Selfies with Jason Momoa: The Mountainous Climb of So iLL
I’m lost in Climb So iLL. Despite having walked the halls of this rock climbing gym in St. Louis at least 15 times before, I’m lost. When brothers David and Daniel Chancellor and longtime friend Ian Anderson joined forces in 2010 to rehab the historic Powerplant at the City Hospital into an innovative gym, the brothers had already been building the So iLL empire that now boasts two climbing gym sites, two charities, product lines recognized worldwide and a massive following that includes celebrity climbers like Chris Sharma, Isaac Caldiero, Aaron Ralston, Toshi Takeuchi and Kevin Jorgenson.
I make my way down a concrete staircase searching for the bathroom and carefully wind through a maze of workout rooms punctuated with neon climbing equipment. I pass a handful of gym members I recognize, all invited here tonight for a private event featuring a few special guests. They’re giddy. You see, the Chancellor brothers have managed to sustain a climbing holds business that they built in their parent’s basement as teenagers, not only because of a dedicated team and great business instincts.
They are—in short—incredible hype men.
I’ve known David Chancellor for around 10 years, and when he called to invite me to tonight’s event, he said, “You can’t tell anyone about this. I mean, no one. This can’t get out.” They’ve perfected the art of starting a buzz.
I make my way around a corner flanked with industrial pipes paying homage to the building’s history and run into another staircase. I hear people talking at the top and breathe a sigh of relief as I make my way up—believing I’ve found the entrance to the gym. Wrong. When I emerge at the top of the stairs, American Ninja Warrior Meagan Martin, “Aquaman” and “Game of Thrones” star Jason Momoa and a handful of the Climb So iLL crew are laughing around a table, drinking Guinness. This is the kind of company they keep now.
After we have a laugh about my ramble through the labyrinth that is Climb So iLL, David Chancellor welcomes me with a hug and a beer. He walks me over to a table lined with perfectly placed climbing gear to introduce me to Momoa’s new signature collection, “ON THE ROAM,” created in collaboration with So iLL. It’s a simple, classic style of street shoes and multipurpose bags touched with his favorite color palette that is best described as “Modern Earth.” Each piece includes a callout to his triangular patterned tattoo, called “Niho Mano.” If you find Momoa on Instagram (@prideofgypsies) you’ll often see him donning pieces.
“Jason and I sparked a connection because we got involved with climbing around the same time. We’ve traveled to the same climbing areas and bought products from the same climbing brands growing up. He’s a genuine rock climber, so the collaboration on this line has been refreshing. We are often working on rock climbing-specific products, so it’s a fun shift to work on projects that include products everyone can use,” says Daniel Chancellor.
The event tonight is to pump the new collection and raise awareness for 1Climb—a nonprofit partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs to build climbing gyms for kids across America (Momoa is a big contributor).
The evening was also put together to introduce a handful of very lucky Climb So iLL members to Martin and Momoa. And the sky-high gym, just outside the door where we are now, is humming with climbers ready to set sail with Aquaman himself.
“The event was a magical evening and one that will resonate with the community for years to come,” says David Chancellor. “We are extremely blessed to work with high-caliber teams both at So iLL and Climb So iLL. Jason and Meagan just add gasoline to the fire. Both of these individuals are extremely successful but have a sincerity that is warm and welcoming. Their kindness is contagious.”
After I take a selfie with Momoa, he hands me his phone to snap a pic of Martin and him. He’s fanning-out himself. He’s a lifelong climber, and its apparent that this whole group have become buddies. As we stand together, he jokes with her and chats with the So iLL guys about climbing stories. After I take the photo with his cell, he walks away, leaving me with an iPhone that undoubtedly houses shots of his wife Lisa Bonet, and perhaps secrets that the room outside (and perhaps our readership) may be dying to know. But instead of pocketing my new-found merchandise, I flip the camera around, grab Martin and Hannah Chancellor (Daniel’s wife) and start snapping selfies. I mean, what’s a girl to do?
Peep the new So iLL X Jason Momoa line on So iLL’s Instagram @soill. Learn more about the St. Louis brand on Youtube. Test your skills at Climb So iLL in St. Louis or the brand-new rock climbing facility set to open soon in St. Charles. And consider getting involved with 1Climb.
Photos by Ryan White, courtesy of So iLL.