Mad Rock began in 2002 as a small, climber owned and operated company that made innovative, highly technical and affordable rock climbing shoes. But it all started with our founder Young Chu.

“I was so broke,” Young remarks as he recalls his days living in Camp 4. Korean born Young Chu began climbing in the 1970’s when bold characters and minimal gear ruled the climbing scene. “You should never try that,” Young remembers his father saying while hiking in the granite hills of South Korea the day he witnessed his first rock climbing. His youthful fascination overwhelmed him, “My life was changed forever.”
Young Chu

Young’s parents supported the spirit of the outdoors but neither for or against his climbing. A lack of monetary support at such an impressionable age might be enough to derail the average newbie. Remarkably, the 16-year-old Young began fashioning equipment using his available resources, “I had to start making my own (climbing gear) if I wanted to continue climbing.” Using his mother’s sewing machine, he designed and made his first backpack, a harness soon followed, then a helmet. After some practice, Young began using all his own materials and design concepts. His friends started taking notice of his gear and liked his designs so Young made a few more to share with his climbing buddies. “Eventually, I was making all my own gear for my climbing needs.”

Perhaps the idea came like a lightning bolt while jamming his last bit of strength and concentration into The Zodiac. Maybe it appeared as a glimpse while nagging motivation pulled him to prepare for The Nose. Whatever the moment of inception, it was weathering the seasons in Yosemite that initiated the notion to manufacture his gear on a larger scale. “Every year was the same,” he explains, “I had to sell all of my rock climbing gear in the late fall to buy ice climbing gear for the winter season. Then when spring came, I had to sell it all back again.” While enduring this constant state of flux, the impetus to make affordable gear seemed only fitting to the maker who was collecting aluminium cans at the time to buy food. “Making good climbing gear is not very hard. But making them at an affordable price is a big challenge.”  

In 1987, Young started Nelson Sports Inc, and began designing shoes for mountain and extreme sports. He started designing climbing shoes for Five Ten, motocross boots for FOX, racing boots for Shift, snowboarding shoes for Device. He was the head designer for Five Ten for 10 years, developing designs that are still used these days. “I can happily say that the lasts (a form that creates a shoe size, fit and style) that I have developed, which is based on my own foot, are the best selling and most copied lasts in the world.”

In 2002, Young Chu started a new brand, “Mad Rock”. 

In 2004, Young received the ISPO Outdoor Award in the footwear category for the Hooker Lace and Hooker EZ designs, “ I always thought this kind of award was given to major shoe companies like Nike and Adidas.” With Mad Rock and Nelson Sports to help fuel the fire, Young was bent on improving the performance of climbing shoes.  “Yvon Chouinard inspires me the most,” He mentions as he recounts his most memorable epic adventure: Climbing the North Face of the Eiger during a snowstorm. Once a dirtbag, always a dirtbag. Only now, Young Chu has both the technique and endurance to continue experimenting with his “crazy ideas.”