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1970. America. The country was progressing in ways and at a rate unprepared by most. While many rebuked the new trends, mindsets and the general changing of the societal landscape, there was an increasing number of those that relished in it. After all, it’s adapt or perish. From California’s burgeoning skate and surf scene that spilled out of just the ocean and Venice Beach into many facets of culture like fashion, music and lifestyle, a smaller, more niche extreme sport started to take grip: free climbing.

You’d show how strong you were and how fluid you were. And then you wouldn’t use a whole lot of protection to show how big your balls were.

American photographer Dean Fidelman was set on documenting the turn of the aforementioned landscape, and thankfully focused his attention on the small, ragtag group of ex-surfers, skaters and the like who went forth to pursue other means of enlightenment. Coming from a background of being extreme, brazen and pulling gnarly shit, the self proclaimed ‘Stone Masters‘ would take rock climbing to new heights by more often than not forgoing protective equipment all in the name of ego. As Fidelman remembered it, « you’d show how strong you were and how fluid you were. And then you wouldn’t use a whole lot of protection to show how big your balls were. »

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As if that wasn’t extreme enough, Fidelman’s subjects where also known to party as hard as the rocks they were scaling, or another way to put it: they would get high on climb and on nature (I’m obviously having fun here). Much of what the group did was in the name of fun, from the unique styles they brought to the free climbing culture—from fashion to technique—and it makes for an entertaining chronicle of a time now past, but perhaps one that influenced much more than its small subculture with effects rippling out to even today’s boundary pushers.

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