Dan Knight - Plymouth Bouldering Hero (and Centre Manager)

We always had an eye on Plymouth as our new home from home, but if we're completely honest, Dan Knight was the deciding factor. Although he's currently fairly occupied with the not-so-simple task of opening The Climbing Hangar Plymouth, we figured he'd have time to talk about himself so that the world can get to know the one of the guys that have made the Hangar what it is. So we sent roving reporter Hati in his direction with a brief to have a good catch up, and maybe to put some words on paper too.

Dan and the Hangar go way back, in fact I can't imagine a Hangar without him. He's always been there to put holds on the wall in the most creative way,  guide the general madness, and provide a little madness of his own. I used to sit next Dan in the Hangar mothership, but it's been a while, so I'm pretty excited to have an excuse to find out how he's doing.

Let’s start simple… who is Dan Knight? (What’s your role in the Hangar?)

I’m a Director and Centre Manager for The Climbing Hangar. I have been a pretty devoted climber for the past 15 years (scary how time flies) and it’s certainly more a passion/lifestyle than just a hobby. Climbing has provided an incredible focus over the years and has led me to the things that I value immensely in my life.

You and the Hangar go way back, how did your journey with the centre begin?

I started working for the company back in 2012 and have not only seen the climbing centre change but the industry as a whole. 

The first time I set for the Hangar I knew it was a unique centre. It placed its emphasis on more then just being a strong person’s wall and focused on community, culture and making everyone feel like a champ. At the time this felt pretty unusual and when I offered the chance to help manage it I couldn’t have been happier. I packed my bags, relocated and began my Hangar career.

I was then given the chance to manage the London centre which has been an amazing experience. London is so unique in its climbing culture. It’s an exciting place to be if you are a climber which is weird considering the lack of rock.   

Last time I saw you, you were fresh from a 3 month trip to America. How did that come about?

America has always been a home away from home as some of my closest friends live there. However one particularly trip was life changing.

Visiting my best friend who lives in Santa Cruz led to ‘trying’ surfing, which led to a whole new obsession. Much like climbing, surfing appealed massively to me due to its obsessive nature. I came back from that holiday and my surfing passion was born.

One year later my fiancée and I took a three month break from work and moved out to California to surf. It was a refreshing time. I have done so many amazing climbing trips to Rocklands, Hueco, Rocky Mountain etc over the years that it felt nice to try something new and experience a bit of beach life. 

Coming back from America I knew that I wanted to open a new wall and the obvious thing was to join with the Hangar as I have massive respect for the values and direction of the company. So I moved to Cornwall for surfing and to begin the journey that is now The Climbing Hangar Plymouth.

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So you did! The Climbing Hangar Plymouth journey is well on its way now - what are your plans for the centre?

There are so many plans and so many things to do. First things first though I want to establish a centre that everyone wants to visit and brings together an already incredible local community.

The one thing that struck me when I first moved to the South West was how everyone knows everyone and how friendly people are. I want Hangar Plymouth to allow people to pursue their passion, get better together and form amazing friendships.

As a southern boy I started climbing when there was only a board in my Dads garage and one wall near Southampton. To be able to bring the first dedicated large-scale bouldering wall to the South West really is a dream. We will have incredible setting, crazy climbing competitions, yoga classes, strength and conditioning sessions with trained PTs and an amazing social space so that after climbing you can kick back, have a drink, sit in front of the fire and completely wind down. I really can’t wait.

Woah there, there's a fire? How about your climbing projects, what’s in the pipeline for 2018?

Blimey, there is always so much I want to do.

Shamefully I only climbed outside a handful of time last year due to living in Cornwall and commuting to London each week so I settled for training on my board (never a bad thing). Only recently I went to Font for the first time in 10 years for a week and managed to tick a couple of Font 8As, which isn’t anything special but showed there was life in the old dog yet.

Yeah... nothing special!

I am actually super keen to get stuck into Ansteys Cove so that new monster circuit board at the centre should prove very useful.

For surfing I always have loads of goals - for now let’s just say I want to surf a bunch of new spots I’ve not had the chance to get to and work at flying in the air a bit more.

More importantly for 2018, I have the arrival of my first little baby this summer. Me and my partner are beyond excited - this will be incredible and probably the biggest challenge ever. I’m sure projecting a climb will seem a breeze in comparison.

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AAHHH that's so exciting! Congratulations to both of you! Ahem, back to business...

Somehow, despite being super busy with your family and with opening a new centre , you still manage to find time to train! What’s your favourite training tool in the Hangar Plymouth? Where will we find you climbing?

I’m pretty sure that you will mostly find me camped up in one of the training areas. I just love board climbing and find it incredibly rewarding as you can really measure your progress. I also find it the best way to train for any outdoor projects I have. 

My background in climbing tends to mean I quite like the simple things like campus boards and hangboards. No doubt I spend too much time training! Aside from training I’ll be setting as much as possible as I simply love this aspect of indoor climbing, so I’m sure you’ll find me in the main centre quite a bit. 

Too much time training huh? How much time do you reckon you spend training? How do you stay motivated?

Well I would like to train five days a week if I could, but as responsibilities grow that time is restricted. However I do try and train a minimum of three times a week if possible. I find this keeps me ticking over and allows me to maintain a standard I am reasonably happy with. I train a lot smarter now than five years ago. The key is good planning, focus and having a goal.

Thankfully motivation has never really been a huge issue for me - anyone that knows me will know how wired I am to constantly improve. Having something else in the mix such as surfing has really helped balance things, especially as I have gotten a little older (it hasn’t helped to get better at climbing). If I feel like a break then I would just go and surf for a bit. I’m always pretty motivated to be honest and I only have to think of all the board projects to get me ready for another try hard session at the wall.

Nice one Dan! I'm pretty excited to see the new centre when it's done (all those sneak peeks on Instagram are definitely enough to whet the appetite!).

The Climbing Hangar Plymouth will be opening its doors in March 2018 - watch this space for details!