CLIMB // 01 JUNE 2022
LADY CRUSH CREW
“I love to be the connector for people,” smiled Lady Crush Crew founder Sabrina Padua. Founded in 2018, Lady Crush Crew focuses on empowering cis-women and trans folks through climbing. “What really makes me happy is at a meet up, these women find friendships and then they continue those outside of the meet up. I’ll be on Instagram scrolling and they’re actually friends now. They hang out and they see each other all the time.”
Bouldering for the first time in 2013, Padua could have never anticipated the path the sport would take her down.
Though she enjoyed bouldering when first introduced, the cost of membership wasn’t sustainable. Dropping by the gym when she had the extra time and cash, Padua was only able to start climbing consistently when she was provided a monthly pass through her work and soon she was hooked. It was an easy decision when she began her career post graduation and started making more money, to cancel everything else and commit to a climbing membership. “That’s why I kind of say I’ve only been climbing since 2017,” she explained. “That’s when I decided, okay, I’m just going to go for it. This is what I’m going to do. This is going to be my workout. From there, that’s where my journey started.”
Climbing at the gym regularly and with an outgoing and personable personality to boot, Padua quickly made friends. Due to differing schedules, Padua climbed with different friends on different days, but it wasn’t long before the self-titled extrovert started scheming a way to bring her friends together. “I’ve always wanted a group of girls to do [activities] with so, naturally, that’s what I wanted to have with climbing. I started a big group chat. I think it was on Instagram and I added all the girls that I knew.” As the group organized and figured out scheduling, Padua ended up with a group of five women, including herself, that were able to meet up and climb together regularly.
Before their first session together, the group was already talking about making an Instagram page to document their climbing. Padua, imbedded with a branding mentality from her background in fashion marketing, jumped on the opportunity, creating both a page and a logo for the group. Originally titled “GRRRL Crushed”, the name was reworked until the group landed on Lady Crush Crew. “I don’t even remember who said that or where it came from,” laughed Padua. “But Lady Crush Crew was presented, and we were like, oh, that sounds cool. That’s it!”
Documenting their projects and providing quick introductions on the Lady Crush Crew page, the group shared their climbing journey to the masses. Slowly the group started seeing messages from other female climbers, cheering them on and asking if they could join. Padua was thrilled to have more women join them. “In the beginning, we were only climbing at one gym, so it was easy to do meetups. When we were going we’d say, hey, we’re all going to be here on this day at this time. If you want to come hang out with us, we’ll be there.”
At first the meetups consisted of extended friend groups of the Crush Crew, but every month they continued to offer an open invitation for whoever wanted to join them. More and more women began to join the Crew and members were recognized while out climbing. Maggie, now a leader of Lady Crush Crew, met Padua by spotting her in the gym during a session. “That’s when we started realizing that there was really a need for [meetups],” explained Padua. “Women were craving it, because the more that we did it, more and more people came.”
In 2019, when Padua moved from San Francisco down to L.A., she was determined to expand the Crew. Unaware of how far their reach had grown, Padua hosted a meetup at Stoney Point Park, a popular local bouldering spot. “I posted, if anyone wants to come and boulder with Lady Crush Crew, we’ll be there. Come meet us at this time,” recalled Padua. “There were over 40 people that came, and it was just me [hosting]. At that very moment, I was texting the girls in San Francisco. I told them, I think we bit off a little bit more than we can chew.”
Now, with ambassadors across several states and the knowledge gained from trial and error, Lady Crush Crew has been able to comfortably host many meetups in California and beyond. A supportive environment for any level of climber, Padua has noticed that these gatherings greatly benefit those just beginning to boulder. “Typically, as you climb longer, people don’t want to be beta sprayed,” explained Padua. “But what I’ve learned is that a newer climber, they kind of want that because they need the guidance, asking ‘how am I going to do this? I need someone to tell me.’ So we’ll put them on boulders that are not intimidating, and we’ll help them with beta throughout their climbs.”
“[Then] people who have been climbing a little bit longer and have done this a few more times. They assume the role of a helper. They know that they’re not there to send hard grades and project stuff. They’re there for the community and to make friends.”
Lady Crush Crew continued to grow and host more events, but in March 2020 everything was put on pause. Absorbing everything coming out in the news and internal discussions with members in healthcare, the group decided to cancel three months of events to keep members safe. With an uncertain future ahead of them, Lady Crush Crew was put in a position where many others would give up and disband. The thought never crossed the Crew’s minds. Instead Padua and the other leaders were asking themselves how they could help.
