What do water polo, swing dancing and climbing all have in common? Joey Frantz, a Diablo Rock gym member, has done them all! Guest blogger Diane Payes sat down with Joey to find out more.
Water polo, swing dancing AND climbing?! What came first?!
My fascination with movement began when I was still a small kid. I was always a climber/monkey at heart. Growing up, you would find me climbing on top of the playgrounds and swings and fences. In kindergarten I was on the swim team. By first grade, I joined the water polo team (who wants to swim laps back and forth when you can PLAY in the water?!). In the third grade, I learned East Coast swing. By high school, I made the USA Water Polo Youth National Team and that’s what ultimately brought me to California. I wanted to play water polo at the highest level in college so I decided to play for the University of the Pacific.
When did you first discover climbing?
In college I took all the dance class electives, including Jazz, Ballet, Tap, and Modern It was a friend of mine from ballet class who invited me to the rock wall in the campus fitness center where she worked. Water polo season had just ended and I had time to try it out. I remember rainbow climbing the first few times up the wall.. and then told to follow only the taped holds of a certain color. That was it. I WAS HOOKED. INSTANTLY. ADDICTED.
When did you first start climbing at Touchstone gyms?
After graduation, I moved up to Sacramento and was stoked to be close enough to Pipeworks. I got a gym membership and immersed myself in climbing community. I was really excited to meet and make other climbing friends that understood and enjoyed climbing as much as I did.
Shortly after joining, I took the lead climbing clinic from Jason Bove. He was one of the first guys I met at Pipeworks, on my first visit to the gym. I was inspired to hear he was also from Illinois and that the reason he came out here was to be more involved in the climbing community. I instantly knew that this was a sport/hobby/pastime/community that I wanted to be around. Since then, I’ve roped up all over the Tahoe region, including Donner, Big Chief, Sugarloaf and Lover’s Leap, and throughout the Bay Area. I’ve gained a lot of experience and perspective from being outdoors. I really enjoy all types of climbing. However, I prefer putting on a harness because I find myself more attracted to the systems and techniques that come with roping up.
After two years at Pipeworks, I moved to Pleasant Hill for work. I joined the Diablo Rock Gym community last April. I love that the gym never gets extremely crowded like other gyms, and how easy it was to build a new network of friends. The community at DRG is very tight knit and super welcoming!
Have dance and water polo helped your climbing?
Absolutely. I drew experience from dancing with how precise my footwork can be and by finding different solutions to a route or boulder problem through footwork. Like Argentine tango or ballet, your foot placement needs to be fluid and nimble, yet firm and planted. I very often enjoy thinking that I’m “dancing” up a wall from the footwork, legwork, hips, etc. on a route in the gym. I also have great hip and leg flexibility from treading water my whole life with water polo. I love that I can use really high feet and heel hooks.
What drives you crazy?
A big pet-peeve of mine though is when people spray beta, telling a climber what they think they should do before it’s solicited. I like the adventure of solving something on my own first and owning that experience. If I struggle, then of course I’ll ask for perspective so I can learn.
Who do you share the stoke with?
I have a son, Jack, who will be turning five this June. I love seeing his climbing and technique at playgrounds and boulder walls. He lives in Reno, so when we spend time together, we love to be active. So far, traversing has been a blast for him. We play the red light-green light game while he’s bouldering. It’s fun to see him learn about technique and efficiency inadvertently. He’s not too stoked just yet about getting high in a harness and coming down from a wall on a rope, but he LOVES being around climbing gyms. In due time, he’ll get up the wall.
What’s your most memorable climbing experience so far?
My craziest experience (only in a good way–haven’t had any epics) with climbing was belaying my buddy Erik Griffith on the last pitch of a route at Lover’s Leap. We had climbed all day and I was stoked that I flashed “Hospital Corner (10a, two-pitch route).” The sun went down over the ridge as he was climbing. It was such a cool experience for me hanging out on that last belay ledge. It was the first time I climbed and descended in complete darkness where my headlamp was a requirement. My belay card had also gotten pinched off my harness during the climb, and the next day a friend of mine at Pipeworks texted me that someone came and dropped it off at the gym for me!
What’s next for you?
My short-term goals right now are to go big wall climbing in Yosemite. It sounds crazy to most, but the thought of relaxing and being on a suspended portaledge thousands of feet off the ground really intrigues me. I always want to partake in the extra adventures that are paired with big wall climbing, such as hauling, aid climbing, etc. ‘Living in the vertical world.’ I also love the spirit of adventure –being okay with the unknown and still progressing. Usually I don’t fully know how a trip/climb/adventure will go, but from prior experience and constant learning, anything that may arise is usually solvable and only adds to the overall experience.
I still play water polo at a competitive national level. My club team actually won third place at Masters Nationals last summer and we’re hosting and playing the Mexican National Team in a couple weeks. I also still dance every so often. What keeps me motivated to climb is the pure enjoyment of it, the learning aspect and the association of people I meet. Don’t hesitate to come say hi and partner up with me!