We sat down with VITAL member Jordan Feil during a weekend trip to Bishop, CA and asked him to share his backstory on how he began climbing, his experience with the gym community, and how it affected his life outside the walls of the gym. The following day after the interview, he sent The Fang (v4), a Bishop classic and the first of that grade for him. The header photo is Jordan with a well-deserved smile, just seconds after topping-out the climb.
VITAL: Where, when, and how did you start climbing?
Jordan: I was maybe 10 years old, my dad and mom took me to a Solid Rock gym in San Diego and we had this huge pizza party. It made a huge impression on me, actually… I’ve always remembered that. Periodically throughout the years into my twenties, for my birthdays, we went top-roping at different places.
V: Did you keep getting pizza?
J: Yeah, we did get pizza (laughter). So climbing was always around it my life as a fun thing that I wanted to do, but I remember climbing memberships back then were too expensive for me. I remember trying to get my ex’s mom to pay for a climbing membership for me (laughter).
V: So how did you find your way to VITAL?
J: All that happened towards the end of my relationship with my ex, and we ended up breaking up right around the time that VITAL Oceanside opened, so I had all this free time on my hands. I remembered going to the VITAL Carlsbad grand opening with my brother back in 2010, so I remembered the name, and wanted to get a membership.
V: What is your favorite place to climb, indoors or outdoors, and why?
J: If I seperate indoors, probably VITAL Oceanside. I used to surf a lot, and that was my first big hobby, I did that for years. But the funny thing about surfing was that I’d always want to surf with people, but when nobody wanted to go with me, I’d never go surf. I never wanted to go alone. But now with VITAL, when I started picking up climbing… climbing is one of those things that if I really wanted to go and nobody wanted to come with, I would just go climb alone. I’d spend hours and hours climbing alone. That was right when I was losing weight, I would go in and climb 3 hours by myself.
V: So if that was indoors, what is your favorite place outdoors?
J: I never really thought about that question, and I’ve never really climbed different types of rock. Most of the times I’ve been to Joshua Tree or Yosemite, it’s always been with my family or friends who don’t really know much about climbing, so those trips were all over the place and we climbed a bunch of random things. I might say Bishop…
V: What is your most memorable send?
J: It was probably when I did Plumbers Crack in Red Rock because that spooked me out in a way that I haven’t really got spooked out before. It got me into this zone where I wasn’t really thinking about it, but I was focusing more on what I was doing, and that was pretty cool. And it’s a super aesthetic climb.
Right before I went, there was this group from out east with a bunch of girls and this one dude. And this dude was just spraying all this beta at all the girls. And one of the girls had this absolute huge meltdown in the crack, and this was right before my attempt. People ended up helping her back down off the climb.
Then it was my turn. And there was this point at the top that was scary because the knee-bar stops working, but it was a super fun climb.
V: What keeps you motivated?
J: I think on a deeper level, climbing kinda represents a major shift in the sort of dedication I had in hobbies and my lifestyle. Before this point in my life, I played a lot of video games… and there’s nothing wrong with playing a lot of video games… but I was doing it mostly in the bad way where I was super unhealthy, and I was at a point in my life where I was super unhappy. So climbing coincided with me finding a lot of happiness in my life, finding a sport that I connected with on a deep level, and found a community with. A part of my motivation and why I train is because I want to keep that going. I feel like when I’m training, exercising, eating a healthier diet, and going on trips… it seems like my personality is super outgoing, but I struggled a lot early on with social anxiety, which is why I played a lot of video games. So what keeps me motivated is to keep myself open to doing things that are better for me, trying new things, going to different places, and meeting new people.
One of my personal goals is to write a novel, so experiencing new things and hearing other people’s stories is the life enrichment that I want to have… You need to live life to be able to talk about life. I feel like all that is tied into climbing now for me in a weird way.
V: You want to write a novel? Tell us about that!
J: Well that is what my degree is in! I have a degree in Literature. As a kid, I would read A LOT. I love love love reading, and I’ve been writing my whole life. I never knew that’s what I wanted to do. I hated school, but I just went to college because that’s what you’re “supposed to do,” but then I immediately loved college. I got my general education done at a community college, and was going to go to school for astronomy, but then I took a creative writing class on a whim with this guy named Rocco Versace, and he was the coolest dude I ever met.
V: Well, with a name like Rocco Versace…
J: Yeah, he was THE man. I had this amazing class with him, and he saw something in what I was writing and told me to take all these different classes. I went to Cal State San Marcos and graduated in that.
V: What line of work are you in?
J: I do marketing and operations for a lumber company in Escondido called J&W Lumber. I didn’t get into it on purpose. It’s funny too because it was when I got into climbing. I was depressed and drinking a lot, and I had a job at Sunglass Hut that I hated. And I got that job going into Black Friday, that made it worse. I wanted to make more money, so on a whim, I applied at J&W Lumber, and it helped me lose weight because of how physical it was. It was supposed to be a seasonal job, but when I went in to quit, they decided to keep me on and give me more responsibilities.
V: What else do you love besides climbing?
J: I DEFINITELY love candy. And I love writing and reading…
V: What do you write?
J: I write a lot of non-fiction, poetry, and I’m writing a fantasy novel. A little bit of everything.
V: What are your favorite movies?
J: One of my all-time favorite movies is Zombieland. When I was young, I didn’t really have much supervision, and those old rated-R movies have always been my go-to, like Braveheart, Alien, the first Terminator… I also love Good Will Hunting.
V: What about bands?
J: I love oldies like Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, Rolling Stones. I really like Santana. And also modern stuff, like Mac Miller (RIP), Drake, Eminem…
V: What should people know about you if they want to know you better?
J: I really do enjoy meeting new people and talking to new people. I’ve never regretted talking to a new person.. You always find random things that are cool or interesting. I always want to meet new people, so come say hi.
V: Describe a normal session at VITAL.
J: I usually come at night, after work on Tuesdays. It kinda varies. I used to train a lot and do the ClimbFit classes, especially when I was losing weight. I never really worked out growing up, so I wanted to train and put in hard work to climb better, so I did ClimbFit and yoga. Lately, I’ve just been climbing. Sometimes I warm up with a run and stretching.
V: What advice would you have for someone who is just starting out with climbing?
J: Sometimes I see new people frustrated… and it’s nice that they have passion for it, and I encourage that… but they sometimes seem too focused on the (grade) numbers or on what they’re doing wrong. I would recommend, for the first year or year and a half, just have fun and climb a whole lot. Do the climbs that will just get you super pumped on climbing. Then later, work out and do all that extra training stuff. I was in a unique position because I was trying to lose weight when I started climbing, so I was doing a lot of that anyways, but I don’t think most people want to spend much of their time training when you start out climbing. Just have fun!
V: How much weight have you lost?
J: I’ve lost about a hundred pounds.
V: Wow, that’s awesome! What ways has VITAL positively influenced or shaped your life?
J: A lot of ways, VITAL has had a profound effect on my life. When I found it, I was going through a time where I was getting out of an eight-year relationship in which I thought I was for sure going to end up married, so I was in this depressed, bad mental state. I had a lot of negative opinions about life in general and the things I was doing. The fulfillment I was finding in my life was not great. Climbing and all the stuff that came with it, the places I was going, the people I was meeting, the friends and stories that I was making… all that helped enrich and fulfill me in a way that helped give me happiness. In turn, that would give me a thought to change and leave the job I didn’t like. So I think it’s helped bring me to a more positive and loving state of mind, and the person I am today, I can attribute to my decision to spend more time at VITAL and be more involved with the community.