Who are Climbing the Walls? An Exploration of the Social World of Indoor Rock Climbing
Kurten, Jason Henry
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This study is an exploratory look at the social world of indoor rock climbers, specifically, those at Texas A&M University. A specific genre of rock climbing originally created to allow outdoor rock climbers a place to train in the winter, indoor climbing has now found a foothold in areas devoid of any natural rock and has begun to develop a leisure social world of its own providing benefit to the climbers, including social world members. This study explored this social world of indoor rock climbing using a naturalistic model of inquiry and qualitative methodology, specifically Grounded Theory (Spradley, 1979; Strauss & Corbin, 2008). This research borrows from the literature on social world theory, serious leisure as well as specialization. This study confirmed indoor rock climbing to be a form of serious leisure for some participants. Furthermore, it found the social world of indoor rock climbing at Texas A&M provides a deep sense of belonging to some members who were found to coalesce at a mesostructural level into a confederacy of peers (R. A. Stebbins, 1993). Bouldering was found to be an avenue for social world entry for men but the female experience in social world entry was found to be different. The most prominent finding of the study was that the facility itself provides a place of belonging for social world members, even diverse and different groups which, outside of the social world, may be expected to come into conflict. Lastly, it was found that the social world has the ability to mediate conflict or negative experiences arising from competition and feelings of risk and fear. This exploratory study is expected to provide a framework for which to conduct further, more in depth studies into phenomena affecting the lives and experiences of indoor rock climbers. Furthermore this study has practical significance in assisting climbing wall managers to better understand the culture that surrounds and utilizes the facilities they operate. A review of the current literature on rock climbing, research questions that guided the study and methodologies, as well as the study results and conclusions are discussed in this paper.