Bouldering at Project Send
Photograph: Daniel IskandarBouldering at Project Send

Let's Get Physical: We tried bouldering and left with more than just calluses

We link up with a former international school bouldering head coach to get acquainted with the sport

Dawson Tan

Introducing our newest fitness series “Let’s Get Physical”, we send complete newbies to try out new sports that gained popularity in recent years. The popular sport of bouldering took Singapore by storm in recent years and nowadays, climbers won’t even have to go out of their way to find a climbing gym. We link up with former international school bouldering head coach, Akmal at Project Send, a hip new climbing gym at Esplanade, to get acquainted with the sport.

Gearing up with proper techniques

So what exactly is bouldering? Surely, it is more than just grabbing onto a bunch of colourful rocks, climbing to the top and calling it a day. Bouldering, in all seriousness, is a form of climbing that requires fitness, strength, wit and mental fortitude. But before we scale the walls, we gear up with the basic climbing techniques and safety drills. Akmal also brings us through the different types of holds, from easy-to-grab jugs to tricky crimps.

“Don’t worry so much about falling down. You really should worry more about how you fall instead.” 

Words to live by for every climber, regardless of the level of experience, as every fall comes with certain risks of injuries. Always remember to fall in motion: first, glance behind to see if anyone is beneath you, keep your arms at the front to avoid breaking the force of the fall and land on your back without bending your knees too much.

Bouldering at Project Send
Photograph: Daniel IskandarBouldering at Project Send

Getting on with the climb

In climbing speak, a project is your chosen climbing route and to make the send is to climb the project without falling off. From straightforward beginner climbs to intermediate technique-driven routes, each project will feature varying grades of different difficulty, made up of various grip styles and toe holds. Akmal gives us the beta (again, bouldering speak for giving advice) to always strategise before any ascend.

“The last thing you want is to waste precious energy thinking about your next move while you’re up there.” 

We enjoy much success for the first few grades but the learning curve only got steeper. From awkwardly shaped grips to microscopic toeholds, straightforward routes turn into complex puzzles. Some walls even come with menacing reclines and sharp corner turns. But with a bit of determination and some aggressive finger-pinching attempts, you’ll soon find success. We could see how such an achievement holds the potential to bring out the best in most people.

Strengthening the mental fortitude

Again, as complete rookies, each fall did not dissuade our drive to make the next send. Instead, we find ourselves forging ahead on higher grades and using intermediate techniques. The overwhelming encouragement from the ultra-friendly climbing community around us did give a boost to our adrenaline.

“Bottom line – it’s really about your mental strength, how resilient and how determined you are to make the send.”

Of course, being physically fit definitely helps. Besides simply doing more bouldering, Project Send offers strength conditioning, functional mobility and even callisthenics training programmes to those looking to elevate their climb game. The sport is certainly not just for greenhorns like us.

Who said an effective workout can’t be fun?

In two hours, we burnt over 900 calories or roughly one Double McSpicy (833 kcals). The full-body indoor workout emphasised on arms, core and hamstrings, and is easily enjoyed rain or shine. Whether you’re thinking of flying solo or climbing with groups of friends, the warm and welcoming climbing community helps foster a sense of belonging to all climbers, despite seniority. So will we return? Absolutely.

Project Send - Beta Cafe
Photograph: Daniel IskandarProject Send - Beta Cafe

Is bouldering here to stay?

We head over to Beta, a work-friendly cafe within Project Send, to speak with Kenneth Ng, founder and director of Project Send. He shares about Singapore’s plans to send sport-climbing athletes to the upcoming Olympics in Paris 2024.

“We hope to catapult one of Asia’s fastest-growing sports by curating overseas bouldering expeditions for our community.”

He endorses that by bringing local athletes from the gym to the outdoors. They are able to apply and build on their skills and training while elevating their experience to a new scale and platform.

It certainly looks like the urban sport of bouldering is here to stay for good.

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