Doug Englekirk


Photo by John Dickey / dickeyphoto.com

Climber, General Contractor, Family Man, Surfer, Poker Player, Christian; Zephyr Cove, Nevada

Doug Englekirk, 47, has navigated the American road for 28 years, but today the 1990s comp crusher usually reaches the crags via his single-engine Cessna Centurion. A self-described type A person, Englekirk competed in the World Cup from 1990 to ’94 (two top-10 finishes) and was the US National Sport Champion from 1992 to ’94. He’s also ticked To Bolt or Not to Be (5.14a; three days), singlepush redpointed El Potrero’s El Sendero Luminoso (5.12+, 15 pitches), and this October fired off the Yosemite V 5.13s Quantum Mechanic, on Washington Column, and the Westie Face of Leaning Tower. Along with raising two sons (Nate, 20, and Robert, 12) with his wife, Dana, he runs Englekirk Construction, in Zephyr Cove, Nevada; and Beam Custom Construction, in Arroyo Grande, California. (Englekirk says he’s a “general contractor who climbs when he can.”) Otherwise, Englekirk’s big-wave surfing off Hawaii with Randy Leavitt, kite surfing at Pismo Beach, or competing in the World Series of Poker pre-events. Superceding it all, he says, is “a daily relationship with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.”

I live in my parents’ house in Tahoe, but we’re caretakers. In Arroyo Grande, we share a house with my in-laws. I have a strong sense of family.

I was 18 when I got my pilot’s license, at Gunnel Aviation in Santa Monica. In 2000, my business partner and I bought a company plane — that’s when I got back into flying. We try to write off most trips.

I started climbing in the early 1980s, initially with a church youth group at Stoney Point and around LA. I bought Royal Robbins’ Rockcraft books and taught myself. I started out trad climbing in J–Tree, Tuolumne, Yosemite. Everything was on lead; falling was failing. If I fell, I’d pull my rope and leave to try another day, so I generally chose routes right at my onsight limit.

When I met Leavitt [mid-1980s], I was introduced to trying harder stuff — that it was OK to fall and try again. He taught me about hangdogging. I wasn’t against it before; it just didn’t occur to me.

I trained with Tony Yaniro from 1989 to ’95. Now I train on my home gym (when there’s time), doing power-endurance with 20 to 30 moves. We [Leavitt et al.] used to do things like climb the underside of a 4x4 leaning at a 10-to-20-degree angle, using small notches. Just up and down. Boring.

The World Cup was very satisfying. I do well under pressure, so it brought out my best. [Eventually], I lost motivation — I had too much time, so I wasted it. The lack of motivation had to do with dealing with rest days in Europe, where I had little to do apart from climbing.

I lived in Lynn Hi ll’s house in France intermittently from 1992 to ’94, putting in a wood ceiling, etc. In Europe, everything costs a lot and we were always on a budget. She bought the materials; I built.

 


I remember being in Germany, watching Jerry Moffatt fall off a 5.12c and then laugh about being out of shape. I thought that was humorous. ‘I’ll get back in shape and climb 5.14 again,’ Moffatt said.

Once, a bunch of us — Bobbi [Bensman], Hans [Florine], Kevin Sessler, and I — were driving in Spain in Steve Schneider’s Citröen. We’d bought the car in Germany, but it was titled in Schneider’s name. The Spanish police pulled us over and took the car, since the registered owner wasn’t present — however, the five to six extra license plates (long story) and the chalk (‘cocaine’) didn’t help. We had to hitchhike to the nearest train station.

To Bolt or Not to Be [the States’ first 5.14] was cool in that I probably got it faster, or fastest at that time (1991/’92), than anyone else. Also, I got lucky — I call it the Lord’s favor — with conditions.

Every time I get close to the bar, someone moves it just out of reach.

The way my wife and I met, she read a profile of me in Climbing [No. 145]. She was carrying around the magazine and telling her mom I was the guy she’d marry. I had a mark on me and didn’t even know it. Dana lived in Bishop; I lived in Mammoth Lakes. She found out my church, came one Sunday, and gave her number to my friend, so I could call her — which I did. Four months later, we married. God’s provision, basically.

I like adrenaline – like, when I’m playing in the World Series of Poker [$1,500 buy-in], catching a big wave, competing in the World Cup. My stomach’s in a knot, heart racing. All take skill, too. The reward of overcoming fear is worth the anxiety.

With getting older (not old — I’ll always be in denial about that), I’ve noticed it takes more to motivate me and longer to recover. I might not be able to pull down as hard, but I still enjoy pushing my limits. Even if it’s a 5.11 alpine route and not a cutting-edge sport route. I don’t see myself doing 5.14s anymore. My passion right now is surfing. I don’t have that singular focus like Scott Milton or Schneider.

