UBC's 37th Storm the Wall was the largest ever, with over 830 teams and an estimated 3,800 participants, according to Aaron Mui, the manager of marketing & communications for UBC Athletics and Recreation. Much of this growth came from the Just For Fun category, according to manager of Intramural Programs at UBC REC, Jason McManus. This year’s Storm saw 275 Just For Fun teams. McManus credits this to students' desires to be part of a UBC tradition that has remained largely unchanged for 37 years and a “Get Over It,” marketing campaign.
But McManus and his team of over 230 student volunteers revamped the event this year with a new community festival that featured music, kids' activities and of course, plenty of storming. The event drew 150 local children and community members on March 22.
Thursday’s Party on the Plaza saw top teams and individual competitors, who had qualified through the previous two rounds, completing the race and storming the wall in front of packed bleachers outside the SUB. Students and staff circled the wall and cheered on the competitors, spilling out from the SUB’s balcony. A beer garden, food truck festival, sponsor tents and a health and wellness fair also joined the festivities. The atmosphere was electric and the excitement palpable in the warm spring air. Spectators basked in the glorious sunshine, cheered on the Super Ironpeople and other competitors while listening and laughing along with the music and hilarious antics of the announcers.
“It’s the type of experience that animates campus and gives it life,” said McManus. “It makes UBC students proud.”
This mentality was echoed by Tara Stamnes, a senior student program developer for UBC REC. “It’s the last hurrah. It’s a celebration of the people actually competing,” said Stamnes. Stamnes’ favourite aspect of the event were the teams who competed in costumes, including a team that stormed the wall in miniskirts in the pouring rain and team Storm the Onesie.
After Winnie the Pooh, of Storm the Onesie, boosted teammate Cookie Monster over the wall and a Minion pulled up a penguin (or panda?), the team discussed their rigorous training regimen. “We’ve been training for months,” said Winnie. “My parents told me it was why I was conceived.”
Slightly more believably, Super Ironwoman winner Madeleine de Lotbiniere-Bassett, one of only two women to clear the wall with the help of only one person, claimed the hardest part was clicking enter when she was signing up.
“Amazing,” was all she had to say after finishing, between smiles and catching her breath. Lotbiniere-Bassett managed to scale the 12 foot wall with a mixture of pure determination, teamwork and athletic ability. The crowd exploded with cheers when Lotbiniere-Bassett and fellow Super Ironwoman Allie, under the team name Wall Me Maybe 3.0, reached their helpers' hands and pulled themselves over the wall. The excitement of the crowd rivalled that of other notable UBC sporting events this year like the Winter Classic. Storm brought students, faculty and members of the community together for a week of athletics, silliness and friendly competition.
While none of the Super Ironmen finished the race by successfully climbing the wall unassisted, they kept the crowd (and the photographers balanced comedically on top) on their toes. Throwing themselves at the wall over and over again, their fingers brushed the glory that was the ledge, just missing their mark every time.
While they were desperately attempting to get over it, others were enjoying the Party on the Plaza nearby. “Storm the Wall becomes more of a community and less of an event,” said McManus.
McManus and UBC REC are looking to continue to expand the Storm experience and involved even more students, staff and community members. “I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag yet,” he said, “but early next year students are going to be very excited.”