April 24, 2017 2:18 pm

Mike Surtees

“If I don’t Topgun, I’ll be annoyed, if I make the final I’ll be really annoyed” These were my words to Thomas & Guy as they prepared to test the qualification problems. It was a challenging brief and didn’t give them much room for leeway.


The short answer is yes, why not? But ask if I class myself as a NuKid and I’d say probably not. If you focus on the word ‘kid’, I’m not under 18; I’m not ‘Nu’ to climbing either, having been climbing for over 25 years; and I certainly would class myself as more than a social climber – it’s just I haven’t been climbing much recently.

I can count on one hand how many times I’ve climbed this year and I can count on two hands how many times I climbed last year. You could call it ‘anti-training’, I call it ‘recovery’ from two annoying shoulder injuries, one after the other. The first (my left shoulder) in 2013, the second (my right shoulder) in May Last year, which occurred after finally fixing my left…

So, that leaves one final criteria of the NuKids Comp Series, my climbing ability or grade.


The NuKids Comp Series is aimed at climbers – of any age – who climb up to around Font 6b/V4 and this, ultimately, is what I was interested in. It was a way of seeing where I’m currently at with my climbing following my injuries and lack of climbing time; my strengths, weaknesses and ultimately my approx. (indoor) grade. Could my years of practice and my understanding of climbing movement gloss over my lack of strength and stamina? Ultimately, I think it did; I scored well but not well enough to Topgun, which I think is a pretty realistic assessment. The question of ‘am I a NuKid’ was answered for me. I am.


I was tactical in my approach to the qualifiers. With limited climbing over the last 12-18 months, I knew I’d struggle with stamina and especially strength on steep ground so, I aimed to attempt this style of problems sooner rather than later. I knew I had a short window of performance so rather than approach the blocs in numerical order – which I normally do and run out forearms – I attacked the cave, the back wall and the harder looking blocs first, sandwiching in the easier blocs as I went.

Overall, I was happy with my score on the night. I annoyingly dropped a flash on the slab, but I also felt good about holding on to a couple of blocs – and flashing them – when I could easily have given up.

When I woke on Saturday, my first thoughts were “I definitely tried hard”. I was sore. As I got out of bed I could feel the tightness in my shoulders and my intercostal muscles (between my ribs) where I’d clearly locked in my underworked core muscles. My forearms were also sore and I was thankful I had a day to rest.


I arrived a little early to help the crew but they had it all in hand, so I just drank a coffee and allowed the caffeine to enhance my nerves. When Tim Reed saw me, he had a big smile on his face. “You know everyone will be watching you, don’t you?”. Yes, I had thought about this, but thanks for highlighting it… But he seemed genuinely please I was taking part, and he wasn’t the only person to give me the thumbs up on the day, which I appreciated.

Isolation was a cocoon of nervous energy and I was conscious quite a few of the finalists had been here before and had experience I didn’t. I focused on warming up and trying to time it right so I was ready for action when called. I also had a few nervous wees and helped myself to a couple of bits of power flapjack – at least that was my excuse ….

When my time came, my stomach was turning. There had been some loud cheers in the last 45 mins as previous competitors had entered the arena and topped some blocs. I was glad to be walking out with to share the rush of adrenaline.

  • Bloc 1. A classic ‘just stand up problem’ but, I just couldn’t stand up enough and I was surprised at how angry it made me; clearly I wanted to do well!
  • Bloc 2. Straight forward –the one that was set in the hope everyone would climb it, but I annoyingly ballsed up the Flash by not making contact with all the start holds and only registered a 2nd attempt. Tim Reed was the judge who called me down – still smiling, but this time, apologetically. No need to apologise, it was a schoolboy error brought on by nerves and again I was annoyed…
  • Bloc 3. I knew if this part of the wall was in the men’s final id struggle. It’s steep, powerful and I’m still not super confident in my right shoulder. I managed to get started and up to the second sequence of volumes, but my core is weak and my arms quickly drained. I watched the clock tick down and thought I’d save what I had left for the final bloc.
  • Bloc 4. I enjoyed the initial moves on this and think I may have got it if I’d had the stamina (and time) for one last try. It was my left forearm which surprisingly gave out, which resulted in my fingers opening as I tried to lay away from the volume and make the sketchy step up – I’ll get it this week when I’m, fresh…


I came seventh overall but secretly, I targeted a podium. There was no time for disappointment though as I thoroughly enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would. The nerves and the crowd almost disappeared into the background once I pulled onto Bloc 1 and focused on the climbing. It was a great experience; one I’d be happy to repeat and totally recommend to anyone.


Aside from taking part in the final, the highlight of entering the NuKids Masters was in the fact it has given me a benchmark to work from, and this is something I needed to get some psyche back following injury.

I almost Top Gunned and with a little more strength and stamina, I’m confident I have the ability to have climbed all the problems.. The next NuKids is in 9 June and my aim is to improve my score, hopefully TopGun, and to feel stronger. I have an 8 week training plan, focusing primarily on stamina, but also some general strength training too, to help on the steeper walls. So watch this space…

See you on the walls




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