 


ONLINE EXCLUSIVE EXTEDENDED INTERVIEW
by Chris Van Leuven / cvl.me

What are some upcoming projects?
I’m a contractor. We own a piece of property that we’re about to sell. I just got my instructor-flying license and I’m teaching my son to fly. I might start flying for a local parachuting company. I’ve never flown for a commercially, though I’ve had a commercial license for 8 years. I’ve parachuted a few times. I might end up doing this more. I used to want to BASE jump…I was going to get into with Randy Leavitt but he was retiring at that point (in the late 80s). I’m easily distracted by activities.

Being from Nevada poker is one of my interests. Went surfing this morning. I never got around to freeing the Regular NW Face on Half Dome (the author and Doug freed the route together in a day soon after this interview). Might do that this summer. Maybe Golden Gate (we also attempted Golden Gate). I’m open to having fun on Lurking Fear to get on shape on and then maybe send Golden Gate. This is for the summer and fall. I don’t see myself doing 5.14s anymore; my passion right now is surfing. That takes precedent over other sports. I don’t have that single focus like Scott Milton, Steve Schneider. Climbing is the one I stuck with the longest. I’ve always been easily distracted. 

Half dome and El Cap in-a-day.
I wouldn’t do it again because for me climbing in general is actually about free climbing and not speed. I’ll do el cap in a day if I get to free as much as possible. I can go up and climb 80% free the nose in a day and feel really good about it. Climbing 60% free when doing both in a day is less satisfying…when you’re short fixing, fiddling with the Gri Gri…it’s not as satisfying. That’s why I wouldn’t do it again…that and it’s a lot of work.

I started out trad climbing in J-Tree, Tuolumne and Yosemite. I transitioned into sport climbing in the late 80s when Randy Leavitt taught me about hang dogging. Up to that point if I fell I would pull my rope and leave. When I was introduced to sport climbing it opened me up to different training techniques, with Tony Yaniro, from ‘89 –‘95. I kinda stopped competing and got back into trad climbing. I learned to hang dog – I hang dog now. I wasn’t against it before…it just didn’t occur to me to hangdog. I got back into trad climbing in ‘96, around the time I got married. In ‘97 is when we had our baby and I cut back on climbing quite a bit.

 


What has changed for you over the years, what has stayed the same?
The bouldering part I don’t think I can appreciate as much as a lot of people can. A big line is appealing to me. I appreciate boulderers and their strength, but to me it was striking to see big lines in Squamish, that is what drew me, not the boulders in the damp forest. (Doug completed Midnight Lighting for the first time this fall.) 

Fear is?
My wife is not too concerned. I don’t have fears of the future or dying, when I’m surfing I can definitely feel the fear. I like to feel myself in situations…I like adrenaline…like when I’m playing in the world series of poker (I compete in one of the 30 pre events, $1500 buy in), catching a big wave, competing in the world cup. They all seem to have a common thread…my stomach in a knot, doing activities that take skill…it gets my heart racing.

There’s a certain amount of anxiety if I’m up to the challenge and the reward keeps me coming back for more. It’s much easier to sit on the beach and watch the waves crashing…but the paddling out and catching the waves…and surf, well the reward of overcoming the fear is worth the anxiety. The apprehension before we set out to do El Cap and Half Dome. All this work and surfing is going to go into this. To actually do it the satisfaction allows me to live life to the fullest – god gave me this life and I’m going to live life to the fullest.

My weakness is?
I’m easily distracted. Maybe I’m so busy running from one activity to the other I don’t sit back and enjoy the moment as much as I could. I think I’m getting better at that. I’m not very scheduled. My family is pretty spur of the moment. We don’t generally plan things too far out in advance….I take things as they come.

I notice you smile a lot.
I’m an optimist. Things are going to work out. I don’t worry too much about things. I think having faith helps me be an optimist. Even if something is bad, it happens for a reason…with an optimistic outlook.

Where do I see myself in 5 years?
I don’t plan that far in advance. I have no idea. My business partner always has these big plans…I just don’t plan out that far ahead.

I redpointed the Teflon Corner (on FreeRider/Salathé Wall) at one point. That thing was desperate. I was up there with Jim Herson. I’ve always liked stemming corners.

My airplane.
I was 18 when I got my pilots licence. The idea was we were all going to buy a plane with my dad’s business partner and we were all going to get aplane and fly together. But then the partner died in plane crash which put a damper on things. In 2000 I was 38, my parents hired myself and my business partner to build a house for them in palm springs. We basically bought a plane for the company to commute back and fourth while we did this job. That’s when I got back into flying and in the process of that I got a plane that carries lots of stuff. We could write most of it off. I have Cesna Centurion T20. Single engine 6 seater.

 



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