March 15, 2022

What is Deep-Water Soloing (DWS) – Psicobloc Climbing?

by Kevin

Deep-water soloing (DWS), known as psicobloc, is a type of rock climbing that takes place in the water. Deep-water soloing is based solely upon the presence of water at the base of a climb to prevent injury from falls. Aside from sea cliffs at high tide, it can also be practiced above swimming pools, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.


Table of Contents

Why is Deep-Water Soloing Called Psicobloc Climbing? 

Psicobloc is a Spanish word that means “Psycho Bouldering” or “Crazy Bolder.”

DWS is another name for scaling rock faces over water, mainly sea peaks, free solo without ropes or harnesses, and breaking your drop with the water.

What is the History of Deep-Water Soloing? 

In the late 1970s, deep-water soloing became popular in Mallorca, Spain. Local climber Miquel Rivera had grown bored of assistance ascents in his region.

In 1978, he headed to Porto Pi, Palma, and the surrounding area searching for new approaches to train free soloing.

Rivera finally relocated to the coastal cliffs, where he discovered that the ocean provided a natural security net.

Why is Deep-Water Soloing Called Psicobloc Climbing

DWS became a standard pick for climbers seeking new methods to free solo climb when Mallorca became the most famous bouldering destination.

The documentary followed several of the most skilled DWS climbers, including Chris Sharma, Tim Emmett, and Klem Loskot, who climbed several popular DWS routes in Mallorca for the first time.

Mallorca is still a favorite destination for DWS enthusiasts.

What are the Best Locations for Deep-Water Soloing? 

The world’s best deep-water solo climbing locations are listed below.

  • Azores, Portugal
  • Majorca, Spain
  • Railay, Thailand
  • Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
  • Island of Hawaii, United States
  • Olympos, Turkey
  • Blue Grotto, Malta

Some of the best deep-water soloing locations are situated in the shores of Sardinia and Mallorca in Spain, mainly the Cova del Diablo rocks, in Dorset, Devon, and the Southern Pembrokeshire coast in the United Kingdom, in the Calanques around Marseille in France, and even in Ireland, the sea cliffs of Ailladie.

Also, climbers have discovered deep-water soloing opportunities in Southeast Asia’s aquatic karst terrain, particularly in Tonsai, Thailand, and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. 

Where are the Best Artificial Psicobloc Walls and Competitions Around the World?

There’re a few distinct artificial deep water solo cliffs in the globe.

Competitions are typically held once a year and attract hundreds of spectators.

A competition for the first synthetic psicobloc was conducted in 2010 in Bilbao, Spain.

Each year, in the Psicobloc Masters Series, a deep water solo contest is held. The victor gets prize money after the game.

The reward in 2018 was $20,000, and it was hosted in Utah’s Olympic Park. It is where the Psicobloc Masters Series is generally held.

More recently, in 2019, a deep-water soloing contest was held in Marseille. Like the Deep-Water Solo Tuck Fest, other deep-water soloing tournaments are held independently.

Which are the Most Notable Deep-Water Soloing Ascents? 

These are some of the most notable deep-water soloing ascents.

  • 9a+ (5.15a): Es Pontas, Mallorca (ESP), September 26, 2006. Chris Sharma did the first climb. Jernej Kruder repeated it in November 2016. It has a 7-foot, 2.1 m, dyno that Sharma took over 50 tries to get to stick. 
  • 9b (5.15b): September 23, 2016, Alasha, Mallorca (ESP). Chris Sharma made the first climb, estimating the grade depends on the quantity of work required to ascend it without a rope: “Suppose it had bolts, it definitely wouldn’t be a 9b (5.15b). Though it takes an equal amount of work when you’re 60 ft up without bolts.” Alana Sharma, Sharma’s daughter, was the inspiration for the route.

What Equipment Do You Need for Deep-Water Soloing?

Deep-water soloing offers the most affordable and equipment-free list of any climbing discipline. In brief, you’ll require a lot of the gear listed below for a particularly violent day at the cliffside.

