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The Secret to Pogoing

Tips and tricks for the everyday climber.

Greetings once again, Connor here. I’m back to teach all you faithful FrictionLabs readers a new trick for your arsenal of climbing moves.  

For those of you who are just joining us, Connor's World is the newest FrictionLabs series that explains climbing techniques, tips, and best practices. Today’s topic continues the trend of momentum-based moves (check out our last piece on dynoing here). Now we’re taking a closer look at one of the most fun moves out there: the pogo!

Why you want to pogo

You want to pogo because it’s wild and crazy fun.

Let’s be honest: Rarely will you find a situation in which pogoing is necessary to complete a climb—especially outside. Sometimes you’ll stumble across a boulder problem in the gym with a forced pogo, but even those are pretty hard to find. It’s difficult to set a forced pogo, so most route setters avoid trying.

Wait wait wait! I haven’t even answered your main question yet. What the hell is a pogo?

Pogo? Or Moon Kick?!

In climbing lore, the pogo is a technique originally developed and popularized by Ben Moon, the legendary British climber. It is also known as a Moon Kick; the terms “pogo” and “Moon Kick” are therefore used interchangeably. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be referring to it simply as the pogo throughout this article.

The pogo propels your body upwards using momentum generated from the swinging movement of one of your legs. Sounds simple enough...but when you first try to coordinate the movement on the climbing wall, you might feel as though you’re writing cursive with your opposite hand. Blindfolded.

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How to pogo like Carlo Traversi

Let’s pause. I want to direct you somewhere. Please take a moment to watch the video below about the pogo from Louder Than Eleven. Bear in mind: this is a classic. The cheese is strong with this one. Strong, but deeply satisfying. If you can’t handle the smell, skip to 6:30 for footage of indoor pogoing. Skip to 08:25 for amazing footage of a handful of pros trying to pogo through Airstar, a V13 in Rocklands, South Africa.

 

Now let’s run through the basics of the move. First, here are the optimal conditions you want for practicing:

  • A slightly overhanging wall.
  • Two large start holds. Ideally, they’re spaced 3-4 feet apart with a significant angle between them, maybe 35-45 degrees. Let’s assume you’re going to be leading the pogo with your right hand—place it on the lower of the two start holds.
  • A left starting foot hold, 4-6 feet below your left hand. The two starting hand holds and the starting foot hold should essentially create a right triangle.
  • A nice jug as a finish hold, somewhere about 4-6 feet above you.

As opposed to a dyno, where your body flies in a straight line towards the next hold, a pogo moves your body upwards in an arc. As a result, you can’t cover quite as much distance with a pogo, but you’ll feel more in control.

On to the basic steps you’ll want to take to generate momentum for the move:

  • With your three limbs on the starting hand and foot holds, LOOK UP at the finish hold.
  • Start generating momentum by simultaneously swinging your free right leg towards the finish hold and pulling your body up with your arms. As your leg swings back down, extend your arms back out and sink your body down as low as possible.
  • Keep your leg as extended as possible while swinging it, and face your center of gravity toward the finish hold. Your leg is a huge lever, and the hip it’s attached to is a fulcrum. The longer the lever arm, the more momentum you can generate. I hope you enjoy geometry!
  • When you’re ready to execute, swing your leg upwards to generate motion. Pull with your arms. Midway through this motion, use your left foot to push off the foot hold. The movement should feel explosive, but not as violent as a dyno.
  • Latch the finish hold with your right hand. Because your body is moving in an arc, the momentum will carry your legs up high. Engage your shoulders and hold that tension!
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Explode in the gym

Like the dyno, the pogo should be treated as an explosive move—but certainly to a lesser degree. In general, any given pogo is much less violent than a dyno of similar caliber. A truly masterful pogo is more an act of grace and precision than one of violence and power. As you progress with the move, focus on the nuances and try to be as smooth as possible––this will greatly increase your efficiency and make the pogo feel easier.

Remember, a pogo is a pogo. Nowhere in the “Climbing Rulebook “ does it say you need to huck seven foot pogos in order to do the move. In reality—and this is also a great way to practice—you can use the pogo technique on virtually any move of any climb. Just find the right foot, swing your leg, and use that momentum to move to the next hold.

Dig the Pogo? What would you be psyched to learn next? Let me know in the comments section!

About the Author
Connor Griffith has been climbing for 13 years in areas across the world, from California to Colorado to Switzerland. A V11 boulderer with multiple first ascents around the globe, Connor is also a professional route setter, a student of climbing movement, and a coach.

Connect with Connor
Instagram: @connor.griffith_

Twitter: @connor_climbs

Facebook: facebook.com/PersonOfInterestLtd

Website: Personofinterest.life

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