WATCH NOW: Long Lines Climbing offers activities that test mental and physical endurance | Local ways of life

SIOUX CITY — David Salem’s eyes flicked left, then quickly right.

The Sioux City man was cunning enough to develop a strategy, but he knew any wrong move would mean a quick defeat.

Was Salem engaged in a particularly grueling game of chess? No, he was climbing a 42-foot wall inside the Long Lines Family Rec Center, 401 Gordon Dr.

“I thought I could go all the way to the top, but I was a bit short,” he said, wiping away the sweat after the climb. “It was exhilarating though.”

According to Alex Erwin, mastering the 42ft rock face, 52ft boulder or the shorter but still challenging boulders can test a person’s physical and mental stamina.

“People think climbing is about physical strength,” he said, shaking his head. “Relying only on your body will burn you out. Instead, you have to use your mind, problem solve as you hold on to climbing holds while plotting a route to the top.”

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Erwin knows what he is talking about.

Not only is Erwin a climber with over a decade of experience, he is also the director of Long Lines Climbing.

For many years, Sioux City Parks and Recreation has overseen the climbing gym at Long Lines Family Rec Center. In May 2022, day-to-day management transferred to Whitewater, a North Carolina-based company specializing in recreational experiences like whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

“The Sioux City Climbing Gym is the first indoor facility Whitewater has ever run,” Erwin said.

Already a fan of the rock walls at the Family Rec Center, Erwin jumped at the chance to become manager of the renowned Long Lines Climbing.

“Climbing has become a passion for me since I was a student at Iowa State University,” said Erwin, 35. “While I loved that Sioux City had its own climbing gym, I didn’t think the city’s parks and recreation department was using the space to its full potential.”

Under its new management, Long Lines Climbing now has a yoga studio, a dedicated lounge area as well as walls where the courses change regularly in order to challenge experienced climbers.

Erwin is quick to point out that you don’t have to be a Spider-Man in training to have fun in a climbing gym.

“We offer courses for climbers of all levels,” he explained. “You’d be surprised at the range of ages the climbing walls appeal to. We’ve had young children as well as people in their 60s coming here.”

Indeed, Erwin hopes to encourage all kinds of groups to try the Long Lines Climbing facilities.

“Children from primary schools, high school students, middle school students and even corporate groups can have fun here,” he said.

Another demographic that Erwin wants to pursue might come as a surprise.

Erwin, the longtime vocalist and guitarist of alternative rock band GhostCat, already uses the landing atop the 10ft boulder wall as an impromptu stage.

“GhostCat has performed here before and we want to book different numbers every Thursday night,” he said. ” Who knows ? Rock music fans can also learn to love rock climbing. Even if they don’t, I want them in.

In fact, Erwin has several ideas when it comes to creating interest in the space. These include special movie nights where films are shown as the climbers climb.

“I envision Long Lines Climbing to be more than just a climbing gym or a place for yoga,” he said. “I want it to be a community center with a number of different uses.”

Looks like a dedicated climber like Erwin has landed a job where he can climb as much as possible, doesn’t it?

“You’d think it would, wouldn’t you,” he laughed. “Maybe things will change but I spend more time managing a climbing gym than climbing rock faces.”

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