Red Shorts Man

Sunset at Fontainebleau Bouldering Mecca

I still remember the first time someone told me “Don’t use chalk”. Me and my buddy were bouldering on a hot summer day in Fontainebleau. An old guy in short red shorts walked up. He told us that chalk was for cheaters. That it hurt the rock. That if we were going to climb with him we’d have to put away the chalk bag. So we did.

We had an amazing session. Red Shorts Man must have been older than both of us combined. He still out-climbed us with ease. His moves seemed effortless. His balance was perfect. His grip immaculate. We watched in awe: a true master at play. He seemed to achieve so much with so little!

All it takes to go bouldering is boulders. There is a profound beauty in the simplicity of it all. The kind of beauty that transcends the sport and turns it into a lifestyle. I met Red Shorts Man 30 years ago. Bless his soul. Since then many have joined the bouldering lifestyle.

I like this community. We’re still playing the same game. But the playground has changed. Red Shorts Man was right. Our once beautiful rock has been bleached by chalk. The art of true on sighting has been spoiled by ticked holds. Chalk-lung has become a thing. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A little chalk washes right off with rain. A little chalk won’t make you cough like a chain-smoker after a long session at the gym. A little chalk goes a long way.

Especially if you avoid chalk powder. Use liquid chalk or chalk balls as alternatives. Since I started using liquid chalk and chalk balls, I have significantly reduced my chalk use. I can’t remember when I last bought powdered chalk.

You can do the same. Use liquid chalk as a base layer. Your hands will stay dry far longer. If you still need a little extra use a chalk ball. Stop using bucketloads of chalk powder. Your lungs will thank you. Your climbing buddies will thank you. The climbing gym staff will thank you.

Let’s keep the climbing experience clean for ourselves and for future generations by following these three simple rules:

I'm done with chalk powder. To spread the message, I'm starting a chalk business. But you won't see me selling chalk powder. Time for something else.

Join the chalk rebellion. Make the rock smile again: use LESS chalk.

Francis, Founder of CHALK REBELS

(Updated Nov. 7, 2022: In 2021 we started to experiment with Upsalite®, a porous form of magnesium carbonate which absorbs significantly more moisture than regular chalk. We first added it to our liquid Magic Chalk and are now comfortable offering chalk in powder form with Upsalite® for when you simply can't use liquid chalk.)

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