Hi, my name is Jon. I'm a 53 year old combat veteran of the US Marine Corps. I do Area Safety & Risk Manager for a heavy highway bridge & tunneling construction company covering Texas to the west coast. I've been in construction for 23 years.
I'm 1/2 Korean, 1/2 confused and adopted from Seoul, South Korea to a loving and gracious family. I got my compassion and love from my mom and an unrelenting pursuit of excellence from my dad. I was lucky to have been raised by two other moms, one of whom gave me up for adoption due to the racial tension of being a "halfie" (half Korean, half American). When I was 4 years old, I was actually pushed off a bridge by a group of Korean boys for not being pure Korean.
How did you start climbing?
Several years ago, I had a Chinese exchange student staying in our family home who had a basketball game in Wildomar, California at Rockfitness. I saw a bunch of rock looking things and ropes, so figured I should try it. After about 30 minutes, I couldn't grasp anything — pumped out.
At the time, I thought I was in great shape as a fighter in Jiu-Jitsu/Muay Thai. After I got my butt kicked, I said to myself "yeah, this is the next level of fitness I want." I've been active all my life with varsity soccer, wrestling, pole vaulting, the Marine Corps, powerliftering, and MMA fighting, but since then, I've been a dedicated climber.
Rock climbing is also a great lead into site orientation. Construction people are like, "Dude, you're a safety guy and you climb? That's so risky?" My reply, "Climbing is less risky than my second marriage."
What impact has climbing had on your life?
Originally, it was for better fitness. But in the end, climbing was the perfect catalyst to improve my mental health (PTSD) issues as a combat veteran in Desert Shield/Desert Storm and just life in general. It identified that I'm part of the problem in my second marriage of 15 years and still working on it. Climbing has holistically changed my life in so many aspects to where it has made me a better person to be more empathetic, caring, and loving to every person and creature.
I had the great privilege to showcase Reelrock 14 at two locations in southern California in 2019. The best part was that I got to have two of my long term friends Jason (@geekclimb) and Oswaldo (@rockentry) co-emcee the event. Funny thing, as well as they speak on their large YouTube channels, when you put a microphone in front of them with live audience — crickets & pin drop. They're going to kill me for that haha...
What are some other things you do that you find most fulfilling?
Having the opportunity to share the benefits of climbing with both my daughters, Jasmine (21) and Harmony (14), provided us with some awesome father-daughter time.
Jasmine was on the Vital Climbing team while in high school and is now college graduate from UC Santa Cruz. Climbing benefited Harmony with balance and mental fear as an up and coming Olympic figure skater when she was 8-10 years old. Unfortunately, she sustained a sesamoid fracture of her foot and never fully recovered. Harmony still loves to climb on occassion, and we always cherish our father-daughter time together. I've even done some YouTube videos of climbing with Jasmine and Harmony.
If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be?
Be kind and loving to others, as you should to yourself. To use the words of professional surfer Kei Kobayashi, "It doesn't matter if everyone believes in you, you have to believe in yourself to succeed."
I choose to be happy because lingering on pain is not healthy. We all have various degrees of pain, but don't be afraid to reach out to someone to listen because the right person will care. The pain never goes away, but we develop positive coping mechanisms, like climbing, to start the healing.
Favorite thing about Dynamite Starfish?
I've always been and will continue to be a misfit with a "beautiful spirit that doesn't fit into predetermined box or category." Dynamite Starfish brings totality of wholeness of my good self into the climbing community.
This is one of the main reasons I wear and support Dynamite Starfish, not to mention Leslie Kim with her visionary artistry of human entanglement with freedom of movement.
Is there something you're working on that you'd like to tell our community about? We love a good story.
I'm always cheering for the underdog in any situation and currently working on getting 5 Bar (@5_bar.co) out to the masses. There is no financial gain, but just an interest in supporting my fellow climber Jason (@geekclimb) who has persevered a lot and has used negative to positive to inspire so many
Sadly, the climbing community was not very welcoming when he started climbing. But now, his 211,000 subscribers channel resonates that average people can learn and do new things as well as some crazy rocket science math.
Want to get to know more of the climbers in the amazing Dynamite Starfish community? Check out our archive of Climber Stories here.
We hope you have enjoyed these sneak peeks into climbers' lives. We're on a mission to share diverse stories about rock climbing. Let's push the boundaries of who we know as climbers. Let's use our energy and passion for the outdoors to love our environment and inspire one another.