21 Feb Patxi Usobiaga. Obsession and inspiration.
Text: Kissthemountain | Photography: Javipec Photography“
Coming back from my grandmother’s funeral, the car spins out of control. There seems to be oil or something on the road. It´s 8th June, 2010. A terrible accident. One of those in which you could easily be killed. I’m going 120 km/h. That day I´m not aware of how serious my injury is. The next morning I keep fighting and training”.
In the world showcase | Unconformity | Maximum Aspirations | Longings
“In 2003 I sign up for an international competition reaching my first final in the Chamonix World Championship. For me, that second place is fantastic. My appearance on the international stage that I won´t leave behind. In 2005 I get second again. It´s rather a strange competition. I could have won. Some things happen that are a bit unpleasant for me and for others. I have to settle for second place again. In 2007 an injury sustained during training and which I don´t give much importance to, rears its head in the last few movements of the final. 2005 and 2007 feel like failures for me. In 2009 I´m already 28 years old. I´m 7th on the circuit and start to feel somehow that this might be my last World Championship. I don´t want to retire without winning”.
Emotional rollercoaster | Doubts and lack of motivation | Conviction | Hard work | Obsession | Focus
“But two months before… I’m a very emotional person. I have my ups and downs. Highs are very high and lows are very low. That’s why I’ve gotten where I’ve gotten. When I’m high I can take advantage of it and when I’m down I know how to learn from it to move up again. Two months before the 2009 World Championship, in April, at a Master’s in Shanghai in which I was favorite, I get second place despite not being at my best. I don’t feel good and I go into a spiral where everything starts to get worse. Returning from there I go with friends to France. I’m in a bad way, especially mentally. I’m not comfortable and I start to lose motivation. It´s early May 2009. I spend some very bad days contemplating if I really want to enter the World Championship. I don´t feel like preparing for it. I don´t know if I want to do it or not. Emotionally, it´s a very hard time in my career. I wait a few days to see if one day I´ll wake up wanting to do it. I know myself very well. I´m like that. And so, one morning I wake up and I say yes. I want to do it. Two months of hard work, training and really looking after myself await me. I get into a tunnel vision of success, or work, I don´t really know how to define it, until the World Championship. Everything I do in those two months is focused on 5th July, 2009. I´m a little obsessed. A lot. The day I go to China I´m training at one-thirty in the morning. I´m already in that time zone. It’s the only competition I sense whilst getting on the plane that I’m going in order to win”.
Optimism | Deception | Explosion | World Champion
“In China every breath I take is positive. Everything goes relatively well but in the final I´m second. That means it´s likely I´ll repeat that position again. At least that’s what I think. But Adam [Ondra] gets nervous, jumps and does not hold on. I win the World Championship. It’s the end of my sporting career, but at the moment I don´t know it. I just crossed out all the international events I want to win. It´s incredible. It’s been two very hard months thinking only about that day, the final.”
Accident | Unconsciousness | Physical pain | Diagnosis | Lack of acceptance
“Coming back from my grandmother’s funeral, the car spins out of control. There seems to be oil or something on the road. It´s 8th June, 2010. A terrible accident. One of those in which you could easily be killed. I’m going 120 km/h. That day I´m not aware of how serious my injury is. The next morning I keep fighting and training”.
“In July, the World Cup begins. In the first competition I´m second. The next one is in August and there I´m first but have the worst sensations of my life. I should have stopped, but I don´t know how to. It’s a piece of shit. I go to doctors and ask them what the hell is wrong with me. When I’m at home they treat me every day. They loosen up my neck and then there is not so much pain. But in July and August when I go to those World Cup competitions in China and Korea, I don´t have my physio with me. I start to notice that my neck is stiffening up. I go training and feel my arms heavy like gas cylinders. I´m worried and above all I don´t get it. In those moments I don´t relate it to the accident. I don´t know what´s going on. In September I decide to go to Innsbruck to spend a season training there. With just two more World Cup events to go, in China, I get up one day in the morning and can´t move my neck. I’m totally stiff. Even my jaw is affected. In the last two competitions, I have to go out and visualize the routes through safety glasses. I can´t look up. I´m ninth and twenty-fourth. Even my hips are spent. When I return, I get a scan through a medical insurer I have as a sponsor, and on 3rd or 4th December I sit in front of a doctor who tells me I have a herniated disc that is pressing on a nerve. “You’re lucky it didn´t reach your arms. An operation isn´t necessary, but still, your professional life is over.” I can´t believe it. I tell myself that it won´t stop me. I have a constant battle with myself every freaking day of going to physiotherapists and doctors. There´s nothing I can do. That´s it. They tell me I´ve got to get used to another way of life. They´re all crazy. “How am I going to do that? You don´t know what you´re saying.” But who didn´t get it was me”.
Fight | Acceptance | Withdrawal | Surf | Goodbye to climbing
“I fight it for months and in March 2011 I decide that I can´t keep going, that is enough. It´s a decision taken little by little and I formally announce it on 19th October. I´ve not worn climbing shoes for two months. I don´t know if I’ll be able to climb again. This means that all contracts with sponsors are likely to end. Only La Sportiva and Black Diamond continue helping me out with material. If I´m still with them now it´s because they supported me in those moments. You end up feeling very naked. But well … we all have the ability to reinvent ourselves … I take the caravan, some boards and start surfing every day. Around May or June 2011. Once again, obsessively. That’s my master. It stops me from losing my smile. The hardest part of the process is to realize it´s over. To realize that I´m no longer a climber. I try to convince myself. What do I do when a girl no longer wants to be with me? See you. Good bye. She disappears from my life. This is the same. I can´t climb? Well, I get rid of it and I’m not a climber anymore. I´m blind but want to see. Well, no. I can´t. What do I do? Well, I surf. It’s not good for the hernia, but I don´t care. I feel pain every day but I get used to living with it. I even stop seeing my friends. I can´t bear to hear about routes and grades. It´s not that I break up with them. I’ve always thought that real friendships will remain. But I pull away. I don´t want to know anything about that world”.
