Chalk Rebels are a company that we hold close to our heart, as they try to make the climbing sport better through sharing information, disrupting habits and providing climbers with excellent products in a way that we think is a bit rebellious in itself. Chalk Rebels are cool, but they’re not cool with the amount of chalk we’re all using in gyms and on the rocks. We felt that was a good topic for a blog, but who better to talk about this than the Chalk Rebels themselves? Here goes.
Just so you are aware, Chalk Rebels just released their crowdfunding for a more sustainably produced chalk. Get yours here now!
CHALK REBELS are Francis Dierick & Tianyi Gu. Passionate climbers from Belgium and The Netherlands. We produce liquid magnesium and skincare products for climbers. Our mission is to reduce the use of magnesium powder in the climbing world. Too much magnesium causes unhealthy dust clouds in climbing gyms and ugly, whitewashed rocks outside. We develop alternatives & educate about the subject.
I (Francis) find this important because after 30 years of climbing I see a huge difference on our beloved rocks. Popular areas (e.g. Berdorf) and boulders (e.g. Karma, Font) are completely white. With climbing becoming even more popular (Olympics), the over-frequency of areas may eventually lead to closures. Therefore, we try to encourage moderate use of magnesium in order to prevent further damage.
We have called ourselves “Chalk” Rebels in a kind of Anglicism because what we call “magnesium” is simply called chalk in English. Chemically completely wrong, but now established among climbers. And because we have international ambitions, we simply call it Chalk. Rolls off the tongue more easily. And many of our partners don’t speak Dutch at all. We produce in Spain, for example.
Chalky gyms, dusty workplaces
In the climbing halls, the overuse of magnesium is problematic because it creates clouds of fine dust. Not much fun for the workers. And certainly not fun when you have to vacuum up the dust every day. The impact on health is still unclear: on the one hand, the particles are too small to cause health problems in the long term. On the other hand, there is hardly any climbing hall that meets dust standards for workplaces, and magnesium does have a short-term health impact. So the message is to cut down. And liquid magnesium is a good alternative. Fun fact by the way: pot balls have virtually no impact on dust in the hall. The only thing that works is NO powder or switching to liquid.
Outside, the impact is mainly visual and not so nice for the sport element. There is no more onsight climbing in many areas. All grips are nicely marked with white tick marks or completely whitewashed. Visual pollution can also become a problem because we share our climbing areas with other nature lovers and they naturally question this pollution. Not to mention recent scientific research shows that magnesium has an impact on moss and plant growth even if it does not leave visible traces.
The product of magnesium powder is also not a very clean activity. It is extracted in large mines, 70% of it in China, in a process that uses a lot of fossil fuels and causes a lot of local pollution. Easily visible on satellite images.
What Chalk Rebels does
CHALK REBELS tries to help in two ways. 1) Product development. We have developed an alternative form of liquid “magnesium” which is transparent and does not leave any traces on rock or create dust. We are also developing new forms of classic white “liquid” magnesium. The latest innovation is that we have found a formula that is twice as effective as normal magnesium and that is extracted from seawater. So no more polluting mines. 2) Prevention. We realise that magnesium use is completely ingrained in the climbing world. We think it’s a bit like smoking. A bad habit. Forty years ago, it was perfectly normal. You can’t change it overnight. Hence our slogan “LESS CHALK”: let’s simply start cutting down. Switching to liquid whenever possible is already a first step. But no magnesium is also possible. Simon Montmory, for example, climbs 8C barefoot & without magnesium.
What we and you can do
We think that the Olympic Games will further popularise the sport. We think it is important to encourage beginning climbers to use liquid magnesium. Because what you start with, you continue with.
We recommend the following to everyone:
Use LESS magnesium powder. Just start using less. You need much less than you think.
Use liquid magnesium as a base layer when sport climbing or as a complete replacement when bolstering.
Brush your grips after climbing.
Climbing gyms may encourage the use of liquid magnesium. That’s good for their employees, good for the climbers & good for their wallets. Because all that dust adds up to extra cleaning costs.
Bonus tip for dirtbags, become a dirtbag dealer!
In November Chalk Rebels will be running a crowdfunding campaign to switch their production process from mined magnesium-carbonate to a more eco-friendly seawater-based process. Subscribe to their IG to stay in the loop.