This is where it all started: a randomly selected piece of rock near the climbing gym, an empty beer case, silicon sealant, and spray foam. We were sitting at the gym and thought how hard it could possibly be, surely no rocket science, right? In retrospect it was way harder than we thought, but I firmly believe that all great things are born out of ignorance and enthusiasm. And we had plenty of both.
After the beer case mould was finished and dry, I just wanted to toss it to the bin straight away. It was so crappy that it could never work, and it would be just a waste of time and resin to cast it. Wille wanted to cast it straight away because he thought it would be awesome. Since time and cheap resin were among the things we had plenty of back then, I reluctantly agreed. It appeared that we were both a bit wrong in the end. It sort of worked, but it wasn’t awesome.
How it turned out, however, was eye-opening. This randomly selected aspect of a randomly selected piece of rock was full of cool little features. You really had to touch it and feel the little countours and dimples to place your fingers right. Just like climbing on real rock. If only had it had some friction, it would have actually been awesome.
Now fast forward 6 months to autumn 2014. Inspired by the beer case prototype, we had carried on, learned to shape holds out of foam, mould the shapes, and that PE resin sucks and polyurethane was the material to go for. We were playing with the idea that this could be a little bit more than a hobby but it seemed pretty stupid to start doing something that a lot of people were already doing and doing well.
My thinking didn’t change until one day I got a phone call from a guy who was working on one other cool thing and thought that he could solve one completely unrelated problem that I once had. I immediately knew it wouldn’t but at the same time I remembered our beer case prototype and realized that this is it. This is how we can do it with friction!
After that it was pretty easy. Not technically easy, but psychologically so because we could see a way of building something real out of our hobby. It was easy to make a decision and spend some time and money on this. We started developing a process that would allow combining natural shapes of real rock with the uniform and grippy surface texture you only find on manmade holds indoors. It took some trial and error, but that’s how development always is. We just had to work out the details and make it happen.
In the meantime, we had established a portfolio of a hundred regular holds, and launched Kitka Climbing in October 2014. Finnish championships in lead climbing were held at our gym, so it was a natural choice to launch then and there. It was a tight push in the end to meet the deadline, but the pressure made us work hard and get past the first big hurdle.
Now is the time for our second launch. A year has passed since we first bolted the beer case proto on the gym wall, and finally is the Real Deal out for everyone to climb. It’s the first shape from our latest recruitment, Mother Nature. She works at Kitka’s Shapes division, and she is the best employee one could dream of; hard working, a true visionary, and just wants to see her creations appreciated. We surely do so and hope to see you joining us in the party!
The author, Timo, is a scientist and the brains behind Kitka’s materials, tools and processes.