I’ve been waiting more than 20 years for this interview. Ever since David “Belt” Potter (aka The Reverend Speefnarkle) stopped reading climbing magazines until they honored his “Where’s the John Gaskins interview?” request. So distraught was he, by each passing year sans acknowledgement, that the good reverend eventually quit the sport altogether. Well, it’ finally here, and I couldn’t be more excited.
I didn’t conduct the interview. In fact, I was lucky to find it. Gaskins hasn’t been a name on the climbing scene in ages and, even at his peak, was obscure. He was always more of a mythical creature, who lived in a dank cellar in some netherworld, training like a madman far from established climbing circles, who emerged every-so-often for a ground breaking ascent before retreating back to his hovel. But, apparently, our crew weren’t the only ones inspired by such bizarre behavior, as the editor of UK Bouldering tracked him down, nearly a decade after his last notable climb.
The first interview is chronicled in this forum, in a non-rushed hour-plus-long session (yes!). As you’ll see in the thread, his claims are not universally accepted. They are, in fact, rather hard to believe. Which makes them better, of course. The climbing world always has had trouble with anyone talented who chooses other life endeavors in favor of climbing. It’s also a sport where it’s easy to lie about accomplishments. So that anyone could perform at the highest level, without being established in the scene, is always subject to skepticism.
Is he lying? Personally, I don’t care. I love the model. Training, alone in obscurity, for your own personal satisfaction is the story I want to hear. It will provide motivation for those days I’m feeling lazy because, whether he sent or not, he clearly did train. Hard and with purpose. And I’m always a sucker for those stories.
He harbored big dreams, but don’t we all? The account of his successes are, for sure, open to critique. But the fact that he failed on his biggest project, when it would have been simple to lie, play into his favor. But as we see in the second interview, which takes place on his board, he ain’t weak.
So he’s got that going for him. And now we’ve got it going for us. Belt, it’s time to dust off your campus board.