Andrew Funk is a Rising Canadian Rock Star
The next wave of strong Canadian climbers is starting to arrive and Andrew Funk is one of the few on top. With plans to compete at the World Youth Climbing Championships in Italy this summer, Funk is just getting started
The four provinces most involved with youth climbing are Quebec, Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, Funk hails from the latter. Funk’s local climbing gym, Rock Jungle Fitness in Edmonton, has been the perfect training ground for him to hone his skills and become a champion youth competitor.
And he hasn’t limited himself to just pulling on plastic. He’s applied his comp-winning strength to the rock and in doing so has sent a number of steep and difficult routes including Pericles V9, Sos 5.13a, The Hood 5.13b, Sticky Buns 5.13a and Army Ants 5.13c.
Funk recently returned from Red Rocks, where he onsighted a 5.13a, and touched base with Gripped editor Brandon Pullan to talk about the finer things in life.
Gripped: Where did you grow up?
Andrew: I was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but moved to Edmonton when I was six and have lived here ever since.
G: When did you start climbing and how did you get into it?
A: I started climbing nine years ago, when I was eight. It’s kind of a convoluted story of how I got into climbing, but basically one of my family friends was competing at the University of Alberta climbing wall in a competition and my dad took me to watch and we were blown away. A little while later, my dad had to go to physiotherapy for something and the woman who helped him turned out to be a climber as well. She convinced him to start climbing and soon enough my dad decided to take me as well. Shortly after, I signed up for a developmental team at the University Wall and just went from there.
G: Does your family climb?
A: Yeah, everyone in my immediate family climbs. You already know about my dad, and my mom hops on a rope every once in a while. She’s naturally a very good climber, she just doesn’t do it too often. My sister Alison, who’s two years older than me, is an awesome climber. She started at the same time that I did and has competed on the Youth National Team at the 2014 World Youth Championships in New Caledonia, as well as at the Pan American Games a few years ago.
G: Competition climbing – when did you start and how’s it been going?
A: I started competing six years ago, which is kind of crazy to think about now. My comp career has been a bit of a roller coaster. I was really quite successful through my first few years, placing as well as second in the 2011 Route Youth Nationals and travelling to the World Youth Climbing Championships that year. The next three years, I had perfect early seasons, winning lots of youth local events, but I could never quite perform well when it really counted at Nationals. Fortunately this year, I’ve really hit my stride. It’s the first year that youth bouldering competitions exist at the National and International level, and I am really excited to have placed second in my category at Nationals to earn myself a spot on the first Canadian Youth Bouldering National Team. It’s also the first year that I’ve been finding success on the open bouldering circuit, with multiple Tour de Bloc finals’ appearances (including one win) and placing fourth in the Alberta standings.
G: What’s your favourite competition been this year?
A: My favourite comp this year (so far) would have to be the Open Bouldering National Championships at the Bloc Shop in Montreal. While I was disappointed by my results, the comp itself was amazing to be a part of. The calibre of athletes was astounding, the gym was sick and the event was run flawlessly. I learned a ton and it was an amazing show.
Funk Wins Tour de Bloc Elevation Place
G: Have you always climbed outside?
A: I haven’t always climbed outside, no. When I first started climbing, I was really young and my parents didn’t have much experience. It wasn’t really on my radar either. It wasn’t until a few years later, once I had matured a little and become more involved with the climbing community, that I got my first taste of real rock.
G: What’s your hardest send and what do you like about climbing outdoors?
A: My hardest outdoor send is Army Ants 5.13c at Acephale. Probably my favourite thing about outdoor climbing is that it provides me with a method to interact with nature. You get to see some of the most spectacular places that exist in nature, places that I know I would never get to see or experience if I wasn’t a climber.
G: If you had to choose just one, what crag do you enjoy the most?
A: It’s hard to pick just one area to crown the champion, but I would probably have to go with Acephale. I’ve spent more time there than anywhere else in the Bow Valley and I love the constantly crisp temperatures, variety of climbing styles, and sheer depth of hard sport routes to get on. It’s hard to think anyone could run out of stuff to project up there. The Lookout up in Echo Canyon is definitely a close second though.
G: Do you enjoy projecting?
A: Yeah, I spent some time last summer working on Endless Summer 5.13d at Acephale. It’s a pretty amazing route, but it became clear to me last year that I would have to get a lot fitter, stronger and smarter before I would send it. Maybe the past several months of training will pay off and it will feel better this year. I’ve also got my eye on a route called Angst 5.14a. I’ve heard good things about it, and it sounds like my style. It might be the project for this summer.
G: You were just in Red Rocks for spring break, how was the trip?
A: Spring break was pretty amazing. This was the fourth consecutive year that I’ve gone on a trip to Red Rocks, and by far it was the best trip yet. There were four families staying with us down there and I had the pleasure of climbing for six days with some of the most amazing, dedicated and inspirational climbers that I know. Heading into the trip, I was already really psyched. The day before I left, I was incredibly excited to find out that I was getting set up to be an athlete for Flashed Climbing. They do an incredible job supporting local athletes and so this was huge news for me.
I knew that the trip was going to be pretty interesting for me since we would be sport climbing and I had barely touched a rope in the past several months. The first couple days I spent trying to get reacquainted with sport climbing on rock and managed to send Nothing Shocking 5.13a after pumping off the last move four times that day. A little later in the trip, I managed to onsite Midnight Cowboy, a really cool 5.13a.
On the last day of the trip, we decided to check out this place we’d heard about called the Alternative Crag. It was this freestanding 20-metre boulder with an amazing line straight up the front of it. After talking to a couple guys who were up there to get some beta, I managed to flash Nirvana 5.13b. It was completely my style: steep, bouldery and powerful, and every move felt incredible. As if the beautiful route and breathtaking location wasn’t enough, the day was made even more special by getting to watch four others go to war with this route, resulting in one of the most inspirational send trains I’ve ever witnessed. That entire day is by far the highlight of the trip.
G: What are your plans for the summer?
A: This summer, I’m hoping to spend as much time climbing in the Bow Valley as I can. I do, however, have some other priorities. For one, I’m competing at the World Youth Climbing Championships in Arco, Italy at the end of August, so I’m going to be training really hard. I figured that since I’ll be in Europe already, I may as well stay for as long as I can to climb, so I’m going to have to work quite a bit to get as much money saved as I can so that I can hopefully spend at least a few months sampling some more world-class stone. It might be a bit of a balancing act, but I’m excited to see what happens.
G: Music plays a big role for some climbers. What genre of music do you prefer before a comp… Funk?
My taste in music tends to be a little odd sometimes. If I’m training, I find that getting as psyched as I possibly can is the best for me, so my training playlist consists of an odd mix of rap and techno. When I’m competing, I find that I actually like to chill out a little. I perform best when I’m relaxed and happy and so the stuff I listen to on deck chair tends to be upbeat and happy songs, stuff you can’t help tapping your foot to.