Overall it’s knowledge of understanding movement, picking the right season to project/potentially send, and confidence within that you can do the line. When you are breaking into new grade territory there is uncertainty if you can do it or not. Once you break that barrier then confidence goes way up. Nowadays I can look at something and know if it will go quickly or take some time. And something that might take a lot of time isn’t as stressful as it used to be since I have experienced what it’s like already. So ya, the more climbing you do the better you will get. It’s important to know that there is no escape from failure though. Rather than being afraid of failing, learn from your failure to create success.

How do you see the progress in 10 years time? First 9A+ and multiple ascents of your 9A etc?
I mean there are a few 9A projects out there that I and my friends know about and I believe 9A+ exists. And ya Return of the Sleepwalker and Burden of Dreams might have multiple ascents.

As for myself in ten years, haha, well I still want to be trying hard. I feel you can continue to push your personal limits regardless of age. It all comes down to personal motivation to do so and how well you take care of your body. Obviously, recovery time is slower the older you get but knowledge on how to send will increase. It's all about being patient and believing that you are capable of doing it. I'll add though that this is easier said than done haha.

What have you been up to lately and what is your next plan?
I have been motivated to session again. The last few months I have lacked the motivation to try hard outside. I’m slowly learning that it’s not possible to perform at a top-level all year round without rest (speaking for myself). The older I get the more I value listening to my body and calling it quits when I’m not feeling it. Younger me would force something to happen. So ya I try hard when I get the feeling to do so and now I have that feeling. Last month I decided to take a break from going outside all the time and put in some gym work. It’s been fun creating indoor projects, ticking them off, and feeling some strength return. Next up is a Swiss trip… will see where the motivation lies after that. Would like to sport climb more this year and there are a few boulders I’d like to put work into.
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