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Dave Graham
Interview 1  2
The Fantastic Four
Text and photos by Roberto Fioravanti

Al Maxximo

We’d agreed to meet the next day, so on Friday I went to look at the magnificent boulders at the “Cul du Chien”, the magnificent ham-shaped boulder stuck in the sand, to then walk round to the roof and “the other roof” and who do I meet? Dave Graham, the man himself, trying to link the futuristic “Into the maxx”. While “The maxx” is a hard 8a+ that starts from a hold halfway through the roof, Dave was attempting to reach this by starting right at the back of the roof. The moves are hard and require excellent footwork, making use of all heelhooks available. At the end of the day he’s trashed the tops of his shoes and his finger joints covered in blood. To date the boulder problem hasn’t been climbed – how about another trip to Europe Dave?


Born in 1981 in Maine, one of the flattest states in the U.S.A., Dave Graham started to climb in 1997 with a friend from his skiing team. “He climbed already and asked me if I wanted to go to the local wall. For two weeks I went back there every day. I immediately realised that I really liked climbing. Then my friends began to tell me that I was good - after two months I climbed my first 5.12a, five months later I climbed my first 5.13a and after a year I climbed 5.14a, at which point I too began to think that I was quite strong.”

In just four years Dave became one of the strongest climbers in the U.S., and has now climbed 26 routes between 8b+ and 9a. These include “Hasta la Vista “ 8c/8c+, “To bolt or not to be” 8b+, “Facile” 8b+ and “The Fly” 9a. Dave is perhaps the prototype of the new climber: a result of indoor walls, super-gifted, hyper-motivated and already capable of passing where the new generation has found its limits.

“When I started I only bouldered, because I didn’t know how to use a rope and because boulders are the closest thing to home, two hours away. Then I learnt how to place nuts and friends so I began to take up traditional climbing. It was only after this that I took up sport climbing. But bouldering still remains my favourite activity, only in this form do I manage to express myself fully. In fact, the hardest things I’ve climbed are either boulders or short, bouldery routes.”

Climbing in the States

“In the U.S. things work much like here in Europe, our federation isn’t very active and the state doesn’t do very much for climbers. Climbing for us is considered a pastime like skateboarding or videogames. It becomes really problematic when I have to explain to my teachers that I need a two week break to go climbing. Were I to go and play baseball instead, then that would be fine.

I manage to live off the money my sponsors give me (5.10, Prana, Pusher, Cordless, Sterling, Metolius), but only because I don’t buy anything extra, I manage to just get by. So that’s why now that I’ve finished school I’ll go to University. I’d like to do something like architecture or design. In any case I’d like to find a job and a course of studies that enable me to continue climbing. But climbing doesn’t get you points (students who take part in official sports get points for their University grades), so I’ll have to start playing baseball to earn some points.”

The Professionals

“It’s hard to establish who is a professional and who not. I know some amateurs who climb as much as professionals, or perhaps even more. And then there are loads of people who really think they’re something and, because they climb grades few others are capable of climbing, they fell legitimised to give their routes absurd grades. Before stating that one of my routes is 8c I really have to work hard to get it.”

Dave Graham at Fontainebleau
(Photos by Roberto Fioravanti)

Dave Graham climbing at Fontainebleau

Dave Graham climbing at Fontainebleau

Dave Graham climbing at Fontainebleau

Dave Graham climbing at Fontainebleau

Dave Graham climbing at Fontainebleau
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