Float the Boat: Bouldering’s Biggest Day in Atlanta

Kelly Bussell
Made Possible by
Curated by

Boat Rock has a long history of climbing, as it was the site of one of the first bouldering competitions in the U.S. back in 1985. Names like Robyn Ebersfield, Ron Kauk, Bob Cormany, Curtis Glass, Shannon Stegg, Rich Gottlieb, and Jerry Roberts ring throughout the nearly mile-long stretch of egg-shaped granite boulders. And recently Angie Payne, Paige Classen, and David Lama have visited and touted Boat Rock. The only reason why Boat Rock is still in existence is because Southeastern Climbers Coalition bought the land to prevent development. One of the ways the climbing community continues to remain active in maintaining Boat Rock, is with the annual Float the Boat competition on February 28.

There will be the usual comps categories: kids (12 and under), beginner (V0 to V2), intermediate (V3 to V4), advanced (V5 to v6) and open (V7+). But Boat Rock offers granite, jellybean-shaped boulders that offer a different type of climbing than most bouldering fields in the Southeast. What makes this competition unique is that several other competitions were created that focus on the bouldering field’s features.

Climber Kelly Dalton
Climber Kelly Dalton Kelly Bussell

“The climbing at Boat Rock is very technical and takes a great deal of balance and foot work,” said Mark Huckeba, one of the event organizers. “The rewards far outweigh the risk as this area will literally ‘blow open your bouldering palette’ and definitely make you not only a better but more humble climber.”

An example of that technical climbing is the Dirtbag Climbers Crack Competition. Boat Rock has 25 classic cracks ranging from easy to hard. You’ll have to conquer all of these, and whoever completes all boulder problems first wins. “The idea was born that we should draw attention towards one of the differences that we truly enjoy about Boat Rock; its cracks,” said co-owner of Dirtbag Climbers Erick Barros.

Charlie Fowler  on Yellow Arete
Charlie Fowler on Yellow Arete Kelly Bussell

In addition to the crack challenge, climbers can choose from any of the following. When you register, you can only choose to compete in one category, and that includes the beginner through advanced competitions above.

For the speedy climber: The Iron Man and Iron Maiden competition. Complete as many boulder problems in the allotted time, and the highest points win.

For the team climbers: The Iron Team competition. Teams of two complete as many boulder problems in the allotted time, with one person climbing V3 and below, one person climbing V4 and above. The highest points win.

For the climber who does best under pressure: The Rowboat or Tugboat competition. Complete 20 pre-selected boulder problems and the first to complete all problems wins. Rowboat complete V0-V3, Tugboat complete V3-V6.

For the over-the-hill climber: The Rock Gods Competition. Must be over age 45, problems range from V0 to V-hard.

For the climber who dares to climb the unknown: The Open Projects challenge. Boat Rock has several unclimbed projects. Southeastern Climbing Coalition is offering a cash prize to any competitor who completes a project.

Float the Boat

If you're a climbing fan but not ready to compete, come join in on the fun as a spectator. “You'll watch the climbers perform, struggle, and succeed, especially for the children competition,” said Huckeba. “The climbing community is so wonderful and encouraging to each other; even in competition situations, competitors are super supportive of other climbers. It's quite refreshing and welcomed in our ‘be-the-best-or-nothing’ culture.”

To attract more climbers from around the Southeast to sign up for the competition, organizers are offering a free day of climbing at a local Atlanta gym on Sunday, March 1. The night before the competition, there will be a pre-party at Red Brick Brewery on February 27 from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. Tickets to the party include a souvenir Float the Boat pint glass and eight pours of Red Brick brews. Live music, insanely good hot dogs from Doggy Dog, and games keep the party going.

After the competition, head to Mellow Mushroom’s national headquarters for some killer pizza and more Red Brick booze. Consider this the awards ceremony, where in addition to DJ entertainment, competition results will be announced. This is your chance to win raffle prizes such as La Sportiva gear, boulder pads, FrictionLabs chalk and bags, and large-sum gift cards for Mountain Khakis and High Country Outfitters.

Kelly Bussell

Interested in registering ? Procrastinators can rejoice: you have until February 27 at 11 p.m. to register for a competition category. Your best bet is to purchase a combo registration that includes the pre- and post-party and an event entry, T-shirt, and swag bag for $45. Every competition ticket includes an annual membership to Southeastern Climbers Coalition.  But it pays to be early—the first 250 competitors will receive a Swag Bag provided by REI.  These bags will include coupons for discounts, swag gear, stickers, a pint glass, an energy beverage from HiBall, and more.

Kelly Bussell

Competition starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. Bring shoes, chalk, boulder pads, and grit.

“We are so thankful to the incredible community that the climbing world has, and the amount of support that climbers have given us along our way,” said Dirtbag Climbers’ Barros. “We can't think of a better way as a company to show our appreciation than to help sponsor events that are meant to build awareness for the need to protect the incredible places that we as climbers get to call our playgrounds. If it weren't for the SCC and organizations like the SCC, then these awesome areas would disappear.”

Last Updated:

Next Up