Climbing shoes | 7c and 8a | Hopes of normality | Embrace surf | Life on the beach
“In September 2012, at 32, I start PUC Training. That year I don´t climb at all. In 2013, in August, a friend I train gets on my back to accompany him. One day, I assure him. Another day, in Zarautz, I put on my climbing shoes. The next day, and the next, and the next I’m back there. I can´t stop. I work at a surf school and in the down time I go and climb. There is some pain but the level is very low. I feel like I can cling to the rock, that I can move. Then I start to climb with rope. In one week I’m doing 7c; in two, 8a. I enter into this dynamic. But there is something that stops me from going back in an obsessive way. I give it all or I give it nothing. I don´t want to go down that road. I´ve also discovered surfing which I really like. I really believe I can become a normal person that can combine climbing, surfing … But over time I realize that´s not the case. Today I am no longer a normal person. But in those days I live in a fairy world of being able to combine the two things. I enjoy training, but the demands I put on myself to climb to the max are not just training, but also in your head, a little obsession, to give it your all. I had done that for many years and I don´t want to repeat that situation. So I embrace surf as a distraction. In 2013, 2014 and even 2015, I combine these two disciplines. I even do a 9a almost without any training. It’s autumn of 2015 when I start to focus more on climbing. At that time I meet a girl from the surf world. It’s a beautiful moment. We live on the beach and combine rock climbing and surfing. She is not really a brake. But I put it the brakes on myself. Like I said, I want to be a normal person”.
Changes | Return | Luis Rodriguez | Ponts
“From 2015 I start to spend a lot of time in Catalonia and get back onto the scene. I’m in Siurana. I start training with Dani [Andrada]. A lot. I can´t stop moving. I spend five or six months living in a van. That year, after doing some routes, I do my elbow in and have to spend a few months doing nothing. During that time I don´t even surf. I dedicate myself to creating the PUC Series. The materials and all that. Little by little I get back into shape and at the end of 2015 my life changes again. In January I’m moving to Barcelona. I’m really motivated. I sprain my finger. Instead of stopping, I keep climbing and delay recovery for months. In July of 2016 I return to climbing. And so a process begins, which is where I am now. I´m lucky that Luis Rodriguez, who I train, is very close to me. He’s a very energetic person. We get on very well and understand each other. This motivates me a lot. I start looking for a house near a climbing epicenter. I don´t care which town. What matters is the distance to the rock face. I go to Ponts in Lleida”.
Madness | The rock face | Sweet moment
“It’s unrealistic to think now that I could be stronger than I was then. I know how I was at that moment. At almost 9 years older, to reach the same level, which is what I have done, and look at harder routes and think I can do it, is madness. Everything is much more relaxed now than before. It´s completely different. Competitions are over. That moment´s expired. Now it’s the rock face. A passion. Competition is a fleeting moment. This is much harder. The real competition is here and now. Today I can attempt an 8c+ and if I´m unable to do it, I’ll go back tomorrow or next week. I´m in an incredible place to climb and enjoying a very sweet moment”.
PUC Training | Adam Ondra | Happy lives | Motivation
“Cris Sharma, Sasha DiGiulian, Luis Rodriguez, Adam Ondra … Of course I like training them. Last year when Adam won the World Championship I was very excited. He’s an athlete I train and he’s my friend. I know what that is. But I also train many climbers who do 6b. When they tell me they´re content, that they feel good, that they´re progressing, that for me is as important as when Cris, Adam, Luis or Sasha do something impresive. It´s their lives and they do what makes them happiest. That´s what I want. That people get motivated with me. There are many coaches and many of them are very good, but I don´t know … Maybe the experience I have as a competitor, my experiences, how I´m more than just being well-known or because I train Adam. People want trust, motivation and maybe they can relate to what I say and what I do. You have to work hard to achieve what you set out to do. Whatever it is, you have to achieve what you are looking for, whether it´s climbing a route, scaling a mountain or catching a wave. I train people from all over the world. I´m missing, if anything, someone from South Africa. But there are people from Australia, Indonesia, the United States, South America … “
La Sportiva | Black Diamond
“I am very grateful to La Sportiva and Black Diamond for having trusted me in the toughest moments. Perhaps they realized I would climb again whilst I did not. Maybe they know me better than I know myself.”
Miriam Garcia Pascual | Flash | Ipurua
My first memory of climbing? They are several but I always say that climbing came to mind when I saw Miriam Garcia Pascual on TV. Before then I have a flash image of going to an area in Huesca with my grandparents to see an aunt of mine who was at a camp. In it I see ropes on a wall and people climbing. I don´t even know where it is. But it´s stayed in my memory. I´m four or five years old. At the age of ten, I go to the rock wall where I´ve lived my whole life, 200 meters from home. It’s at the Ipurua Sports Center in Eibar.”