The Climb

Stone climbing gym in St. Augustine, Florida. Photographed by Gabby Alfveby

By Gabby Alfveby

Women boulder climbing at Stone climbing gym. Photographed by Gabby Alfveby

Some people spend their whole lives searching for a sport they love.

James Sellers has successfully found a love for a new and unique sport to Florida: Boulder climbing. Boulder climbing is a type of rock climbing that requires no safety gear such as a harness.

Sellers graduated from Flagler College with a degree in graphic design. He then worked at the local restaurant Catch 27 before becoming a manager at the fairly new rock-climbing gym, Stone. 

Stone opened in September 2021 and Sellers loves working there. Sellers was hired at Stone by the owner Eric Hires who has known Sellers and his family since he was young. Hires attended Flagler with Seller’s brother and sister-in-law. Hires admired Sellers as an employee working in customer service.

“He used to come into the restaurant that I used to work at a lot, which was Catch 27, and he always said how much he appreciated my customer service skills,” Sellers said. “I had heard that he was going to open a [climbing] gym. So, I told him if he wanted me to come work for him, I would come help him get the gym started and help it get open and he said yes. I left the restaurant industry to come here.”

Sellers said he has lived in Florida his whole life but doesn’t feel much of a connection to the state. He would rather live somewhere in the mountains. Boulder climbing has allowed him to get a taste of what climbing in the mountains would be like and he thinks it’s great for Florida to have rock climbing gyms.

Sellers loves working somewhere that involves one of his hobbies but said it isn’t as amazing as you would think, “but it’s still really fun. This place is just awesome. It definitely has made climbing different for me,” Sellers said.

Sellers is thankful though for being able to work at Stone and has two favorite parts of his job, meeting new people and getting to see how excited they get over climbing.

Sellers also majored and graduated with a degree in graphic design and a minor in Fine Arts. from Flagler College. Sellers has been able to incorporate and use his graphic design skills within his job at Stone.

“I set a lot of the routes in here that you’ll see, Sellers said. This is a way to take digital art and make weird abstract art on a wall that people get to climb on. So, it’s a physical art that is accessible for people to actually feel and touch but then also it’s visual art too. I think it’s super cool. I really enjoy that.”

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A climber trying to complete Sellers green horshoe boulder set. Photographed by Gabby Alfveby

Sellers had a great experience learning what goes into designing and building a boulder climbing gym.

“I remember setting it and it being a really cool learning process of realizing I knew more than I thought but then also realizing that I knew nothing at the same time,” Sellers said. “I think that’s probably my coolest moment overall; getting to experience that different side of climbing, coming behind the scenes, it was cool.”

Sellers is proud of his designed sets.

“In the climbing world the route setters at a lot of bigger gyms are the rock stars of the gym because they set this crazy stuff and you don’t know how they did it,” Sellers said.

Sellers began his climbing hobby before Stone was even thought of. Boulder climbing became an outlet for sellers during difficult times and helped with his mental health.

“There’s two climbing gyms up in Jacksonville and one of my good friends, him and his cousin, were going up to Jacksonville. There’s a place called Beaches and it’s a bouldering-only gym. I went one time and it kind of became a way for me to get motivated, to get physically stronger and physically more fit,” Sellers said.

Once Sellers began to climb, he fell in love with the sport and doesn’t want to stop climbing.

“I kind of have like an addictive personality when it comes to hobbies. And so, then I just kind of tried it once got into it and Haven’t really stopped at all in the past three and a half years,” Sellers said. “I just get super excited about something and then just stick with it for a long time, which is cool.”

Sellers grew up participating in sports such as surfing and golfing that were costly but said that boulder climbing is more affordable for him and anyone looking to start climbing. He also said he enjoys the sport because its very minimalist.

 “The first time we went I was super excited because I was like ‘man, I wonder how much climbing shoes are?’ and I bought a pair for 100 dollars, I bought a chalk bag for 25 bucks and bought a thing of chalk and I was good to go,” Sellers said.

Sellers has some fears of heights but not as bad as other climbers. 

He has no problem climbing high heights and said he just reminds himself that the fear of heights is just your body sending you a warning to be careful.

“I’ve climbed to the top of our pillar here with no ropes to fix stuff and that’s scary in itself, and that’s only 35 feet,” Sellers said, “it’s pushing past the fear of heights and remembering that the fear of heights is just your body warning you of what’s possible.”

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