Words: Shelma Jun
Photos courtesy of Flash Foxy
To flash something in climbing means to successfully finish the problem or route the first time you attempt it without falling off. To do it ‘foxy’ means to do it in good style and with a bit of swagger.
A women’s climbing community built on a shared stoke for rock climbing, particularly with one another.
Everyone loves a good origin story. When they ask you how it all started, there is an expectation of a juicy story, intriguing and suspenseful, filled with twists and turns, with a bold vision from the beginning. I always feel like I disappoint a bit with the origin story of Flash Foxy because there was no grandiose plan or crazy maelstrom of serendipitous events. It simply started as an organic gathering of female climbers in New York City.
Flash Foxy began in the spring of 2014 for one simple reason – to post pictures of my girlfriends and me rock climbing. I had met a handful of women about six months prior at my local climbing gym – at that point, I’d been climbing for about two years and was beginning to get quite seriously into it. It started when I met Caitlin, who introduced me to Jill and Rana, who reconnected me to Aleks, which lead to meeting Kelly, Taylor and Sasha. Suddenly, I had a solid crew of women who were psyched on climbing hard, propelling our trad climbing skills (except Aleks, our die-hard boulderer) and supporting each other through the ups and downs. I had never had a girl-crew before, having more past experience as the lone girl in a crew of guys while snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding in California. It was a new, special dynamic that I was stoked on and my desire to celebrate it began the genesis of Flash Foxy.
Instagram was a new type of social media in 2014. It had only been around for a couple years and there hadn’t been a platform quite like it yet. Facebook was about connecting with the people that you already know, finding friends you’ve lost touch with or staying connected with family who live far away from you. Instagram was more about discovering like-minded people that you probably hadn’t met yet. Hashtags made it easy to find folks you found interesting, that inspired you, that made you realize that while you had once thought there weren’t many people like you out there, there was in fact many of you. And you weren’t the only one looking. Yes, there are more women climbers than ever but I think there were already a lot of us in 2014 – we just hadn’t been able to find each other.
While it was the girl-crew that started it, it was the community I found online that propelled it past the festival and beyond. Once Flash Foxy started getting thousands of followers, I also started to receive many messages from women who were looking for ways to get outside, hoping to find female climbing partners and searching for spaces they would feel comfortable to learn new skills in. That’s when the idea of the Women’s Climbing Festival came to fruition. When we announced the first Women’s Climbing Festival in the summer of 2015, hundreds wanted to attend and it didn’t stop there. I had scores of women reaching out to me, offering their help, their contacts and their skills because they wanted to see the festival succeed. We are now approaching our fourth festival in Bishop (sixth ever) and will be hosting our first all-gender event, Summerfest, this upcoming June.
While it’s been amazing to be able to offer spaces like the Women’s Climbing Festival and Summerfest where women and folks from underrepresented genders can come together to meet, share stories and learn from each other, we’ve also been aware that these events are not the best place to really focus on gaining new technical skills for oneself. As such we are very stoked to be able to launch our Education Program this summer. The Flash Foxy Education Program will provide opportunities for folks to focus more on their personal skill development by offering courses, both indoors and outdoors, that teach a variety of skills such as Intro to Sport Climbing Outdoors, Self-Rescue Techniques and Introduction to Big Wall Climbing.
Most recently, we are excited to announce the launch of the Flash Foxy Education and Leadership Development Fund, made possible through the support of Arc’teryx. The Education and Leadership Development Fund provides resources and opportunities for women to attend and participate in the Women’s Climbing Festivals, Summerfest and our future Education Program. Many new female (cis and trans) and non-binary climbers are excited to get into outdoor climbing but lack the skills and education needed to ensure that they can do so safely. Another barrier to entering outdoor climbing may be the challenges of finding climbing partners that you feel comfortable with and can relate to. Beyond these challenges, the high financial cost of gear, travel and education can make it almost impossible for some folks to attend the events and programs we offer. We hope that these scholarships and programs will provide women and non-binary climbers, from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, the opportunities to learn from other women, develop their personal climbing skills and connect with others in wild spaces.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Arc’teryx will donate 100% of profits from sales on arcteryx.com on March 6, 2019, to Flash Foxy’s Education and Leadership Development Fund. Learn more HERE.