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Community Spotlight: Phil Kaminski, From Cornfields to Brooklyn

Meet new climber Phil Kaminski, who ran from the cornfields of North Carolina to the big city of New York. He’s battled synovial carcoma cancer and now, is completely psyched on climbing.

Phil Kaminski, at Brooklyn Boulders in our Gowanus location.
Phil Kaminski, at Brooklyn Boulders in our Gowanus location.

Who are you and how did you get to Brooklyn Boulders?

I’m Phil, and I’m from North Carolina. I came to New York because I was looking for adventure…Greenville is a town of corn fields, tobacco, soy beans, pigs, cows and chickens.

I’ve lived in New York for six years now, and recently when I looking for activities to do once you’re an amputee, I discovered adaptive sports, and through that I learned about Adaptive Climbing Group (ACG). Before my surgery, I was really into tennis and basketball, but I didn’t want to participate activities that I once loved and not be at the level that I used to be.

So I started climbing.

How long have you been climbing for?

Just about a month now, but I had dabbled in climbing here and there growing up and in college. But in a month, it’s completely changed my life. Post-operation, I was pretty down and gained a significant amount of weight, as I was lethargic. I wasn’t able to do anything social, and I was even nervous about coming to the first ACG event at Brooklyn Boulders.

I was afraid it would depress me further, but as soon as I showed up I knew it was something I could do well. I came in jeans and a button up shirt. Kareemah asked me if I wanted to give it a shot, and I gave it a try. It’s changed me completely in a month in terms of being social and active.

Phil, scaling the walls at Brooklyn Boulders
Phil, scaling the walls at Brooklyn Boulders

What’s your climbing philosophy?

I like to view each wall and each route as a puzzle, as something I piece together as I climb. I love the mental aspect. As I’m learning to climb, I’m discovering knowing when to rest and finding my limits. But figuring out to surpass them is an amazing feeling.

What are you current biggest projects, on and off the wall?

I did my first 5.10 the other day! My next goal is on the bouldering wall. I’m at a V2, but my goals are to learn proper techniques and to train my body to expand my muscle memory, and more flexibility. A lot of the time when I’m climbing I notice myself getting stuck or stiff. I want to work on more natural moments and complete a 5.11 within the next year.

Off the wall, one thing that I learned post-surgery is to focus on things that you enjoy. I’m really big into photography and writing, and go to a lot of shows and concerts with my camera. I’m looking to write and do more photography.

What’s your favorite thing about the BKB community? 

I’ve never met a jerk. Everyone is just super nice here. I had a difficult time getting back into some sort of social routine and BKB has totally been receptive, kind, encouraging and non-judgemental when it comes to being an amputee. It’s mean so much to me to have that after having gone through so much.


Say hi to Phillip next time you see him at BKB & you can follow him on Instagram here.

We’re also having an upcoming SPREAD THE BKBLOVE celebration, where we’ll be selling $10 donation day passes to support organizations like Adaptive Climbing Group, leading up to our adaptive-styled climbing competition & fundraiser, I AM ADAPTIVE on April 9, 2016.

Register here