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Getting Started on the Moon Board

Learn what the Moon Board is and why it's gaining steam.

A few weeks ago we filmed FrictionLabs Pros Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson duking it out on the Moon Board on Facebook Live (watch Part 1 and Part 2 replays if you missed it). Though some of you are well aware of what the Moon Board is, we wanted to shed some light on the concept for those who aren’t.

What It Is

The Moon Board is essentially a training wall. What sets it apart from other “woodies” (i.e. the style of homemade plywood training walls from which the Moon Board is derived) is its universal design. Ben Moon––founder of Moon Climbing and legendary British climber––designed the wall with a standard blueprint (including wall dimensions and angle, t-nut spacing, holds and hold angles, etc.) to be followed by all third parties who purchase it. In this way, anyone who builds and trains on a Moon Board is climbing on the same Moon Board as everyone else.

The other unique aspect of the Moon Board is its accompanying website and mobile application (“the app” from now on). Registered users of the app can “set” a problem on the board, then share it with the rest of the community. Users can climb, rate, and log their ascents, which enter the app’s database and are available for all to see. As of publication there are 7,559 individual boulder problems between V4 (6B+) and V14 (8B+) circulating the app’s database, with more added every day.

The app’s main menu interface
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Universal Training Utility

The Moon Board is becoming a fixture in climbing gyms both old and new. As the gym industry grows, the demand for a universal training utility grows with it. The Moon Board enables climbers all over the world to train and challenge themselves on the same problems. Or perhaps I should say: the same hard problems.

The Moon Board and its app feature notoriously challenging climbs. Many new and/or novice climbers may find the holds too poor to use (no traditional “jugs” to be found here), the angle of the wall too steep, and the flow of the movement too powerful. In a final blow to the ego, the grades are sandbagged relative to most worldwide standards. Is this a testament to the grit of the English? Or is everyone else just soft? These are tough questions to answer, and it probably doesn’t matter anyway––just be prepared for a humbling experience.

How It Works

The standardized Moon Board panel dimensions are 8 feet in width (11 t-nut columns) by 10.3 feet in height (18 t-nut rows). The panel itself is angled at 40 degrees. There are currently three sets of holds available for the board (Originals, Set A, and Set B), which can all be fixed simultaneously. Five pairs of yellow foot holds adorn the vertical kicker at the bottom of the panel, and are always “on” for all problems.

Before you try climbing on the Moon Board for the first time, download the app from the App Store. Once you’ve registered yourself on the app, you can start browsing the database of problems. Given the nature of the board’s difficulty, I highly recommend beginning with the easiest grades––in this case, V4 (6B+). Also, make sure you’re completely warmed up before attempting any Moon Board problems, as it is very possible to injure yourself otherwise.

After choosing a problem, click the light bulb icon (second from left) to connect to the LED system (indicated by the Bluetooth symbol in the top right corner).
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Note: many (though not all) gyms choose to implement the LED light kit with their Moon Board. Using a Bluetooth connection through a phone, a user can connect their Moon app directly to an electronic system of lights that are installed on the board’s backside. LED lights are shone through holes drilled below each hold on the board––green for the start hold(s), blue for the intermediate holds, and red for the finish holds. Once you’ve chosen a problem in the app’s database, click the light bulb icon on the bottom panel to connect to Bluetooth, then behold: your chosen problem is now lit up and easy to follow.

If your local gym does not have the LED system installed, you’ll have to rely on your regular old brain to memorize each hold on the problem. This can seem difficult at first (since many of the holds look similar), but as you use the board more and more it quickly becomes second nature.

An intermediate hold lit by a blue LED, indicating its use on a problem.

Training Functions

The Moon Board is a perfect training tool for the climbers who crave a little more challenge and variety in their workout. Here are some practical applications and results you can expect if you seriously dedicate time to the board:

  • Increased finger strength: I’ve already pointed out the nature of the hold sets––small crimps, bad pinches, slopey jugs, and more. Put in a few weeks and you may notice your tendons becoming like steel.
  • Increased core strength and raw power: The problems in the app’s database tend to feature high-steps, big reaches, and dynamic moves. Force yourself to hold on––your core muscles will strengthen and your power output will multiply.
  • Better footwork and toe tension: To start, the foot holds on the bottom panel are small and slopey, forcing you to focus on keeping the tension in your toes. Additionally, many problems feature hard moves that favor those who can keep their feet on the wall. Focus on careful foot placements and tension to drastically improve your footwork.

Problem Demo

As I mentioned earlier, there are thousands of boulders to choose from on the Moon Board app. As a demonstration I chose a V6 called “Pogo.” If you’re unfamiliar with the pogo, brush up on the move here. The V6 in question is aptly named––the pogo is also known as the Moon Kick, made famous by Ben Moon himself. If you want to train your pogos/Moon Kicks, this problem is a great place to start.

In the photo below, you can see that I chose “Pogo” from the problem database. I clicked the light bulb icon on the bottom panel, which connected my phone to the Moon Board via Bluetooth. Look closely to see the corresponding LED lights illuminated on the board.

“Pogo” V6, set by Luke Hutcheson, on the app and the board.

All that remained was climbing the thing! Check out the video to see the Moon Board in action:

 

A special thanks goes out to EVO Rock + Fitness in Louisville, Colorado, for providing the Moon Board seen in this blog post and the Moon Board Battle videos mentioned above.

Let us know about your own experiences with the Moon Board. What do you like about it? What would you improve upon or add to it? Tell us in the comments!

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