Meet Sarah Tetzlaff, Scarpa Brand Ambassador

Meet Sarah Tetzlaff, Scarpa Brand Ambassador

Sarah Tetzlaff recently joined our team of Brand Ambassadors, representing Scarpa footwear. Here is her story. 

I am a semi-professional very-not-paid-at-all Sport Climber. Contrary to popular belief, this is very different from being a ‘rock climber’, though I often tell people that I am a Rock Climber to avoid a long boring explanation. In short, Rock Climbers are dirtbags who climb on real rock outside, whereas Sport Climbers are dirtbags who climb on plastic holds inside. I have been dragging myself up those walls now for over 7 years, starting out when I was 12 years old. 

Now here comes the long boring explanation. Sport Climbing is made up of three disciplines; Speed, Lead and Bouldering. Some people choose to specialise in one or two of these disciplines, but at the moment I train for all three. I love them all as they are so unique and different in themselves; in Lead the aim is to get the highest on a 15m overhung climb, testing your endurance and technique; in Bouldering the aim is to complete as many of 5 ‘boulder problems’ as possible- a boulder problem is normally 6-8 movements long and is a more strength/power based discipline; and in Speed the aim is to get to the top of the 15m high wall as fast as possible, making it a pure explosive power challenge. The speed route never changes around the world so it makes it easier to knock down your speed time- the current world record is 5.48s (M) and 6.99s (F). Training for all three is difficult as they work such different energy systems in the body, but I really enjoy the challenge and it makes the training very changeable and exciting. 


My competition career in this sport began in 2016. In 2017 I competed in my first international competition, the Oceania Championships. I accidentally won the competition. And by doing so I accidentally qualified for the 2018 Youth Olympics. I say accidentally as I had no coach at the time and was training myself based off things I’d read on the internet, and didn’t really have any expectations on doing well at all. So then began the start of a crazy journey!

The day after my last school exam I moved away from home in Wellington to Mt Maunganui, where I began training full time for the Youth Olympics. Along the way I competed at several Open World Cups, grew up a lot and developed some pretty big shoulders. After the Youth Olympics campaign was done and dusted, I burnt out big time, then came back fired up for the 2019 season. Last year I competed in 9 Open World Cups, the Youth World Champs and the Open World Champs over the course of 2.5 months. I also racked up a pretty good collection of silver medals back on home turf. 

This year I’m focusing on improving my areas of weakness that I identified in my European trip last year- originally this wasn’t quite the plan. The Oceania Olympic qualifier on 28/29 March was our original goal this year, though this and the rest of our season was promptly canceled due to the pandemic. Gutting as this is, it’s also been a great opportunity mentally to deal with sudden change. Luckily we did manage to squeeze in one competition this year, Speed National Champs, where I broke the NZ female speed record (11.3s), and then true to form placed 2nd in the final. I’m really excited actually to have this forced time at home to work on my finger strength, flexibility, power and technique. Especially as I don’t quite have the perfect set up to train, it makes things uncomfortable and forces you to be adaptive and creative and sometimes even a little bit silly. Later on in the year I am looking forward to chipping away at my Speed time, as well as some outdoor rock climbing projects. 

Some non-climbing information about me…
I also sometimes have a life outside of climbing. I am a climbing coach for little monkeys, an unqualified self-proclaimed PT, a barista at a vegan cafe, a trail runner and a cat lover. Later this year I will also be a university student, studying health, sport and human performance at Waikato University. 

Photo Credits: Brydie Photography, Judah Plester