Battle of the Blocks Captain Spotlight: Sal Zullo

Sal is a Battle of the Blocks Captain for the South Philly Sloths! Sal was born in South Philly (Grays Ferry) and have spent the formative part of his life in South Philly. He went to college in Florida and came back to the area and is currently working as an Intensive Care Nurse at Penn Medicine.


When and how did you first get into climbing?
I've been climbing since around 2002 when I went to Florida for college and a roommate of my friend had a hangboard on the wall. From there I co-founded the Florida State Climbing club at FSU in Tallahassee and spent just about every other weekend up at Horsepens 40 getting my skin destroyed on the southern slopers. Love that Sandstone.

What do you like about your neighborhood and what makes it unique?
I love South Philly because having been born and raised here--along with my parents before me and my grandparents before them--I've seen the transformation of the neighborhood first hand. I heard stories growing up of its glory days during the WWII era as an Industrial giant, to it's shameful days of the 70s and extreme racial tensions to the 80-90s when everyone was trying to get out of Philly because nothing was happening here to the current rebuild and growth of the city where it's almost impossible to afford a house here.

I love the culture of the neighborhood, the budding local food scene and the neighborly way everyone looks out for each other here. I know it's a far cry from perfect, but in its own idiosyncratic way it's special. I've yet to have anyone come to visit and not fall in love with South Philly.

What do you love about climbing and how do you think this comp is going to bring your team together?
The thing I love about climbing runs parallel to my love for South Philly, I came into climbing as it was becoming a thing. Going to competitions throughout the Southeast I've had the pleasure of meeting folks like Dean Potter, Lisa Rand, James Litz, Chris Sharma (yes, The Sharma) Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden, Dave Graham, Daniel Woods, Jason Kehl, Chris Sierzant and many more back when climbing was growing into itself and these talents were being recognized for the athletic awesome-ness that they are/were. It was always this wonderful odd "adventure" sport, like skateboarding, where the contributors stuck together and fostered wonderful community ties grounded in their shared passion for rock. It didn't matter what grade you climbed, so long as you showed love, compassion and motivation the community held strong.

Now fast forward some 18 years later and the business of climbing has come to full fruition. People have made their passion's into real careers, with professional grade training, education and facilities to match the growing interest. It's no longer just a ram-shackle plywood wall in people's garages, now it's this larger than life Thing that is growing daily with a momentum, I personally, don't see slowing down. It's wonderful.

I hope this comp becomes an outlet for everyone to realize just how close to them (literally in location) a fellow climber may be. I see people riding around South Philly all the time with organic bags and black diamond stickers on cars and it blows my mind that so many people climb and I don't even know the half of them. I want people to have the exposure that wasn't around when we were younger and the awareness that there are many like them who want to get outside and climb too!

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