This edition of Gear Talk – girls talking gear and all things awesome – features one of our badass BFFs FrictionLabs, a high-end purveyor of climbing chalk who uses science to engineer the best chalk for rock climbing success to help climbers #climbyourimpossible
We caught up with FrictionLabs founders Kevin and Keah to chat about chalk matters.
BB: How did the idea for FrictionLabs emerge?
FL: We bought some chalk that felt like corn starch. Using a background in science, we started comparing all the chalk out there, and with some simple testing found that nothing on the market was 100% magnesium carbonate as advertised. So we did some research, experimentation and developed our chalk. We knew we had something special when our friends were stealing it out of our chalk buckets.
BB: What inspired you to start rock climbing and subsequently a rock climbing business?
FL: I (Kevin) have been climbing for about 20 years. I was hooked from the start and have never turned back. 7 years ago, I co-founded the Denver Bouldering Club with Thomas and Lee. That was my first foray in to the climbing industry.
Keah got in to climbing a few years ago and from day one has loved it.
We love climbing and the idea of creating a product that enhances everyone’s experience and is healthier for your lungs and skin is very motivating. We’ve been fortunate to be able to climb in some amazing places while spreading the word about FrictionLabs, so its been a lot of fun!
BB: We love your taglines #chalkmatters and #climbyourimpossible and how they’ve really been integrated within your digital climbing community. What do those taglines mean to you and your members?
FL: #chalkmatters was our attempt to get climbers to stop thinking chalk is chalk…no other piece of gear is used as intimately or often as chalk. Your hands are arguably the most important contact point with the rock, yet no one has tried to make a great product. In trying to bring FrictionLabs to life, we needed climbers to take chalk seriously! Thus #chalkmatters was born.
#climbyourimpossible was our next evolution of branding. Now that the climbing community acknowledges that chalk does in fact matter, we wanted a message that resonates with every climber. Every one has their impossible, the route or problem they can’t do or think they can’t do. We want climbers to challenge their belief of what they can and can’t do, get the best gear and go surprise yourself!
BB: Speaking of community, FrictionLabs has been hugely successful at cultivating a thriving one – tell us about the journey from humble beginnings to nearly 10k followers in just over a year.
FL: Thanks for the kind words, we’re lucky to have such an awesome community. From day one, we have tried to be different in how we talk about our product and company. We don’t want to contribute to a sea of recycled ideas, but come up with new, fresh, fun ways to promote our company. We did a video, Frictile Dysfunction, that has been a huge source of people finding us. We only put out content we’re proud of and that we believe climbers will enjoy.
BB: What separates FrictionLabs from other chalk brands out there?
FL: Well, there aren’t really any other chalk companies out there. There are a lot of companies that sell chalk, but its an ancillary product that they typically outsource production of. We’re the first ones to take chalk serious and develop a truly better performing and healthier form of chalk. Our product stays on your hands longer and is better for your skin and lungs.
BB: There have been some naysayers who were skeptical about the concept of ‘high-end chalk’ at first and then become evangelical converts overnight (not going to lie, I was once one!). What is about FrictonLabs that successfully lends itself to creating real life brand ambassadors?
FL: The product actually works and is a massive improvement from what has been out there since John Gill first introduced the idea of using chalk for climbing. Climbers either love the idea from the start or are skeptical. Once the skeptics get it on their hands and feel the difference, that’s usually the tipping point for them. Anything that helps a climber send their project is something that gets noticed and talked about.
BB: What is FrictionLabs stance on the impact of climbing chalk on the environment around us, and particularly on the rocks we climb on? What could we all be doing as climbers to minimize impact and maximize sustainability?
FL: Climbers have used too much chalk for a long time, its a result of the compound people have historically used, it doesn’t work very well. With our chalk you use significantly less, which is a step in the right direction. From crag clean ups to brushing tick marks, its everyone’s responsibility to take care of the rocks and areas we get to play in.
BB: What’s next for FrictionLabs?
FL: SO much good stuff. A few new products coming out in the next couple of months. We think we can raise the bar even more and offer some ground breaking products…stay tuned.
Be sure to check out FrictionLabs exclusive offers for Bouldering Babes, get your chalk on, and #climbyourimpossible