posted by dpm on 03/25/2009

Hang on This

Micah Elconin

There's not really any way around it.  You gotta be fit to climb hard.   This sport requires power, endurance and control from numerous muscles, tendons, and ligaments - a full body exercise.   However, for those that climb regularly, the limiting factor to success is almost always from the elbows out.  Whether it's a single move or long sustained routes, increasing contact strength is the answer.       


Of course, pulling down on rock is a fine way to increase the increase finger power, hand strength and forearm endurance, but the rock isn't always easy to get to.  Weather, jobs, kids - simply put, life - require attention that leaves little room for the requisite days of cragging to keep in top shape.  So at some point or another we find ourselves hanging from a fingerboard.  There are a myriad of opinions about fingerboards.  Some swear by them, while others simply swear at them following a training induced finger injury.

Sonnie Trotter is of the former camp, this world class climber has used fingerboard training for years to build and maintain the contact strength he needs to send projects.  He recalls the winter of 2002, "... I was broke and living in my mom and dads basement.  All I had was my hangboard and some free weights and it was -20 outside.  After a three or four months, I went on a road trip thinking I was going to be out of shape, and climbed my hardest ever, onsighting 5.13c's and climbing Necessary Evil 5.14c with relative ease.  Later that same year I climbed my first 5.14d."  Over the course of years, logging hundreds of hours on numerous boards, Trotter has seen the potential fingerboards offer but also noticed flaws in the designs that are currently available.  So, he started experimenting with different designs in his garage up in Squamish B.C. The VBoard is the culmination of his experimentation.    

The V-board aims to make climbers stronger while simultaneously avoiding the common problems associated with fingerboard training.  Crafted from solid oak each hold is rounded to a comfortable edge and soaked in linseed oil to creating a skin friendly texture.   Holds are all horizontal allowing for sustained training with the least amount of wrist and elbow strain.  In place of often awkward pinch grips, the V-Board is equipped with hooks for hanging blocks, allowing for pinch training with less pain and injury, as well as other add-ons like rings and pistol grips. 

The design is sleek and simple, more of a simplified campus board, and that's exactly the idea. "I looked at the way my favorite climber Wolfgang Gullich trained and noticed some amazing stuff. For example, when training for one finger pockets, he never actually used one finger pockets.  He used an open edge.  This actually makes your finger much stronger instead of relying on the tight fit or friction.  The V-Board with expose your weakness and create faster gains in pure strength."

As of yet, production is small as each board is made to order and Trotter is a one man show.  However, interest is growing fast and things are picking up.  "It seems like people are really accepting of this product.  I love making them, and the word is leaking out.  It just started out as friends, but now I'm getting orders from Alaska, Arizona, the UK and even Sweden.  It's kinda nuts."  In the coming months Trotter plans on launching a new website that will house loads of information about the Vboard and his training philosophy.  For now check out www.sonnietrotter.com (there's an excellent blog on there for those interested) or email the man himself at sonniejtrotter@yahoo.ca.