Fat Senders participants pose at Momentum Climbing Gym and get ready to climb!

Active-ism: Fat Senders Proves Bouldering Is For Every Body

Action Sports

Even as diet culture and Ozempic obsession permeate the online world, Fat Senders fights for the right of everyone to exist in the outdoors. When it was first founded by Sunni Ford, Fat Senders was a blog to share their experiences as a trans, fat rock climber. Ford has since nurtured it into a passionate, non-profit organization of members and allies, advocating for BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and larger-bodied individuals to engage with bouldering, climbing and other outdoor sports in a non-judgmental space. “I stepped away from the blogging part of it as I grew into letting go of justifying who I am and [focused on] just putting out fat joy content,” Ford says.

“I stepped away from the blogging part of it as I grew into letting go of justifying who I am and [focused on] just putting out fat joy content.”

Fat Senders now hosts two to four events each month. Most of these focus on experiencing nature—bouldering meet-ups, hikes and outdoor climbs—but the group also fills plenty of calendar space with fun social activities like skateboarding, fundraising and film screenings. They’ve even attended several climbing festivals, including Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival and Flash Foxy Climbing Festival.

Sunni posing with rope by the rock climbing wall.
By creating a body-positive climbing space, Ford is creating friendships and building confidence. Photo: John Taylor

This success is owed to the group’s dedication to fostering kindness and providing a safe space. “We make sure all of the language within the group, and surrounding the group, is inclusive,” says Ford. Fat Senders partners with gyms that are queer allies. At their meets, vulnerable members always have someone willing to accompany them into intimidating situations. They demonstrate an astounding degree of trust as they help adjust each others’ harnesses and cheer as they scale higher and then belay down the walls, the climbers completely anchored by those that support them from the ground. Together, they reach new heights.

Their meetings aren’t intimidating, though. Anyone—from the rookies to the masters—is always welcome as long as they help maintain a positive atmosphere. One of their newest members, Felix Willenburg, says, “People are so supportive here … but not in a way of pressuring you to push yourself beyond where you want to be [in] climbing. They’re just happy that you’re here … You can go ten feet up the wall and that’s great, and everyone is super proud of you.”

“They’re just happy that you’re here … You can go ten feet up the wall and that’s great, and everyone is super proud of you.”

Fat Senders’ reach has even gone national. With its base camp in Salt Lake City, as well as a sister branch in San Diego, the group has used its platform to push for greater size inclusivity everywhere. “Building community and safe spaces for people to engage in those sports is our main purpose,” says Ford, “but we also reach out to brands and lobby them to get bigger sizes. Most brands stop at around a size 12 [or] 14, so they’re missing an entire market that does want to go outside, does want to have waterproof things and does want to have harnesses that fit.”

Fat Senders participants climb and belay each other
Fat Senders aims to help individuals grow through accessible and affordable outdoor opportunity, combining education, accessibility, and affordability. Photo: John Taylor

This mission to educate and advocate is central for Ford. With around 12 years of experience in rock climbing, they are currently working to be certified as an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor to further expand Fat Senders’ potential for good. Ford says, “I’m hoping that we can blossom into more of an educational resource than we already are—providing low-cost guided trips or low-cost Skillshare [online classes] for members of our community, then also providing education to companies or groups of people interested in learning about size inclusivity.”

Through their tireless work, Fat Senders is working to create a better, brighter world for every body. Reflecting on their impact, Ford says, “It’s been a really validating and affirming message for me that there are other people in bigger bodies, there are other trans people in bigger bodies out there. It’s not always what you see in the media.”

For more information about Fat Senders and to see a full list of their upcoming activities, visit fatsenders.org or follow them on Instagram at @fat_senders. Anyone interested in joining can simply show up to an event and dive in at their own pace.

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