“We did multiple fundraisers during the Pandemic. I think the very first one that we did we partnered with a bunch of brands to gain raffle items and you could buy raffle tickets,” she explained. “Essentially what we did was we raised money to donate to a nonprofit organization that provided PPE gear for healthcare workers. We shifted our efforts from climbing to just community outreach in general.”
Along with raising money for healthcare workers, Lady Crush Crew also hosted a virtual Bingo fundraiser for the Hollywood Food Coalition. “They’re a nonprofit who provides food and resources and blankets and tents and for people who have nowhere to live.”
In tandem with their community support efforts, Padua made sure to provide resources and support for the women that were suddenly cutoff from their meetups and climbing in general. “We partnered with La Sportiva because one of our leaders, she’s also an athlete for La Sportiva. So, through her connections with the brand, we were able to partner with their athletes, both men and women and they did a speaker series,” said Padua. “We had Margo Hayes, who is a pro climber. She took over our stories for Lady Crush for one day and I remember after that meeting with Margo, we were like, I can’t believe we just had a video call. It was pretty surreal.”
Entering 2021 at a time when gyms and other spaces were opening up, but large group meetups were still discouraged, Lady Crush Crew was trying to figure out how to celebrate their third birthday. Padua and the team wanted to brainstorm a way to let their members feel that they were still part of a community without putting them in a position of unnecessary risk. The solution was a virtual climbing competition.
“We partnered with this app called Kaya. They partner with different gyms and all of the setters in the gym, they’ll put up climbs on the app. Then people can record themselves or take photos of themselves climbing and then post it on this app,” explained Padua. “It was a month long comp, and it was scored by volume. So it didn’t really matter how hard you climbed.
You scored one point for any climb you did and so if you can climb ten V0, that’s ten points. If you climb ten V5, that’s ten points. It doesn’t matter what the grade was. So we just kind of watched the scoreboard every day and actually it was pretty impressive how much people climbed.”
Now that Lady Crush Crew is able to meet in person again and back to a point of relative stability, Padua has started another project, Wildside Retreats. This project seeks to empower cis and trans women through a wide range of outdoor adventures, with the added desire of expanding the adventure women community. “I don’t only rock climb,” she explained. “I love offroading, snowboarding, snorkeling, and camping. I want to be able to provide opportunities for women to go on different adventures, so they could experience different things.”
The business also provides a way for Padua to support the ambassadors and leaders of Lady Crush Crew. “Because at Lady Crush Crew everything is free,” she explained. “We’re all donating our time, we’re all volunteers. But at Wildside Retreats, if a Lady Crush Crew Ambassador wanted to come on a retreat to be a group leader, for example, they would get paid for the work that they do.”
Padua continues to uplift women by partnering with female based businesses to supply all the equipment and meals at Wildside Retreats. At the retreat at Joshua Tree last year, the climbing guide company, the rental gear company, and even the caterers, were all businesses owned or co-owned by women.
Always moving forward, Padua has a list of goals for both Wildside Retreats and Lady Crush Crew.
“Some of the things that I want to accomplish personally for Lady Crush Crew is eventually I want it to be a nonprofit organization. I go back and forth to be only a community or a nonprofit, and I think eventually I would want it to be a nonprofit. But as far as bandwidth I don’t know if I’m there yet to manage a nonprofit, a career, my side business and all these things,” she explained and yes, Padua runs both projects alongside working a full-time job. “So that’s another thing that’s on a post-it that I’m sticking on the wall. But eventually, someday I’d love to be a nonprofit.”
“I would also love to do a Lady Crush Crew competition in a gym. There’s a huge comp that one of the gyms in California does. It’s called the Touchdown Women Up Competition. It’s a bouldering comp that lasts a few days and some of the athletes teach clinics. I would love to someday do something similar with Lady Crush Crew. That’s one of my goals.”
As for Wildside Retreats, after two successful trips to Joshua Tree last year, Padua plans on doubling the number of getaways this year.
Someday, Padua hopes to be able to dedicate all her time to Lady Crush Crew and Wildside Retreats. Still as she reflected on her plans for the upcoming year she couldn’t help but laugh at her ardent itinerary.
“Yeah, I’m super ambitious,” she chuckled. “A lot of people say, you have such an entrepreneurial mindset. I feel like I do, but a lot of it is just driven from things that I’m passionate about. If I didn’t believe in a lot of the things that I’m doing, I don’t think [Lady Crush Crew] would have opened as many doors.”