While deep water soloing is still something of a fringe practice among climbers, it's getting more and more popular. It was really only a matter of time until gear manufacturers started taking the idea to market.
Case in point: the new AquaClimb Sport wall released last month by climbing wall maker Pyramide. In 2000, the company created the AquaClimb Classic, among the first modular walls designed to let users go ropeless over water. With the tallest model topping out at just over 13 feet, though, it's more suited to kids than to adult climbers.
The Sport wall differs from the original in a few ways. The most striking change is its looks. The body of the AquaClimb Sport is made of a sheet of clear thermoplastic supported by a steel spine. The holds themselves are bolted into a steel latticework on the other side of the plastic panel for support. Besides looking cool, the design is meant to let light pass through, so the wall can be placed in front of windows without blocking sun.
Another difference is the size. The Sport wall is nearly twice as big as the original, with the tallest model topping out at 24 feet--just shorter than an Olympic high dive.
The company says its new wall is geared primarily towards teenagers and adults. Still, as far as serious climbers are concerned, the new wall has several shortcomings. It's designed primarily for barefoot use, so those hoping for hard, dyno-happy climbs a la Chris Sharma may be disappointed. The t-nuts are also significantly more spaced out than those in a typical climbing wall, so there's less room for routesetters to get creative. The Sport wall is expensive too, starting at $45,000.
The next entry in the AquaClimb series, the rock-inspired Natural, is due to be unveiled in November at the National Recreation and Park Association Congress. Technical details aren't out yet, but if the new wall is half as intense as the picture the company has chosen to advertise it, it could be another step up.