Legendary climber Miguel Riera passed away this week after a battle with cancer, he was 56 years old. Riera is considered to be the climber who brought deep-water-soloing into the mainstream and over the years introduced climbers like Tim Emmett and Chris Sharma to the sport.
In 1978, Riera visited Mallorca with a group of friends and opened the island’s first bouldering problems. A short time later, he took his skills onto problems above the sea and called it psicobloc, which translates to “psycho bouldering.” But Riera would often note that psicobloc had been around since the first time a climber found a sea cliff to ascend in warm weather. But he said no one considered it a sport until he and his friends started to name and grade routes in the late 1970s.
Riera said in his early climbing days, he was focused on aid and big wall climbing. After he got a hold of George Meyers’ book on Yosemite that showed images of shirtless boulderers with long hair, he was inspired to find boulders where he and his friends could boulder around in a similar way.
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Really sad news that the godfather of Deep Water Soloing, Miguel Riera (56) has passed away, to cancer. 😥 I first met Miguel back in the late 90’s when I heard about a climber in Mallorca that had been Deep Water Soloing. Miguel sent us a picture of one of his friends in fluorescent yellow shorts high above the water on what looked like the most amazing DWS cliff we had ever seen. They had been climbing there 10 years earlier but his two team mates had stopped DWS and he was the only one still interested in it. A Uk team including @neil.gresham, Mike Robertson @charliewoodburn and a Austrian team (Klem Loskott, Harry Berger, Stephan Keininger, we met up with Miguel and he showed us what’s now known as Cova De’l Diablo – The Cove of the Devil. We started developing it with him and made a film with Klem – Dosage 2 – Psicobloc. Miguel was also instrumental in the evolution of deep water soloing competitions and also teamed up with @chris_sharma. Miguel’s appetite for climbing was insatiable, he was always utterly psyched and loved bouldering and climbing above the waves. Anyone that’s tasted DWS in Mallorca will know it’s the best. Miguel introduced it to the world and since then thousands of climbers have ventured to Mallorca to try it out, share the stoke with their friends, get scared and have fun ! 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏💔 This photo was taken at the psicocomp in Park City in 2016. RIP Miguel . . . . . . #dws #diablo #mallorca #deepwatersoloing #legend #migueriera #
In the 1980s, sport climbing was a growing sport, but bouldering and psicobloc saw few newcomers. Riera continued to open crags and publish articles in Spanish magazines.
Near the end of the decade, other climbers joined forces with Riera to establish new crags like Cova del Diablo and now classic routes. Around that same time, young British climbers were starting to develop similar style over-the-water-lines in the U.K., but the water was much colder.
In 2001, Riera sent British climber Tim Emmett an email showing a picture of Cova Del Diablo, which inspired Emmett and his friends to visit. They established nearly 30 new routes up to 5.13. Two short films were produced, once by Udo Neumann relased and Brett and Josh Lowell’s film Psicobloc.
In 2003, Chirs Sharma made his first visit to Mallorca and started to establish new routes at the guidance of Riera, who was also still opening new lines. In 2004, Josh Lowell released a collection of short films under in Dosage Vol 2, which included films on deep water soloing.
A few years later, Riera released his now-famous-guidebook called Psibloc Mallorca. The book highlighted the best climbs on the island. It was the same year that Sharma opened Es Pontas 5.15, which was featured in the film King Lines. The award-winning film helped introduce the sport to even more climbers around the world.
Riera continued to climb on the cliffs of Mallorca for many more years and psicobloc has gone one to become as popular as any other style of climbing. Enjoy this short film by Cedar Wright featuring Riera in his element. Our condolences to Riera’s friends and family.