Sierra Blair-Coyle, 18, Talks Becoming A Professional Rock Climber (PHOTOS)

By Sierra Tishgart

Most of us have enjoyed the thrill of rock climbing at some point, whether it's at camp, the mall, or a ritzy gym. But we often don't think of it as a professional sport. Sierra Blair-Coyle started climbing at her local mall for fun, and what began as a recreational pastime has turned into a successful athletic career. In 2010, she was the youngest qualifier for the World Cup, and she recently placed seventh in the 2012 American Bouldering Series Nationals. Despite competing in more than 100 climbing and bouldering contests, Sierra's made her education a priority, and she recently scored a scholarship to Arizona State University. We spoke to her about her training regimen, workout outfits, and personal goals.

Teen Vogue: How did you get started doing competitive rock climbing?

"There's an outdoor mall that's pretty close to my house and there's a climbing wall there. I'd try to drag my parents there every day because I thought it was so much fun. From there, I joined a climbing team and started training and competing. I was eight, and I didn't necessarily know all of the work that needed to be put into it at that point. But I think when I was about twelve, I realized I wanted to do this on the national level."

As a young female rock climber, do you feel like you're in the minority? "It's fun to have lots of guys around, but, honestly, in climbing whether you're a boy or a girl or if you're ten or thirty years old, everyone's equal."

What kind of strength does climbing entail?

"It's definitely a full-body sport, but core strength is extremely important because it links everything together. It's good to have strong legs, but what gets most developed in climbers is the upper body core and forearms."

What do you consider the highlight of your career so far?

"My best moment was the first time I made the finals at a professional competition. It was when I was fourteen in 2008. I'd worked so hard and overcome so much at that point, it was amazing."

What do you hope to achieve in the sport?

"I want climbing to become mainstream like other sports, and I'd like to help bring climbing into the limelight and make it really popular. I'd also like to win a professional competition. My next professional competition is actually in Seattle in two weeks. It's called the SBC Pro, which is funny because those are also my initials!"

What do you like to wear when you're climbing?

"A sports bra and shots. Roxy sponsors me, and the brand has a really good athletic line. I'm always kind of gross and sweaty, so the less long and baggy clothes, the better for me."

Do you listen to music when you're training?

"I listen to a variety of music. I really like Linkin Park."

You just started college. Why did you decide to go to school full time?

"It's really important to have a degree. I'm going to climb forever, but just in case it doesn't work out or if I get injured or something, I'm going to need something else I can do. I'm definitely going to be able to balance school and climbing, and it's easy to fit in with my training schedule."

What are the chances that rock climbing will become an Olympic sport?

"The world championships in Paris just happened, and the Olympic committee went to go watch that. Rock climbing is on a list of sports to be chosen for the 2020 Olympics, so hopefully it'll make it in!"