By Sender Films Producer, Nick Rosen
“DANIEW ROOOOODS,” the PA system echoes through the massive arched walls at Yuji Hirayama’s BASE CAMP, the largest climbing gym in Asia.
Daniel Woods is a long way from home. On the invitation of his childhood hero, Yuji Hirayama, Daniel grabbed the REEL ROCK crew and headed over to Japan to test himself against the local competition and explore the rock in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Like many of us, Daniel grew up with posters of Yuji on his wall – the 44-year old Japanese climber is one of the great living legends of rock climbing. So it was a rare treat to visit him in his home country, a place where seemingly everything –raw fish, vintage clothing, alien tentacles, dance machines, and, yes, rock climbing – are the subject of obsessive devotion.
Yuji Hirayama at the sea cliffs of Jyogasaki
This was easy to see at the 2013 North Face Cup in Japan, a series of comps that Yuji has organized which culminate in the big invitational championship at Yuji’s mega gym outside Tokyo. Normally, when an international climber of Daniel’s caliber is invited to a regional comp, he can feel confident about winning. But when Daniel walked into Yuji’s Base Camp for qualifiers, he immediately noted the stiff competition. Indeed, Japan has some of the most dedicated and talented climbers on the planet. Yuji, and fellow Japanese stars Hidetaka Suzuki, Dai Koyamada, Akiyo Noguchi, and Sachi Amma, are names we know, but at this comp alone, there were dozens of other male and female elite crushers that we’ve never heard of. Shaking his head in awe, Daniel pounded a Red Bull and went into focus mode.
(Although the comp results are readily available, we won’t spoil the surprise – check it out on REEL ROCK 8!)
photo credit: Eddie Gianelloni http://www.eddiegianelloni.com/
After the comp, Yuji invited Daniel and the film crew for a tour of some amazing climbing areas within a few hours of Tokyo: The picturesque sea cliffs of Jyogasaki, the snowy limestone of Futugoyama (home of Yuji’s test-piece Flat Mountain (http://www.climbing.com/news/flat-mountain-2/) and the even more frigid riverside boulders of Shiobara, where Daniel had an epic, 0-degree wind chill showdown with the Koyamada test-piece Hydrangea (V15). Watching Daniel climb, Yuji’s eyes lit up; he was shaking his head in awe, trying the holds, spraying beta, and cheering, “Yes, Daniel-San, wait for the moment!”
Daniel Woods on Hydrangea - (V15) photo credit: Eddie Gianelloni http://www.eddiegianelloni.com/
At 46 years old, Yuji is at a pivot in his storied career, which includes multiple world cup titles, several early free ascents of El Capitan, and the Nose speed record at least twice. These days, Yuji has largely transitioned out of climbing at his limit (with the mind-blowing exception of his Borneo project, which you can also catch on REEL ROCK 8), and settled comfortably into the role of Dai Sensei, organizing comps and mentoring the promising new crop of young Japanese climbers.
22-year old Daniel Woods appears to be his new project. “He is so unbelievably strong, and so talented, and yet he has a lot of ways he can learn and improve,” Yuji said.
Anyone who has spent time with Daniel knows that, aside from being one of the strongest and most graceful climbers on the scene today, Daniel Woods is a tremendous goof. Blithe, forgetful, and grinning like your kid brother on Robitussin, he will invariably leave behind his shoes or harness, take a wrong turn, and be forced to send something astoundingly hard with borrowed gear, in the dark.
Daniel found a twin!
“What I see most of all in Daniel is potential. Like an unpolished gemstone.” Looks like Daniel-San has found his Mr. Miyagi.
Oh, and remember that Borneo project we mentioned earlier? Turns out Yuji needs a partner for it. To find out what happens when these two amazing talents team up to establish cutting edge grades in the high-altitude jungles of Mt. Kinabalu, tune in to REEL ROCK 8, coming this fall to a theater near you.