Let me start by saying that I am bias, very bias. I mean I am a ‘professional’ route setter, in that I get paid (most of the time) to put plastic climbing holds on indoor climbing walls for people to climb on.
For the most part it is a dream job, and I would like to think that I take my craft pretty seriously. I am always striving to get better, learn from feedback and focus on improving safety and processes. I find inspiration from social media, watching world cups and listening to interviews from top international setters. Adidas Rockstars, Hardmoves, Psychobloc, all of it pushing our sport further and further.
I have done my fair share of volunteering, for pretty major competitions too, state titles, nationals even. I am pretty passionate about climbing in Australia, so for the most part I understand that the money just isn’t there yet to pay the setting team, and so many of us miss out. However, sometimes, the lack of funding for our setters is endemic of a mentality that doesn’t value the craft of setting, and this infuriates me. When it comes to competitions and commercial setting, the main product that is being provided and marketed is the setting. Without it, being appropriate, interesting and safe, the quality of the event or gym suffers. If a gym was a person, the setting would be the food it ate. Regular re-sets, would be like eating regularly, and good quality setting would be like a healthy balanced diet. Without good setting and regular re-sets, the gym becomes unhealthy or just fades away and dies.
The other thing about supporting your setters, is that by doing so you support your whole climbing community. It is very rare to find setters that aren’t at or close to the epicentre of any climbing community. Keeping good setters psyched and motivated filters through the local climbing community and motivates everyone to frequent the gym, especially with high rotation of routes or boulders, clients are motivated to finish projects before they get stripped.
Finally, people notice quality. No matter the patron, climber, birthday goer or parent. People can see when a gym or climbing facility is well maintained. Holds are clean, gear is put away, movements are enjoyable, holds ergonomic and there is something for everyone. Good quality setting, especially in the easy to moderate grades also promotes good quality movement and a natural learning pathway for patrons.
So show your setters some love. Encourage them to be better, more creative and safer with what they do. And don’t forget that as is the nature of this world, you get what you pay for!