Written by Khristina Rhead, Edited by Hailey McFelia and Katherine Ku
Dominique Barry – you may have seen him coaching youth climbers at Sender One Playa Vista, making his way up the Torch at LAX, or sport climbing at popular outdoor crag, Malibu Creek. Currently, Dom is not just the Youth Programs Supervisor at Playa Vista, but is also a professional climber supported by well-known brands such as Arc’Teryx, La Sportiva North America, Organic Climbing, Sierra Nevada, and Field Station.
Born and raised in Southern California, Dom grew up succeeding at multiple sports– surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding, and originally only began climbing out of his involvement with snowboarding when he realized he needed to learn rope systems in order to get into more serious snow terrain. This is when he first went into a climbing gym and tried out bouldering.
Photo Credit: Eric Fallecker
Back in 2018, while living in Lake Tahoe, Dom decided to visit Sender One for the first time; he wanted to visit “Chris Sharma’s gym”, a hero of Dom’s, and a professional climber that invested in Sender One in its early days. A while later, Dom found himself without a home base after leaving Tahoe.
As luck would have it, Sender One was hiring, and Dom began working as a recreational team coach at the Santa Ana (SNA) location, the first Sender One gym to open in 2013. While at SNA, he transitioned to working in the climbing teams department, first leading the Youth Training Team and then coaching Sender One’s Youth Competition Team. Eventually, Dom transferred to Sender One LAX and led the youth program there as head coach.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Dom continued with Sender One as a member of the Crisis Management Team, but eventually, he decided to switch gears, opting to take some time off to travel again. This is when he found himself applying for a life changing experience, HBO’s The Climb, an adventure competition show that “represents the foundations of rock climbing and exploration of the human spirit.”
As one of the contestants on the show, which is hosted by Chris Sharma and actor/climber Jason Momoa, Dom traveled to Spain and Jordan where he competed against 9 other climbers in bouldering, sport, trad, and speed climbing. Although he ultimately came in 2nd place, he values the time spent on the show. He also said that members of Sender’s leadership team, like Wes Shih, Alice Kao, and Corey Cosby, have been incredibly supportive of him splitting his time between Sender and other professional climbing pursuits.
"[Climbing has] gone from escape to my method for expressing myself, to now how I pay my bills. It’s a fun way to connect my body to the world around me."
When asked what climbing means to him, he said, “Climbing has had many roles over the years. It’s gone from escape to my method for expressing myself, to now how I pay my bills. It’s a fun way to connect my body to the world around me.” Dom enjoys all types of climbing – sport, bouldering, and trad – but the thing loves most is “try hard climbing”, when it’s all or nothing and he can see what he’s made of. His favorite places to climb are Bishop, CA for bouldering, Rifle, CO or Catalonia, Spain for sport climbing, and Lake Tahoe, CA for trad climbing.
As someone that’s been climbing, especially at a professional level for a number of years, Dom believes that the climbing industry is amid a shift from the status quo to a new vision. This new vision allows athletes to say “I’m going my way,” and has started to reshape the relationship between brands and their athletes. Companies are increasingly encouraging their athletes to work with them to design pro shoe models based on their own needs and aspirations, similar to what Michael Jordan did with the Air Jordan. Additionally, they are more focused on empowering athletes from marginalized communities than ever before. This all gets him really psyched for the future of the sport, and he’s happy that rock climbing is giving a voice to others that have been silenced in the past.
Photo Credit: Maria Contreras Coll
However, he does still see issues within the industry. He believes that despite initiatives to bring awareness and exposure to less privileged rock climbers, the price of entry is still “way too high… Unfortunately, there is a race to put up as many gyms as possible without first addressing hey, who can actually access this.”
"Diversity shows others what is possible. Oftentimes, if you don’t see yourself in a certain space, you believe you’re not supposed to be there, which couldn’t be further from the truth. "
Photo credit: Eric Fallecker
In the same vein, when asked why diversity in climbing is important, Dom said he never saw anyone that looked like him actually participating in the sport as an athlete, but rather only in other roles, mentioning legendary action sport commentator Selema Masekela. “Diversity shows others what is possible. Oftentimes, if you don’t see yourself in a certain space, you believe you’re not supposed to be there, which couldn’t be further from the truth. In some cases it can be seen as life or death if someone doesn’t have [a sport as an] outlet, and all they have is exposure to something that’s detrimental to their well-being.”
Thank you, Dom, for being willing to be interviewed! You’re a great coach, fellow employee, and member of the Sender One community overall. We’re lucky to have you! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish in the future both within and outside of the climbing community.
To see what Dom is up to currently, follow him on Instagram @the_dommylama.