It shouldn’t have been hard to spot Jason Momoa. The guy is 6 feet, 4 inches of Hawaiian American muscle, with a shaggy mane and rowdy nature that energizes a room. But I still couldn’t find him among the dozens of athletes, moms, and kids lining the halls and balcony at Climb So iLL. And dads. Did I forget to mention dads? With Aquaman somewhere in the building, dads, including yours truly, were superfluous.

When he magically emerged from a private room and stepped onto the padded mat beneath the iconic Eye Wall at this innovative rock-climbing gym in the Lafayette neighborhood of St. Louis, Momoa was joined by American Ninja Warrior Meagan Martin and David Chancellor, co-owner of Climb So iLL and hype man for the special event.

“I grew up in the Midwest,” Momoa told the crowd. “My heart is with So iLL. I love the spirit of the community of climbers. I love spreading that passion.”

It so happens that Momoa met David and his brother/business partner, Daniel, when they were all younger and climbing at the same places. A friendship sparked, and Momoa later became an ambassador for So iLL, the product company the Chancellors started in their parents’ basement. (The successful business makes climbing holds, shoes, apparel, and accessories; the gym came after.)

Martin, likewise, has been a supporter of So iLL from the time she started climbing and was welcomed to the team earlier this year as a sponsored athlete. “I think So iLL as a whole is such a great company full of great people…and just so conscious about spreading climbing to everyone and being inclusive about it and respectful to the community,” she said.

Meagan Martin Climb So iLL

American Ninja Warrior Meagan Martin on the Eye Wall.

A big reason for Momoa and Martin appearing at the gym was to help raise funds and awareness for 1Climb, a nonprofit committed to introducing 100,000 kids to climbing. Donations taken at the door that evening will go to build rock walls at Boys & Girls Clubs of America facilities around the country, like the one installed in 2017 at the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club in St. Louis (see our November/December 2018 issue).

Another reason was to promote Momoa’s new signature collection, ON THE ROAM, created in collaboration with So iLL. The line, which is expected to be released this fall, includes street shoes, everyday-use bags, and climbing-specific chalk bags. Each piece is touched with Momoa’s favorite color palette, described as “modern Earth,” and includes a callout to his triangular patterned arm tattoo.

“Jason is a genuine rock climber, so the collaboration on this line has been refreshing,” said Daniel. “We’re often working on rock climbing-specific products, so it’s a fun shift to work on projects that include products everyone can use.”

Back at the gym, Momoa and Martin took turns chalking up and scaling colored routes on the bulbous bouldering wall as everyone watched, cheered, and laughed along with the “rock stars.” (Martin, impressively, topped out almost every route there.) After about 20 minutes, we all jumped in on the fun.

Jason Momoa at Climb So iLL

Jason Momoa repares for lift off at Climb So iLL.

Autographs were signed. Selfies were taken. Climbs were tackled and discussed. Beers were consumed. At some point, a 90-pound female climber scooped the 230-pound Momoa off his feet and held him aloft for a photo. And that was the beauty of the event: it was a chance to interact as one community, for the good of existing and new climbers everywhere, because at the end of the day, we’re all ambassadors for the sport.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.