Like any college student, Sierra Blair-Coyle has a lot going on—from her studies in marketing at Arizona State, to spending time with her family, to hanging out with friends and making time for hobbies like baking and gardening. But this 21-year-old has thrown one more thing into the mix: She’s a professional rock climber.
Climbing has been a part of Sierra’s life since she was 8 years old, and she’s been competing at the pro level since she was just 14. She’s a two-time national champion and now competes all over the world. And despite her accomplishments, she’s down-to-earth, sincere, and one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
We chatted with the Scottsdale native about how she started, her favorite spots to climb, and what’s next.
How did you get into rock climbing?
I started climbing when I was 8 years old. My first introduction was at an outdoor mall by my house in Arizona where they had a portable rock climbing wall. I just fell in love with it immediately. I begged my parents to take me back every day. Usually there was a time limit for how long you could climb, but the guys who ran it would let me climb for hours.
When did you know you wanted to be a professional climber?
I told my parents I wanted to be a professional rock climber right when I started, but at the time they didn’t know that it was an organized sport and that you even could go pro. But then my mom saw an article in the local newspaper about a rock climbing team. So I signed up and started climbing with the team, and it just kind of snowballed from there
What do you love most about climbing?
I think I most love the people. I’ve gotten to have so much fun and make so many friends. I love climbing itself, but I really love the shared experience of climbing. I’ve made friends both in my local gym and in other states and countries. It’s been a really good way to build relationships.
Where are some of your favorite places to climb?
There’s some really great places to climb in Hawaii—it’s just gorgeous there. I also love Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas. And here in Arizona there’s great climbing.
Are there any other climbing destinations you haven’t tried yet but want to?
My number one is Virgin Gorda in the Caribbean—gorgeous boulders, beautiful teal waters, it’s just amazing.
Are there certain styles of climbing you love most?
I dabble with a bit of everything, but bouldering is my favorite right now.
Are there any other hobbies outside of climbing you’re into?
I really like to read and bake and watch movies. I made a really good flourless chocolate cake the other day—anything chocolate goes over well in my house. And I’ve been experimenting with chickpea flour.
I’ve also just gotten into gardening. We transformed two flower beds into gardens at home and we’re growing things like spaghetti squash, basil, rosemary, cucumbers, zucchini, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and beets.
What have been some career highlights so far?
The first time I won nationals, that was really cool for me. I was 11, and it’s just such a cool thing when you realize we won—it’s insane. But more recently I placed third in this competition called Dominion Riverrock. I had been feeling good about how I was climbing, but it hadn’t been showing in my competitions, so it was really awesome to get back on the podium.
Are there any goals you’re working on right now?
I’m on the professional world circuit this summer. My goal is to make it into the finals at one of the events, which is the top six climbers, so it’s tough. And my other goal is to make it into the top 10 climbers in the world.
What inspires you?
Other people inspire me. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of really cool people through climbing. There’s this one guy at my gym who just tries so hard whenever he climbs, really gives it his all. And he’s not a professional or anything, but you can just see how dedicated he is. I look for that in people, and just try to be inspired by that strength, because people are doing cool things everywhere you look.
Do you have a mantra?
The one thing that I like to remember is this quote: “Realize how good you really are.” It really hits home; I think everyone forgets how great how are they are sometimes.
Photos courtesy of Sierra Blair-Coyle
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