Last update on 2022-10-05 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

  • Chalk. You’ll require a lot of chalks since your bag will need to be refilled every time you fall. However, the amount of chalk to carry is tied to your talent levels; the higher the talent level, the more chalk you need, and the less you’ll be wet. Also, it is best to use liquid chalk for DWS.
  • Climbing shoes. How many pairs of climbing shoes do you own? You could bring three pairs, or you can go overboard. Climbing in damp footwear is relatively simple and does not influence your performance overall. If you are getting near completing the assignment, you might want to wear dry shoes for every effort.
  • Chalk bags. Again, depending on the country, the number will matter. By the time you’ve fallen off thrice, your first chalk bag might be dry. In the UK, you’ll most likely take about 5. Alpkit makes a specific DWS chalk bag that doesn’t have fleece drying to help it dry faster. 
  • Towel. Bring a cloth to dry off no matter how hot it gets, particularly in the UK. You might even bring an umbrella and a down jacket!
  • Drybag. It’s a great way to keep everything that is wet separate from anything else when you’re heading out at the close of the day. Also, the Alpkit Airlock Xtras comes with a removable shoulder strap that you may use as a swimming lanyard.
  • Waterproof rucksack from Gourdon. An impermeable rucksack; it’s not infallible, but it’s what you use on all climbs that aren’t easily accessible. Ascents or events that require a climb or a swim to begin.
  • Guidebook. A good guidebook can start quickly if you’re fresh to a region. Rockfax Deep Water includes several of the most famous places and is an excellent place to start if you want to go deeper. Mallorca is worthy of its DWS manual, and the miniguide contains an upgrade from 2013.
  • A short access rope is used on occasion.
  • And, of course, a camera to capture those unforgettable moments.

Who is the Best Deep-Water Soloing Climber?

The best deep-water soloing climber is Chris Sharma.

What are the 7 Practical Tips for Deep-Water Soloing?

Going deep-water soloing has a very minimal entry barrier. It’s doable for everyone with a decent fitness level.

Also, it’s a lot more fun to go as a bunch and spend the entire day at the beach, snorkeling, swimming, and enjoying each other’s company. You can also go waterfall rappelling.

Here are the 7 practical tips to ensure you get the most from deep-water soloing.

  1. It Would Help if You Never Travel Alone
  2. Examine the Water Level
  3. Wear Goggles
  4. First and Foremost, Jump
  5. Use Liquid Chalk
  6. Take Care of Your Climbing Shoes
  7. Falling

1. It Would Help if You Never Travel Alone

It’s a golden rule for practically every mountaineering or climbing exercise. Have one more individual with you at all times.

You rarely know what might happen. Anything might happen; therefore, you should have someone to assist you or contact for assistance. This suggestion isn’t just for safety; it’s also for convenience.

2. Examine the Water Level

This ties in with the significance of thorough planning. Check if the water is deep enough, then attempt routes completed by the other climbers.

3. Wear Goggles

Goggles are a decent source of climbing gear that you can quickly transport. You can use them for touring the sea whenever you drop or jump, which will add to your experience. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for jellyfish.

4. First and Foremost, Jump

It may seem frightening, but that will potentially help you to overcome your fear of falling in the future. It might not often be feasible, but if it is, jump off the ledge first once you arrive and before starting the climb.

5. Use Liquid Chalk

If you don’t require any chalk, you shouldn’t use any at all. However, people say that chalk makes a difference when climbing, particularly on a hot rock with sticky palms.

Bringing a bottle of liquid chalk that you can keep in the bikini or shorts is the best option. 

If you intend to use the chalk bag, ensure you just put a small amount of chalk in it, and when it gets wet, you need to throw it away and carefully clean it if it becomes wet because the excess chalk will stay sticky forever.

6. Take Care of Your Climbing Shoes

Saltwater and the sunshine will wreak havoc on your climbing footwear. Some shrink and become a lot rougher. When you’ve finished climbing, ensure to wash and rinse the shoes with clean water thoroughly.

7. Get Used to Falling

You will tumble, and it will be painful. As a result, you should be aware of this and rehearse falling. In the fall, it’s best to maintain your body relaxed.

Stiffen up and get into the water, such as a candle. Tight your legs, bring your hands close to the torso and keep the head up. It also helps if you can swim well.

What are the Benefits of Deep-Water Soloing?

The benefits of practicing deep-water soloing are listed below.

  • Improved Sports Performance
  • Mental fortification
  • Ever Growing Hapiness

Improved Sports Performance

The stronger your overall foundation, the greater you are at DWS. Soloing in deep water is no exception.

Plus, if you want to increase your DWS productivity, you’ll need to learn DWS skills. You may make DWS your primary sport to get better at it.

Deepwater soloing can also be used to develop transferable abilities for other activities that are either highly closely connected, such as trad climbing or sport climbing, or less directly related like pole fitness or acrobatics.

Gaining proficiency in DWS will also benefit those other disciplines, and the opposite is true.

Mental fortification

DWS is an excellent method to get some psychotherapy and learn how to harness the power of thought. Naturally, you will feel terrified, which will hinder your capability and growth.

However, most of it is in the head. DWS may help you overcome your anxiety by telling your mind that everything will be alright.

