There was hope that 2021 would see a return to normalcy in the climbing industry stateside after the economic uncertainty of 2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With the roll-out of vaccines and months of lower case numbers in some regions, hundreds of gyms have been able to reopen their doors, hire staff, and welcome back their community. Recovery has been slow and tenuous in many ways, but palpable.
Perhaps the most significant climbing news of 2021 has come out of Tokyo. In early August, we saw 40 climbers compete in the Olympics for the first time in history, in a combined format that has continued to spark heated discussions throughout the climbing community. Commercial facilities have been gearing up for a potential burst in popularity, and hold companies have been preparing to match faster-than-normal gym growth in the coming months and years.
So, how has the last year affected the holds sector of the industry? Like last year, many climbers are still choosing to build and train on homewalls, and the use of homewall board systems has been popular as well. On the production front, we’ve seen designers creating hold packages specifically targeted at the homewall market, and popular volume manufacturers producing smaller, price-friendly shapes to accommodate the spatial and budgetary needs of homewallers.
In gyms and on competition circuits, setters have continued to utilize macros, dual-tex holds, and eye-catching stackable holds and volumes as well, and hold companies are pushing innovation in these areas. Hangboards seem to pendulum the opposite way, with climbers and setters favoring tried-and-true, simple designs over newer, fancier offerings. And we can’t forget the training board systems—which are home to some of the industry’s most rapid growth and innovation. To keep up with this trend, we have added two new categories this year—Favorite Board System, and Favorite Homewall Board System.
The results are in! It’s clear that the holds market is fast-developing and becoming more competitive with each passing year. In the ever-evolving area of macros and volumes, for instance, 33 different hold brands received at least 1 vote in the Favorite Fiberglass Macros vote, while 53 brands received at least one vote for Favorite Wood Volumes―both increases from last year. And over 100 distinct brands received votes for the People’s Choice award, the most ever of any Grip List survey. While a handful of names continue to dominate the main vote, the field is still wide open for smaller operations, like the one-man-brand that broke into the Top Five. In many categories, it was a very close race, and we’ve listed any non-winning brand that claimed 5% or more of the total votes as honorable mentions.
But enough chatter! The results are in. Please join us in celebrating the winners of the 2021 Grip List Awards! (Be sure to click on each brand’s link for the full summaries.)
- Winner: Kilter
- Honorable Mention: Flathold, Decoy, Teknik, Cheeta
- Winner: Blocz
- Honorable Mention: Dimension, Cheeta, Level
- Winner: Flathold
- Honorable Mention: XCULT, Cheeta, Squadra
- Winner: Beastmaker
- Honorable Mention: Tension
- Winner: Kilter
- Honorable Mention: Moon, Tension
- Winner: Kilter
- Honorable Mention: Flathold, Cheeta, Decoy, Teknik
- Winner: Atomik
- Honorable Mention: Decoy, Kilter, Teknik
- Winner: sToKed
- Honorable Mention: Homemade, Blocz, Atomik, Dimension, Level
HOMEWALL BOARD SYSTEM
- Winner: Moon
- Honorable Mention: Kilter, Tension, Atomik
Data & Methodology
This year’s Grip List Survey methodology functioned similarly to last year’s, with professional routesetters―those who get paid to set―determining the Setter’s Choice awards, and all setters responding to the survey deciding the People’s Choice and Homewall awards in 2021.
As in 2020 and 2019, setters ranked their first, second and third favorite brands for the Setter’s Choice and People’s Choice votes. A vote for first favorite earned that brand 5 points, second 4 points and third 3 points, with the sum of all the points becoming that brand’s total vote. This methodology originated from veteran shaper Ty Foose and aims to provide a better representation of brand popularity among setters versus a single brand vote. The Homewall votes, however, were handled plainly (as was done in the first Homewall edition last year). Every vote counted as one, and the sum determined Favorite Homewall Holds, Homewall Volumes and Homewall Board System.
Below is a flowchart which illustrates the methodology used to determine this year’s awards, as well as the geographical distribution of the votes and the complete results of all brands who earned at least 1% of the vote.
Congratulations again to the winners of the 2021 Grip List Awards! (Don’t forget to click on each brand’s link above for the full summaries.)
Jonathan has been climbing for ten years and routesetting for half as long. He is a former magazine editor, and his writing spans from marketing content and journalism to speculative fiction. When he’s not writing or bolting plastic to plywood, he’s probably outside somewhere, hiking, climbing, or surfing poorly. He’s been known, on occasion, to drop everything and travel the world for months at a time.