wai yI on LEAD(ERSHIP)
Wai Yi Ng is an Asana and Giddy climber known for inspiring sends at the ARCH at Kaena Point and other fixtures in Oahu's bouldering scene. She is also on the board of a non-profit called the Arch Project which advocates for access and conservation of public lands. E komo mai!
Name: Wai Yi Ng
Hometown: Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Occupation: Permits and Hazardous Material Manager for Transit/ Geologist
Sport: Bouldering and Sport Climbing
How long have you been bouldering and what got you started?
I started in 2006 or so. I was actually in a geology class when one of my classmates, this guy Jason--asked me if wanted to try climbing. Initially, climbing was really humbling and really hard. I wasn't even sure if I liked it. Jason and I ended up dating. Six months later after he moved away I eventually realized that I actually do like climbing—a lot! When we broke up I was climbing at the gym every day; doing both top roping and bouldering. Bouldering, when you first start out, can really humble you so initially I focused on gaining confidence with top roping and on acquiring belay skills. I've always like bouldering more. It's not just you and your belayer. It’s you and your spotters and all the people that come by that want to jump on the problem with you. It's an entire community! There's some differences in etiquette between bouldering and climbing. Bouldering you might be listening to some music and drinking some beer. That doesn't really work with climbing. I like both.
How's the local scene?
The bouldering scene has blown up since 2010. Before, we only had Waimea Bay. You don't need any crash pads. The climbing is fun and moderate and accessible for all abilities. You can also jump into the water right after. Now, there’s probably ten new areas that have been developed from downtown Honolulu to central Oahu to the western part of the island. The majority of the good rock we have is near the North Shore.
We actually have a good bit of climbing here. Most people think there's no climbing or that the rock is brittle but there actually is really good rock here. Makapu'u Beach is one. There are professional climbers who have been out there. We also have Mokuleia crag that has more than 30 different lines. That's been around since the 80s. There’s an old crew of climbers that developed that area. It’s really special because a few years ago the YMCA took some kids up there. A little girl was injured by a falling rock and her parents sued. The state responded by closing down all climbing for two years. The climbing community rallied and came together to get the ban lifted. Now we have a permitting system. Big Mahalo to Climb Aloha and the Hawaii Climbing Coalition for doing most of the leg work.
Hawaii Climbing Coalition developed after the incident. You can log onto their website and sign their waiver and you're good. We remind everyone to get their waiver renewed every year.
I'm glad that the community rallied to make it legal to climb again. Obviously, access is always a big concern for climbing all over the world and also here in Hawaii. My friends who own The Arch Project Climbing Center started this nonprofit known as the Arch Project, of which I'm a board member. For the past four years, we have been making Thanksgiving lunches for the homeless, which is our largest event. We also do beach cleanups, public encampment cleanups, trail maintenance, make sure people aren't causing erosion to show the state and community that we're not just people who come out and put white chalk all over the rock. We're here to better the community and the land. That helps a lot with our access issues. In the climbing community you often hear the phrase 'leave the place better than you found it.' We're especially sensitive to it.
Have you ever dealt with any injuries?
Everyone does! I guess the worst ones were the ankle injuries from bouldering caused by falling on the edge or missing the pad. That was back when I first started. I was a little naive and missing simple things like, before you jump on the route, make sure the pads are set up for the beta you plan on using. Depending on your beta you could fall a certain way. It's really your job! Not your spotters. That was a big lesson I learned. Also reminding and teaching the new climbers how to spot, when to spot and that sort of thing.
I learned that it’s really important to train to prevent things like shoulder and finger injuries. Now I use suspension straps to do antagonistic movements to help prevent shoulder injuries and to strengthen my core. I also use finger boards. It's harder to hurt my finger on some crazy crimp when I've been training it all week long. Some preventative maintenance goes a long way.
It's so depressing when you get injured and you can't put in your 100%. My advice would be to make the best of it and stay motivated! If you can only do suspension straps for that one leg, well work on that. If you can't fall on your ankle anymore maybe focus on top roping. If hangs are the only thing you can do—then do that! Making the best of what you have helps you to stay strong mentally as well. Continue to do your physical therapy even though you don't want to. Try to stay motivated.
There are so many different people who have inspired me in different times of my life. That list includes pretty much anyone who's psyched on climbing and wants to get outside every weekend. I try to surround myself with people like that as much as possible. Unfortunately or fortunately, many of the people on that list are men but that's changing over time. That list includes all different types of people--people who are super motivated, super positive about climbing—even if the weather is iffy--lets just go! Nancy who runs The Arch Project Climbing Center and co-founded the non-profit is also on that list. We used to be roommates and friendly competitors. We would challenge each other by picking out different routes. The mentality was 'I bet I can do that before you!' Climbing with her was really motivating. We still try to get out together but it’s harder now. Hopefully in the future we'll be able to climb more together.
How would you describe your climbing style?
I'm a lot better at overhang climbing since I've moved to Hawaii. I'm obsessed with the Arch at Kaena Point and try to go there as often as I can. Alex Puccio is a really dynamic climber not afraid to make really big moves. I'm really inspired by that. If I can skip a couple moves by making a big move I don't mind going for it. A lot of my girlfriends do some pretty neat legwork but I don't want to make five moves if I can do two. I also like crimpy and weird flexible movements. That's my secondary style.
How diverse is the climbing community on Oahu?
It's pretty diverse. We have sport climbing, bouldering, all shapes and different colors of people. We have a growing gay climbing community. We have a lot of military. All different types of people.
What's your work-out regimen?
I try to do suspension training once or twice a week, hangboard training once a week, I try to make it to the indoor climbing gym once or twice a week and I definitely get outside every Saturday or Sunday without a doubt unless it's raining.
Do you have a crag dog?
I have a beagle, named Snoopy who goes everywhere. He's so funny. He's been to more climbing spots than most of the climbers here in Oahu. He gets to go climbing more than I do because he not only goes with me but he went a lot with my former roommates. He also loves to find/make caves out of grass and under boulders. You can check him out at @beagleandbobtail on Instagram. My cat, Future is a Japanese bobtail and she's in there as well.