Rock climbing leaders Darrick Broudy and Mio Berk both came upon the activity the same way many of their students do – by happy accident. And they, like so many students, were quickly drawn in by the activity – equal parts puzzle, sport and play – that brought them thrice a week to a world-class, double-decker facility fashioned out of an old military aircraft hangar.
An idyllic 15-minute walk from The Bay School, Crissy Field-adjacent Planet Granite has everything a climber could need. Bay participants receive full member benefits, including access to workout equipment, yoga classes and 25,000 square feet of climbing space. The gym also trains, tests and certifies each student to belay (control the rope attached to a partner’s harness) so that everyone gains experience both climbing and spotting. “We work closely with the people there,” Mio said. “We’ve built a really solid relationship.”
With all the benefits, it’s no surprise that at 31 participants, rock climbing is one of the most popular activities at The Bay School. Darrick believes that what pulls students in most is the nature of the sport itself. In climbing, he said, “You’re actually trying to work through and solve a problem with other people. It’s intellectual too, which is one of the things that engages the kids. It’s not like lifting weights or running laps.” Bouldering, or climbing without a rope (usually over a crash pad), “is really a social activity,” Darrick added.
Still, not all climbing is created equal. “Of the gyms that I’ve traveled to, Planet Granite is definitely the largest facility,” Darrick said. “It also has a variety of fun problems. The process of setting is actually an art – [it’s hard] to set a problem such that people want to do it over and over again.”
And if creating fun challenges is half the battle, making climbing accessible is the other half; overly difficult courses can be discouraging and sometimes downright impossible for climbers of certain heights and builds. But Darrick thinks Planet Granite strikes the balance right. “It’s a place where you can experience success even if you’re not typically an ‘athletic’ person or if you’re not super coordinated,” he said. Mio echoed this sentiment: “Getting to see kids of all different sizes, levels and social circles come together to climb and improve; it’s a really great community.”
Students have plenty of opportunities to become highly involved, but, as Mio pointed out, “Everybody who climbs there can do it at their own pace.” While some students are just learning how to belay, others are training for Planet Granite’s bouldering competition series (which, incidentally, sounds like a blast, complete with deejay, food and festivities). “Students who stay committed to climbing do it for all four years, learn to love it and do it on their own time,” Mio said.
Rarely is The Bay School’s strong partnership with the Presidio more tangible than at climbing practice. Between the all-too-short walk over, the gym’s striking view of the Golden Gate and the mingling clusters of staff, students and locals, it’s hard to forget what an impressive place the Presidio is. The experience brings with it exposure to a special sport, practice problem-solving and opportunities to engage with the very community that offers up these magical happenings as a matter of course.