Interview – Sam Healy

A couple of weeks ago Sydney denizen, Sam Healy, fought his way up one of Oz’s hardest and most iconic routes, Groove Train (33) on Taipan Wall in the Grampians. We have to admit we were a little surprised as we’ve always thought of Sam and his twin brother Liam as boulderers, but it turns out climbing routes is not that hard if you’re really, really ridiculously strong and all the moves feel easy. We spoke to Sam to find out more about his ascent and how he’s made the transition from three-move wonder to boy pumper.

Congrats on climbing Groove Train. We’ve always thought of you as a boulderer, when did the transition to roped climbing begin or have you been doing it for a while?
I use to rope climb a little when I was younger but then I got overly hyped on Sydney bouldering. I started again at the beginning of this year (Sydney was hot) and have been getting out to the Blueys pretty consistently since then. I’m pretty psyched to be on a rope now.

We’ve only seen videos on Instagram of you climbing about six moves max, where do the pumping skills come from?
The easier the moves are the more you can do.

It went under the radar a bit but a while back you climbed Mechanical Animals (33) at Boronia Point in the Blueys, so Groove Train was your second at the grade. How did you find the two routes in comparison?
I found Mechanical Animals a little harder, though they’re completely different. Mechanical is basically a hard boulder problem after a hands-free rest, so it suits a boulderer quite well but is just nails hard. Groove Train is more of a pumper with lots of little boulders between good and then shit rests, I just had to really want it.

Sam nestled in the nook on Groovey (28) the first pitch of Groove Train. Image Jack Masel

Sam nestled in the nook on Groovy (28) the first part of Groove Train. Image Jack Masel

You’ve done two 33s, have you done many easier routes or did you just go all Chris Sharma and walk straight up to the hardest route at the cliff?
I did for Groove Train, but not in the Blueys. I’ve stacked up a good deal of both easy and hard routes. I love climbing so if it’s good I want to get up it.

Groove Train is quite run out in places, how did you approach climbing it, and did you take any of the big whips?
With lots of fear. I’m pretty bad at taking big whips and climbing high above bolts. When I’m trying to send I switch gears and turn that part of my head off, but the rest of the time I’m a big sissy. Working it was the scariest part. Though Logan [Barber] fixed us a line and I got to top rope and clean the last run out before the send.

Did you come South with the plan of climbing it? And how did the ascent go down, did it take long?
That was exactly the plan. GT2018 is the in-trend thanks to Jack Masel. The ascent went a lot quicker and smoother than I would have expected. I stuck the hardest section and kept it together to the top, seven shots total.

We also hear that you repeated Sultans of Swing (V13) and thought it was easy – why so easy? And what grade do you think it is?
Not so easy, just an inside joke, Sultans of Soft has a good ring to it. Nalle’s beta which I used is definitely easier than Alex Megos’ crazy swing. I’d say it’s still 13, just not too hard for the grade. Rings did help.

Do you have a special diet that ensures you have ze power and ze stamina to climb hard things?
Definitely not, I gained 3kg in Gramps 😓. I do eat healthy just overeat every now and then, I like food. Though saying that peanut butter is power.

Sam setting off on the crimpy business of Groove Train (33). Image Jack Masel

Sam setting off on the crimpy business of Groove Train (33). Image Jack Masel

You were recently in Japan where you visited a bunch of different gyms. Was your trip there primarily to climb in the gyms or was the weather too bad to climb outdoors?
We went over primarily for a training trip. I do love/prefer the outdoors but the scene over there is insane. Tokyo is also pretty rad, I’m generally not a city person but I’ve made an exception.

How did you find the gyms in comparison to those in Australia?
On another level, insanely good for getting strong. The quality and quantity of hard boulders in every gym we went to was mind-blowing. They have the scene to facilitate such a thing. In Sydney if we set like they do there’d be about five people who could make use of it. It’s not logical or possible to do what they do. At least not yet.

Sam flashing Sheek Naja Ket (30), Taipan Wall, Grampians. Derek Cheng

Sam flashing Sheek Naja Ket (30), Taipan Wall, Grampians. Derek Cheng

Japanese climbers are dominating competitive bouldering at present, did you gain any insights as to why this might be so while you were there?
Their gyms facilitate it. They have set boulders harder than what I could think of climbing at this point in time. You simply wouldn’t run out of climbs to project and it gives you something to constantly work towards. There are literally more than 150 gyms in the Tokyo region and lots of them set hard comp-style boulders. Having so many facilities and boulders to choose from would definitely help get you strong and technically skilled.

We’ve noticed that you and your brother others talk about ‘flowz’ post-Japan – what’s that all about?
Flows is the term attributed to funky dynamic movement where you have to coordinate more than one move without stopping. Like jumping to a hold then stabbing a foot at the same time. It’s good fun and great comp practise.

Do you have any climbing mentors or do you guide your own way just by tapping into The Force?
There are definitely people I’ve looked up to in the past and still do. Smitten was a big inspiration for me, watching Aussie crushers put down world class lines and try really fucking hard. I think at the moment having a good crew of strong, psyched individuals to train and crush with is a big motivating factor. Liam, Yossi, Eli and Tom are a massive motivation to me at the moment. Training with such strong dudes forces me to constantly push myself. And we all have slightly different styles so I feel like I’m constantly learning too. It’s awesome.

Jimmy Webb is also a hero, the summit to aim for.

Devil in the Detail (V12), Valley of the Giants. Oliver Miller

Devil in the Detail (V12), Valley of the Giants. Oliver Miller

You met one of VL’s editors recently in the Blueys and we hear that his sense of humour nearly killed you after he told a joke and you were laughing so hard that you tripped over and nearly fell off the edge of a cliff – is he really that funny?
If you like crude humour, I’m personally a fan.

Since you’ve put down one of Oz’s best hardest routes and survived Simon Madden’s deadly sense of humour, the world is now your oyster – what routes/boulders await you on the horizon?
I’d like to do the Manhattan Line (V12), which my brother just repeated, and The Corridor (V12). Both Sharik Walker classic Sydney sandbags. The Blueys is seemingly endless. So many hard routes it’s hard to know what to hop on next. Street Walkin’ Cheetah (32), however, looks pretty tasty.

One thought on “Interview – Sam Healy

  1. Lydia

    This was an exceptional interview and Sam is my role model when it comes to bouldering. The Groove Train is on my bucket list and this post was a real inspiration to cross it off as soon as possible. Singapore is also an excellent destination with some of the best bouldering gyms!

    Reply

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