King Kevin

King Kevin. Photo Cole Gibson.

On December 21, a group of climbers from around Southern California, and in fact from around the country, gathered to pay our respects to the passing of our friend Kevin Curran. I think all told, there were over 60 people present.

I’d like to offer my immense gratitude to those who organized and attended this event on such short notice. Especially a huge thanks to Kevin’s partner Lily, captain Gloria, the artistic talents of Sky, and SoCal media icon Cole, without whose efforts this day could not have happened. It was therapeutic and fitting in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible and absolutely essential to my own healing.

Thanks also to everyone present for their patience while my wife and I caught up to the group. We actually ran in, straight from the airport, due to flight complications. Everyone waited for us to begin and for that I am tremendously thankful. We all shared feelings and stories, and I read the words I had been writing since the day after Kevin’s passing. I was astonished by the honesty, openness and breadth of what was shared.

After the ceremony, a group of climbers worked to establish a new highball in the Hilltop Zone. It was a boulder I remember discussing with Kevin several times, but we never put in any effort to prepare or try it. After some effort the beta was dialed, King Kevin was born, and an impressive send train began. Props to all those who contributed and participated in this effort. I know Kevin would have been so proud to see so many climbers of different backgrounds and experience levels coming together to create something special at Dry Falls.

A huge thanks to Cole, Alex Aristei, Alex Kendrall and others who captured photos and videos of the event. If anyone needs access to the media please let me know.

Finally if anyone would like to share any stories of Kevin, chat about bouldering development in Southern California, or just needs someone to listen, please reach out to me via DM or email. I know Kevin was an incredible listener, and his absence has left a huge hole in our hearts and our social circles. No one can ever replace that, but I know he would want me to do my best to listen in his stead.

The following is what I read at the gathering. Thank you to all who came, shared stories, listened, and threw down on some climbing.

Somewhere not far from here is a boulder problem that I named Niven’s Law. I named it that because Kevin and I had a long conversation about it while up here cleaning boulders. Niven’s Law says that it’s easier to destroy than it is to create. Easier to trash a climbing area than to steward one. Easier to tear a person down with words than to build them up. Creating is hard work. Kevin wasn’t the first person to climb up here, but he invested a huge amount of his creative energy in uncovering and stewarding Dry Falls.

Fundamentally, bouldering is about puzzles. Up here among these puzzles is a fitting place for us to be gathered. Kev loved puzzles. He’s the only person I’ve ever seen get physically angry at a video game for trying to teach him how to play the game. He did not want a tutorial. In bouldering it’s proper etiquette to ask before sharing information about a climb, to preserve for others their chance to solve the problem on their own. Kevin embodied that spirit.

As a friend Kevin gave me many gifts. The gift of trust, the gift of laughter, the gift of honesty. Honesty was very important to him and he would not hesitate to make his displeasure clear if he felt someone was being less than true. He was steadfast and amicable, quick to joke, and quick to laugh. Kevin was pleasant to be around, but not too worried about keeping up appearances, and that combination made him magnetic.

Anyone who knew Kevin can attest that he was incredible at bringing people together. His lens for much of life was to unify people in a common goal. In college Kevin was the glue of almost any group. He loved to listen and he reveled in opposing viewpoints. From the beginning of our friendship Kevin was teaching me that you learn best when you have your ears open.

Another gift Kevin gave me was friends – so many friends. The number of lives Kevin touched is truly inspiring. It feels like every time I would visit California to climb, I would run into someone new who knew Kevin, or he would introduce me to someone and they would say “hey, I know you, I’ve heard so much about you.” Kevin’s opinion of me preceded me and I’m still trying to live up to it.

It’s fair to say that in my college years, my social skills were less than adequate. Just knowing Kevin expanded my circle of friends exponentially. He never cared about acting cool or putting on a front. Kevin was Kevin, unapologetically. This had a way of making others feel comfortable in their own skin. “If he can be himself – so can I,” they would think.

Kevin also gave me the gift of partnership. It’s not an overstatement to say that climbing changed my life. Without this climbing journey I wouldn’t have my job, I wouldn’t have met my wife. Without this journey I wouldn’t have done half the things I’ve done, or be half the man I am today. And I took my first step on that journey with Kevin by my side.

We were already close friends when we started climbing. When your life changes that suddenly – when the path forward becomes crystal clear – the feeling of having a friend alongside you who feels the same way is impossible to describe. In those early years, climbing took us all over the west, including exploring Icicle Canyon, in Washington, a few minutes from where I live now.

Kevin was always a true critic and a fierce advocate. He would never hold back from encouraging me to do something, nor would he hold back from telling me when I was being a stubborn dumbass. In climbing, self-belief is a necessity for performing at your highest level. Well it’s a lot easier to believe in yourself when someone is by your side, believing in you. I’ve had friends in my life, but Kevin was a true partner. He taught me the meaning of fellowship.

While we lived far apart for the last many years, I’d often make my way south. And Kevin would give me more little gifts, little memories. Running out of water in the backcountry in Joshua Tree, looking for boulders, before guidebooks had GPS. Riding his OneWheel ahead of my wife and I on the approach to a new boulder he had found while we practically jogged to keep up. Kevin was infamously generous with new climbs he’d find. His dog, Ein, attempting to get frisky with my dog, Ty, while Ty slept. And of course, kicking my ass in pretty much every board game, whether he had played it before or not.

One time we had a falling out, the nature of which was a result of our strong personalities. And while I regret the couple years where I didn’t do my annual winter migration south, he gave me another gift when we reconciled. He showed me that adults can be humble. He showed me that he had grown as a person, and I knew that I had to do the same. Through that experience we both became better men, because men admit when they were wrong.

In life some people stay still, and you grow in another direction. Other times, you feel like you’re standing still and people shrink away from you slowly. Life is best when you grow with people. Kevin and I grew together and our friendship was one I counted on to help me be the best man I can be into my 40s and beyond. And while I know I can’t have that, I can count on my memories of Kevin. 

I can count on those memories to make me firm up my arguments, and be 100% sure that I have something right before I go spouting it.

I can count on those memories to push me to have one more try, because the camera still has battery so I must have some energy left too. 

I can count on those memories to connect me to other people. I’m so glad to know those of you I do, and I hope to get to know more of you better in the future.

I can count on those memories to remind me to be myself. To be absolutely, resolutely myself. Because no one else is going to do it for me. And I’m so, so thankful that I had Kevin’s example of that in my life.

Kevin was like no one else. And there’s no one else like Kevin.

As we go forth in our lives, as we explore these special places, let’s remember. Be honest with each other. Be forthright and to be creative. Build each other up. That’s what Kev would do.

Kevin Curran
May 26, 1987 – December 9, 2023

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