Bouldering: Playing the Game. Competition and Regulation within a Lifestyle Sport

Last year I graduated on my anthropological research thesis about bouldering in Forêt the Fontainebleau. In the common literature climbing is often labeled as a lifestyle sport and referred to as non-competitive and anti-regulative.
I have a different perspective on this subject because I’ve noticed a combination of sport and play values. On the one hand the practice of bouldering promotes freedom and cooperation, but on the other hand there’s a history of self-regulation within the bouldercommunity and competition. This complex practice with different (sometimes even contradicting) values is the subject of my thesis.

The Dutch version of my thesis is here.
An English extract of my thesis can be found here.

With my brother Jens Bouma I’ve made a short movie in addition to my thesis. Feel free to respond.

Watch the full HD movie here!

9 gedachtes over “Bouldering: Playing the Game. Competition and Regulation within a Lifestyle Sport

  1. Super geschreven stuk, zo goed de gevoelens verwoordt dat het voelbaar wordt.
    Is het een optie dat je je andere stuk “De mens achter de klimmer” ook online zet?
    Of is dat al ergens te vinden?



  2. I saw and enjoyed this film but it appears to lack the voice of Dave Graham, making it a lot less objective sounding than it ought to be. It doesn't sound like you interviewed Dave for the thesis either. It seems that the work is incomplete without a full survey of opinions.


  3. Hi Peter,

    You are right, the voice of Dave Graham is unfortunately a gap in this movie/research. I've approached him several times, but never got a response. Maybe in the future, after watching this movie, I will get a response. I hope so! This movie is not intended to evaluate or pass judgment on Dave Graham. It's intended to show the complexity that exists underneath the surface.

    Within my thesis I've included the results of an online survey completed by 723 boulderers from all over the world.

    – 52,1% thought The Big Island is more aesthetic than The Island
    – 9,1% thought The Island is most aesthetic
    – 38,8% thought both problems are equally aesthetic.

    – 44,4% thought The Big Island has a better starting position
    – 6,3% thought The Island has a better staring
    – 49,4% Thought both starting positions are equally good

    Thanks for you response,


  4. Heey Mirth! Wat een mooie thesis, ik heb m nog niet helemaal gelezen wegens tijdgebrek maar ziet er goed uit. Het belang van plezier vooropstellen, maar je toch kunnen laten meeslepen door het competetieve bij klimmen is ontzettend herkenbaar. Gaaf om een wetenschappelijke bijdrage te krijgen voor deze prachtige doch complexe sport!
    Tot donderdag!


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