And suppose you crash, you’re going to fall. It’s only water, after all. “To be harder, just be harder!” stated Jocko Willink. That’s what he tells himself when he’s up against a brick wall.

In the majority of the cases, it works. And it’s a lesson that applies not just to DWS but also to life in general.

Ever Growing Happiness

Finally, most people view DWS as a friendly and pleasant event. Getting away from town for a weekend, spending time with friends, camping, barbecuing, and reconnecting with nature is fantastic.

It makes a significant contribution to your happiness. Such simple things, for sure, are overlooked much too often nowadays, but they have a substantial impact on people and community health and well-being.

Is Deep-Water Soloing Dangerous?

Deepwater solo ascending is relatively safe when done appropriately, in hindsight.

When soloing, the chance of harm is more significant than in other climbing activities since you have little to no support equipment.

Strong climbing abilities and a good understanding of the physics of diving into water are required to avoid injury while psicobloc-ing.

How Do You Solo Deep-Water?

This is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a deep-water solo climb.

  • Allow yourself to be soaked and appreciate the sensation of water over your skin. It might be the most significant factor to consider.
  • Go out with some excellent friends and have a fantastic time. Then head to the bar and tell your friends about it.
  • Perform DWS on days when you don’t care, for example, when you have hangovers or your breakup has just been finalized. You’ll be wildly irresponsible, which is fantastic.
  • If you can’t ascend to the beginning of a route, an abseil rope may be helpful. The idea is to build a sling harness that is easy to remove and then put on the rope before attempting it. Towels are a big hit. Aside from that, one of the best things about DWS is how little gear you genuinely need. Because water is usually wet, a competent DWS-er will also have spare boots, chalk bags, and clothing on hand.
  • In the S0 – S1 bracket, go with the ideal on-sight of all the routes. If you like the idea of plunging in the waters, you have nothing to lose.
  • Bring climbing partners with you. Going solo is among the most common mistakes made when free ascending. In the event of an emergency, you must often have about one other member in your ascending group. Although the descent into the ocean makes deep-water soloing appear safer, there’re still concerns that may demand help.
  • Ensure that you fall safely. Even if water is to cushion your fall, you must still understand how to drop safely. When you hit the water improperly, you risk severe damage. When diving or dropping from the cliff face, attempt to land on your feet first and fall into the water like a pencil. Make a few trial jumps from a lower vantage point on the cliff before making a more significant jump.
  • Do backward somersaults for friends’ amusement at all costs, particularly from significant heights. 
  • Select a location that is easily accessible. When you’re new to DWS, it’s a great way, to begin with, an easily accessible place. In the case that one of your climbing companions becomes hurt, you’ll be in a position to get out quickly.
  • Keep an eye on the tidal levels. It’s critical to understand the variations in tide levels at different times of the day when deep-water soloing over the ocean. You’ll want to time your ascent to coincide with the peak tide. Deep-sea soloing is more perilous during low tides because the water level is lower, and there may be more dangers, such as huge boulders.
  • Skip those that hover over rocks in their early phases as your first DWS; get cooled and try the ones that offer endless water below.
  • Consider your outfit. It is feasible to transport a significant amount of “Old Neptune” up the back tunnel. As a result, put on some clothes. Don’t do what some people do and solo Conner Cove’s Freeborn Man naked. It’s neither clever nor attractive.
  • Take a lot of extra gear. Consider building a swinging bench seat when you wish to solo trails with difficult access, such as the White Hole North in Portland. It will make removing your harness easier and create a “cool zone” before you head out—chalk sacks, in particular.

Where Can You Solo Deep-Water in the US?

You can solo deep-water in the US in the locations listed below.

  • Hawaii’s South Point
  • Austin, Texas’s Lake Travis-Pace Bend Park
  • Grand Coulee, Washington’s Banks Lake
  • Summersville Lake is located in West Virginia

Why Does Some Type of Rock Climbing Need a Deep-Water Swimming Pool?

DWS is a sort of accessible solo bouldering in which you ascend a massive rock face but fall into a deep water pool to protect yourself from harm if you drop. Although it appears to be a very safe sport, climbers who engage in it are characterized as daredevils.

How Do You Pronounce Psicobloc? 

Psicobloc is pronounced as Sy – Co – Block.

Can Climbing Shoes Get Wet?

Yes, climbing shoes can get wet and there isn’t a problem if they get wet. For purpose of DWS, it is best to wear shoes with synthetic tops because leather stretches.

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About the author 

Kevin

Kevin loves bouldering. Mainly because he can practice it alone without considering other people. Although he rediscovered this hobby in the last three years, the boulders turned out to be his most visited landmarks.

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