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For most people, “climbing the walls” connotes anxiety. For Dawson Jacobs, climbing the walls comes naturally. By age 7, he had already developed a talent for the Spider-man behavior.
“If we were on vacation anywhere, if there was just a straight brick wall, like in Charleston, S.C., he would literally just start walking up it,” said his mother, Donya. “So he’s always had that climbing, I say ability or skill. If it was a flat wall, he would find some little groove in it and shimmy his way up. When we were on vacation with other family members they would be scared for him.”
His mom and dad, Dean, and big sister were used to it. Donya would just shrug and say, “Oh, he always does that.”
Since then he has developed his affinity for verticality and made himself one of the top young boulderers in the country. Last month, he won a divisional USA Climbing competition in Charlotte and this weekend he travels with his family to the USA Climbing Youth National Championship in Salt Lake City, where he will compete with about 50 other climbers in his 15-16 age group.
Dawson lives with his parents at the family’s bed and breakfast, the Pines Country Inn, in the Little River community of eastern Transylvania County. His sister, Dahlia, attends Columbia (S.C.) International University, a Bible college and seminary. Between homeschooling, volunteering at Team ECCO Ocean Center and Aquarium and bouldering workouts, Dawson also works as the inn’s “official lawn boy,” as his mother describes it.
Although the 16-year-old practices and competes with a youth bouldering team in Brevard, most of his training is solo, either at home and in the gym. What he loves about the sport is getting outside and climbing real boulders.
During the USA Climbing competitions, climbers get four minutes to study a “route” and attempt to climb to the top. Each hold is worth a certain number of points — the higher the hold the greater the point value. To reach the top of the wall is to “send” the route.
At the divisionals Jan. 14-15, Dawson competed with 40 other climbers in his age group. He won the Charlotte division — one of eight that day across the U.S. — and punched his ticket for the nationals.
“Everybody else climbed the routes but nobody was actually able to send the route because these were really hard routes,” he said. “The routes they used for us were actually the same routes they used for the next category up, which is 17 and 18. I sent the last route on the second day.” To do that, he had to spring completely off the wall to another spot on the wall. And yes, the sport does involve a lot of trial and error.
“I fall more than I don’t fall,” he said.
He’s looking forward to the recreational climbing outdoors as much as the indoor competition. Climbers plan to challenge the boulders at Joe’s Valley, a popular bouldering destination a couple hours from Salt Lake City, during a side adventure.