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FA Is One Of The Most Innovative Companies In 2021

Our brands are the most innovative climbing brands in SA

Where the dream started for all our Scallywags & Friends and Allies.

This journey all started with a boo boo. The excitement of climbing and over doing it leads to cuts, scrapes and worn down finger tips. With the psyche high to continue climbing I mixed a concoction of ingredients that I thought would help nourish my tender tips and treat any scrapes and bumps.

After playing around with this concoction for several months we arrived at our first product: Boo Boo Butter. A 100% all natural, locally sourced hand balm to help nourish and repair those delicate hands of yours.

Along with our first product came Scallywags Climbing, it was at the end of 2018 that I wanted to pursue making climbing products and have a positive impact on the SA climbing scene. We started to produce portable hangboards (a training tool for finger strength for climbers) to compete with the international market.

The SWANK Board was born, and not long after, the Dapper board. We soon found ourselves stocked in every climbing gym and gear store in the country as one of SA’s first dedicated climbing brands. Since then we have brought out an array of products as well as in person and online coaching programmes.

The Team, Allister Fenton, Wesley Antonites, Tim Slab
The Team, Allister Fenton, Wesley Antonites, Tim Slab

Working the dream in the innovative Made In Workshop

In the middle of 2020, Made in Workshop, the shared makerspace where we manufacture our products was moving, and so were we. We found our new home in Strydom Park, not too far from the old spot. Bigger and better they say. Through the coffee shop, up the stairs and first door on the right, we find workshop 6, the home of the Scallywags.

We had been planning on opening a climbing gym for about a year now. We believe that expanding into a facility will help us reach the goal of having a positive impact on South African Climbing. We looked at this little 180sqm place and saw all the potential we needed to strike up a deal with Henry Levine, owner of Made in Workshop.

It made all the sense in the world to build a high end training facility above the factory where we make our products. We are excited and proud of the fact that the gym and all its parts were built in house.

Tim Slab manufacturing campus rungs for Scallywags Climbing
Tim Slab manufacturing campus rungs for Scallywags Climbing

Building the gym through building the climbing community

I feel that one of the main reasons our community has such a deep connection to the gym and the people in it is because many of them were involved in the build in some way. With a tight budget and few hands we reach out to the community to help finish the gym.

Tim Slab lead a team of 3 welders to put in the frame and my brother Mitchell Antonites and I started on cladding the climbing walls. Soon it was Christmas and the gym was taking shape.

We finished the cladding at the beginning of January 2021 and shortly after the gym was filled with people sanding, painting and drilling. Many nights were spent sleeping and working in the gym, all to get it done to open our doors to the public on the 1st of February 2021.

Friends and Allies helping build the FA Gym
Friends and Allies helping build the FA Gym

Why Friends and Allies is different to other climbing gyms

We are not your typical climbing gym that most South African climbers know. I think that is the main difference. We are fun and welcoming and want to create a space that encourages all.

Our space is small so it forces people to share and interact with each other. So many people were involved in the build of the gym and have a deep connection with it, everybody knows everybody’s names and are extremely welcoming to newcomers.

Furthermore, the gym and community helps facilitate getting people climbing outdoors which is something we think is very important.

The 2021 Mayhem Mountain Festival
The 2021 Mayhem Mountain Festival

Our Friends and Allies along with their Scallywags were always needed in the City of Gold

The companies of Friends and Allies (2021) and Scallywags Climbing (2018) were both founded by Wesley Antonites. Both companies fill a need for South African climbers.

You may be wondering why? For us it was the next logical step, luckily there was a demand for it as the sport grows to meet our growth and a need for diversity in climbing in Johannesburg.

We provide a space to train for climbing with some of the world’s best holds. We use the space to inspire, connect and educate people. Our services go beyond just our gym, with training programmes, outdoor festivals and climbing competitions to name a few.

Wesley Antonites training on a one of a kind campus board
Wesley Antonites training on a one of a kind campus board

Housed in a hub of innovation we could only grow

The building is a hub of creativity and we’re so excited to see what it will look like in a few years. Made in Workshop is a makerspace where people can come use and learn how to make whatever they desire, from welding workshops, knife making classes and a manufacturing area for small businesses.

The Ideamongery downstairs is a design studio that specialises in bringing ideas to life and they’re always up for a chat about a problem we’re having.

In the middle of July we opened the Spark Cafe, a coffee shop, taproom and creative space where people can sit and plan a new product or adventure. Coffee has made its way into the hearts of climbers around the world and it’s common to see climbers brewing up at the base of the cliffs in between climbs.

Scallywags has a range of coffee for the dirtbag in all of us. Something coming soon is Omsight, our studio space for yoga and movement. Climbing is part of our healthy lifestyles and adding the value of healthy fuel for our bodies and a space to move and care for them made a lot of sense.

We are all deeply involved and invested. We are extremely passionate about what we do and we are on the floor, doing the work and talking to the customers. If you come by, you will meet the people behind the brand and we are eager to listen and to hear what you have to say.

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Scallywags Coffee is just as important as chalk for climbing
Scallywags Coffee is just as important as chalk for climbing

Making a difference in so much more than just climbing, through climbing

Scallywags Climbing has also worked with Dream Higher, which is a non profit based in Cape Town that takes underprivileged youth out climbing and helps them develop an appreciation for the natural world, building confidence and bridging social divides along the way. Get yourself a Dream Higher Mono finger training device and support their good work.

Having a business has allowed us to get more involved than we’d have been able to in our personal capacities.  This year Friends and Allies was involved in the Mayhem Mountain Festival, which is a climbing and highlining and slacklining festival based in Waterval Boven in Mpumalanga. We also are working closely with the Mountain Club of South Africa to grow the outdoor community in a responsible manner and facilitate people getting outdoors and out of their comfort zones. 

Dapper Board being used to warm-up
Dapper Board being used to warm-up

Where our Friends and Allies are moving to next

We are eager for our brands to grow and expand in the current location. We have plans to expand the gym to new locations so we can expand our reach and the positive effect on climbing.

We want to be at the forefront of shaping climbing in South Africa, and bringing the international climbing world tour to SA. Climbing is growing at a rapid pace and we think that’s only going to accelerate, we’re psyched for the future, the effect climbing can have on people and working with people to grow the sport. 

Chris Cosser on an unclimbed project in Waterval Boven
Chris Cosser on an unclimbed project in Waterval Boven

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Female Final Climbers at the TIA Boulder Comp
Till Death Do We Tjom

I think it is natural when you open a gym that you want to host your own boulder competition. It has been a hot topic since before we even built the gym. There is no doubt that over time the gym has opened a space just begging for a comp. As we were navigating through the 3rd wave we picked a time that we thought would be just right, and we don’t think our timing could have been better.

Friends and Allies at the Kloof Fest 2021
The What & Why of Kloof Fest 2021?

The Kloof Fest FA hosted with the MCSA JHB Section might have been the most action the space has seen in a while. That’s because we invited a few people, some experienced and some new, to experience this hidden gem of cascading waterfalls into crystal pools, soaring cliffs and a sense of peace in a place so ancient you can’t help but dive a little deeper into what it means to be alive.