All humans climb; our bodies are tailor made to do it, and as every parent knows, when you leave a kid alone with a tree, you come back and find a monkey. But if you can’t convince that kid to come down, you’ll come back and find Jeremy Meza. “Climbing, to me, is all wrapped up in how much fun I had growing up in the sport. When I see the next generation finding that same excitement for the first time, it takes me back to when I was in my own great moments, and I guess, if I’m totally honest, climbing is really just my way of being an adult on paper so I feel justified playing outside all day.” Yet, even at as a teenager, Meza was already a climbing veteran, ranking third in the nation by age seventeen. However, at eighteen he found his true calling when he met Julian and Michael Bautista and became their coach. Both brothers went on to become world ranked competitors before finishing high school.
In the past eight years Jeremy has coached numerous climbing teams and taken on fourteen personal students including such nationally ranked climbers as Tristan Ackley, Conner Davenport, and Natalie Tomasik. “Watching these kids grow into the exceptional climbers they are has been my the best part of my life. They’re all living inside that perfect moment; nothing’s boring; everything’s new and challenging, and for them, nothing’s out of reach. When I watch them grow, I go through it all over again, and before I know it, I’ve lost track, and they’re smiling down at me from the summit.” At his core, Jeremy is still just a kid in a tree, but he won’t come down unless you climb up there and make him.
Dillon Arndt got his start as an athlete at age six when he began surfing. All throughout childhood, he spent his time in the ocean, feet in the water, waiting for that elusive perfect wave. “I have so many memories just sitting out there on my board, watching the waves rising and falling… waiting and waiting for that perfect crest to form. It’s the most exciting thing in the world because, all of the sudden, it’s go time, and you know you have to get it right the first try. My life was always kind of a search back then. I wanted something that could give me all that crazy intensity all the time…” When Dillon happened upon a young Jeremy Meza hiking through Yosemite National Forest, fate took over, and a rock climber was born.
Dillon’s always been on a quest for the ultimate wave, and the craziest waves in the world are the great super earthquakes of history and the mountain ranges they leave behind.“When you’re a climber, the perfect wave is always right there in front of you, and because of this, for the first time in my life, I found balance. You can’t always live your life waiting around for the perfect wave. I needed to be reminded of the fact that the world is filled with perfect waves, and you don’t always have to wait for them to fall into your lap.” Perhaps it could be said that Dillon climbs because the feeling he gets on the face reminds him of the way he has come to see the world.
“My favorite thing about being a climber is the sunrise. You wake up at first light and shake off the sleep. Then you stretch out, clap some chalk on your hands, and start the first climb of the day. For me, I guess it’s really all about the lifestyle.” Trevor, previously a collegiate wrestler and rower, was already an athlete when he began training under Jeremy Meza and so adapted quickly to the sport, but what impressed Meza the most about Trevor was his unrealistic drive to get to the top; he never seemed to let up. Afterwards, they’d go home totally exhausted, passing out even before making it to their sleeping bags. But like clockwork, by dawn the next morning, they were at it again.
“You wake up when it’s still dark and start getting all your climbing hardware ready by firelight. The sun starts coming up over the rock face, and you know that in just a few hours, you’re gonna get the chance to test yourself against the mountain. Every single day you hit a wall, and there’s a moment when you feel like you can’t go on. But after that… no one can say what happens next. That’s the best part I guess, standing there at the bottom, knowing you’re about to find out.” Trevor is constantly seeking out that moment of truth on the mountainside, and its pursuit is his only real goal, more important to him, even, than the moment itself. “For me, it’s all about the smell of that last chalk clap before the ascent.”