STM's Got Talent Danny De Koning: A Man and a Mountain
By: Marissa Foley
He squeezes his feet into shoes that are two sizes too small, checks his harness for the zillionth time and methodically follows the rope through the knot, securing himself on the climb. He chalks his hands generously, with dust clouding and settling into his vibrant red hair. He takes a step back and looks up to plan the route he is about to conquer. Finally, he makes his ascent – Danny De Koning: the rock climber.
Today, Danny is extremely passionate and shows unwavering dedication to his sport – but would you believe that all of this started with a simple birthday party? When he was seven years old, he went to a friend’s birthday party at Gravity Climbing Gym, Hamilton's very own indoor rock climbing gym. “I got into the gym and I was terrified by the heights, but as soon as I did my first climb and got up my first wall, it felt good,” he explains. This tiny taste of the climbing world had drawn Danny in instantly.
For the next few years, he would climb casually and periodically. Then, in grade nine, Danny pulled out all the stops – he purchased a membership, equipment, and climbed with absolute perseverance and enthusiasm on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Four years later, he is still climbing with the same drive and passion.
When watching Danny climb - with his fluid movements and flawless co-ordination – it really does look easy. This is not at all the case. “There is a lot of technique with climbing,” he notes. Physical strength is quite obviously a necessary aspect too. There is a significant amount of conditioning required to reach the calibre of Danny's skill. He explains that he spends about 12 hours a week training and climbing.
As his climbing advances, Danny is greeted with more opportunities to grow and learn. In recent years, he has had the chance to travel across Ontario, as far as Ottawa, to compete at Tour de Bloc – a climbing competition set through a structured bouldering circuit. Bouldering is the act of climbing a very short climb –only four or five powerful and physically demanding moves – without the typical gear. No harness, no rope, just a climber and his rock.
The magnitude of Danny’s love for climbing is quite obvious when you get him talking. He attributes this to the sense of community he’s found in the climbing world. “The friends I have made through climbing are some of my best friends,” he explains. With the exception of bouldering, climbing is not a one man sport. So, for him, going to the gym is more than just working on the latest route – it is a social event.
Danny has made it his personal mission to spread the news about climbing and introduce youngsters to this amazing sport. It’s been said that there may even be a possible physics trip to Gravity Climbing Gym, to study the laws of physics behind the vital equipment used. He’s hoping the climbing spark will catch at STM and spread like wildfire, or maybe even reach Olympic status someday. As for Danny, he will keep climbing for as long as he can, hopefully travelling around the world to continue doing what he loves.