Before Jason Momoa rose to fame playing larger than life characters such as Aquaman and Khal Drogo, renowned climber Chris Sharma knew him as his rock climbing buddy.
“It’s one of the interesting things about Jason that most people don’t know about — he’s been a climber longer than he’s been an actor,” Sharma, 41, told The Post.
“We met probably sometime in ‘96 or ‘96, climbing in Texas near El Paso. It’s pretty amazing. He’s first and foremost a climber, and everything came from that. We climbed and connected way back then, and we reconnected years later when we were both more established in our lives.”
Momoa and Sharma have partnered up to create “The Climb,” an HBO Max competition series produced by Momoa, who briefly appears, and is and hosted by Sharma and fellow renowned climber Meagan Martin (known for “American Ninja Warrior”).
Sharma is one of the most famous and influential rock climbers in the sport’s history.
He was the world’s first climber to do 5.15a and 5.15b (a level of extreme difficulty). He also has done climbing films, established two climbing gym companies (Sharma Climbing and Sender One, located respectively in Spain, where he’s based with his wife and family, and California, where he grew up), and created Psicobloc, a deep water soloing competition.
Now streaming (with new episodes out on Thursdays), “The Climb” features amateur climbers from all walks of life and skill levels, who are sent to climbing locations around the world, including limestone cliffs in Catalonia and Wadi Rum, a desert valley in Jordan. The winner gets a $100,000 cash prize and a sponsorship with the brand prAna.
“Jason is an amazing guy. Obviously he’s an incredible actor and a passionate climber and a great friend,” Sharma said. “I’ve learned a lot from him over the years. I am who I am in the world of climbing, and Jason is who he is. To be able to join forces and create a show was a great opportunity.
“Climbing is inherently different from most sports. The essence is following your own path, going out into nature, pushing your own limits,” he said. “I feel like the DNA of climbing has a lot to offer the world. I’m excited to share that with more people.”
Even though he’s been a professional climber for his whole life, Sharma said that “The Climb” allowed him to have some firsts.
“For me personally, it was a new experience to step into a role as a mentor to these guys. I’ve always been the one performing on camera, and to take this role as mentor, as host, as producer — those are all new roles for me. So, in a lot of ways, it’s stepping out of my comfort zone. Of course, it’s a competition and we’re making a TV show, but these are real climbers and that’s what I’ve dedicated my life to. To help them come into their own was really special — all while getting to climb in some of the most amazing places in the world.”
Sharma has also taught the sport to Momoa’s kids, Lola and Nakoa-Wolf.
“Jason is busy, I’m pretty busy myself, but we climb together whenever we get the chance,” he said. “We had some great times this summer. We take climbing trips with our families, that’s one of the cool bonds that we share. I climb with his kids and they teach my kids how to climb, because they’re a bit older than mine.
“The core of it comes from our friendship, and wanting to collaborate together.”