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Saturday, 12 December 2009


The Rock-climbing Event has been a great success. It far exceeded my best hopes. Nearly four hundred people, mainly children, took the opportunity to scale the nine-metre faces of Rockup Limited's mobile rock-climbing rig, many of them triumphing over a fear of heights in the process. The rig has four faces, so four climbers can be going up at once, each on a triple safety harness attached to a hydraulically-damped wire-rope belay, so when they have reached the top and pressed the siren-button that signals their success they abseil gently down to the foam mat at the bottom. Ditto if they fall off. The detailed attention to safety in the design and operation of the equipment was most noticeable.

The event, which was fully sponsored, was run in two stages. The first stage was an educational programme run at Waiheke Primary School on the 9th of December and Te Hurihi Primary School on the 10th and 11th. Classes were put through a very impressive process that emphasised safety, teamwork, communication and organisation. The climbmaster, Joe, a skilled 21-year-old Englishman and his assistant, Taylor, a 22-year-old American woman, did a superlative job. Each class was divided in small teams, usually of three children, who competed for points, gained by reaching the siren-button at top of the wall and by working together to keep to the simple rules that Joe had taught them. During that stage over two hundred children did the climb, most more than once, many several times. Well done, everyone.

It was very easy to choose the prizewinner for the best team on the island, because of the seventy teams that climbed the wall while the rig was at the primary schools, one stood out. A three-girl team at Waiheke Primary School that called itself Fruit-salad, made up of Savanah, Tahnee and Lochie, reached the top a total of sixteen times, well ahead of any other team. A boy's team at Te Purihi did well, but Fruit-salad's excellent teamwork, good organisation, speed of changeover (swapping the harness from one girl to the next) and massive score put it in a class of its own. Super well done, girls!

The second stage was the five-hour public event staged on Saturday the 12th where the new supermarket is to be built in Belgium Street (many thanks to Tony Pope for making that available). There, one wall was dominated by those who wanted to go for speed-prizes in various age-groups. Two walls were used for the Mum-and-child and Dad-and-child teams who wanted to go for the speed-prizes in those categories. At its peak that stage of the event was putting through about a hundred climbs an hour. Upwards of a hundred and fifty people climbed the wall that day,making a total for the island of about four hundred. Over the four days of the event the wall was climbed about 1600 times (which works out at about $3.50 a climb, less that the usual charge of $5).

In the up-to-eight age-group the speed-prize for boys was won by Kahn Nicholson and one for girls by Alex Hynds.

In the nine-to-twelve age-group the speed-prize for boys was won by Amara Sidibe, whose best time out of seven climbs was an astonishing 15 seconds--the fastest climb timed on the island. Second prize went to Leo Tomczyk, who was only 2 seconds behind Amara at the end of a to-and-fro tussle that went on most of the afternoon, and which saw him go up the speed-wall eleven times, but still be full of beans and wanting more. The prize for girls in that age-group was won by Rachelle Perry, whose best time was a fast 19 seconds.

In the thirteen-to-fifteen age-group the prize for boys was won by Gus Falvey. The prize for girls was won by Forrest Denize, who went up that wall till her hands could take no more, ending nine closely-packed climbs with best time of 19 seconds.

The special-achiever awards for the children who stood out amongst the many who triumphed over their fears were Tess MacIntyre, Thomas Coddlington and Calla Andrews. Tess froze, high up, on her first two attempts, but pulled herself together and got to the top. Thomas could not face the wall all, but overcame his fears and went up it, higher and higher each time. Calla was too afraid to go on the wall when it went to her school, but at the public event on Saturday she went up it like a squirrel, several times, and turned in such fast times that her best climb was only two seconds behind the winner in her age-group, Rachelle Perry. Well done, children!

The speed-prize in the girls 16-19 age-group was won by Liz Worthy, who hardly drew breath after completing her first climb then went up the speed-climb in only 23 seconds (no boys in that age-group had a go, so the speed-prize that had been designated for them went to Amara Sidibe).

The speed-prize for the best Dad-and-child team was won by Gary Gray and his son Zion, and for the best Mum-and-child team by Jane Burn and her son Tom (in 37 and 31 seconds respectively).

The speed-prizes for adults were won by Darian Brown, who in spite of the rain pelting down at the end went up in 19 seconds, and by Lucy Bennett who breezed up in 22 seconds.

Special thanks to all the sponsors, without whom the event would not have been possible. The major part of the cost was met by the Waiheke Community Board from its events budget, followed by TPI and Tony Pope. The balance came (listing them in no particular order) from First National Real Estate Oneroa, TheArtistGoldsmith Oneroa, Ostend Medical Centre, Oneroa Medical Centre, and The Barn. The prizes were generously donated by Fullers, Gulf Sound & Vision, Oneroa Four Square (which donated the four-dozen muesli bars that rewarded each member of the winning teams at the schools), OutThere, Oneroa/Ostend Unichem Pharmacies and Waiheke Vets.

As I said to Joe and Taylor, 'The benefit you have brought to this community is incalculable.' When people face a challenge, overcome their fears and stretch their boundaries the benefit is felt by many others, not just them.

I hope this will become an annual event.