Staff Bios - Meet the Wallnuts Team!
Leo van Ulden - President/CEO
Leo started Wallnuts with his Mother Inge in the mid 90’s and has been at the forefront of Newfoundland climbing ever since. He is a certified through Thompson Rivers University as an ACMG Climbing Gym Instructor Level 3 Apprentice, and Top Rope Climbing Instructor. He wrote and published The Newfoundland Climbing Guide in 2007 which has sold almost 500 copies to date and is still the only published guide for climbers in the province. He is the most certified and experienced instructor, guide, and coach in Newfoundland.
Leo is passionate about business, coaching, climbing, surfing, mountain biking, and his 2 boys; Joost and Levi.
His current life goals include the expansion of Wallnuts into a new facility which will give our customers a top notch climbing experience and aid in building athletes to compete at the Olympic level when the day comes.
F Hutson Myles - Vice-President/Head Instructor
Hutson started climbing when he was 21 (not counting a few birthday parties at Wallnuts back in 1995-1996) and has been hooked ever since. He joined the Wallnuts team after a previous life in the IT industry. He is certified as a Climbing Wall Instructor Certification Course Provider with the Climbing Wall Association. His duties at the gym include training staff in risk management and safety instruction, and teaching advanced safety systems courses in addition to his role as part of the Board of Directors. His climbing goals include trying out ice climbing this coming winter, pursuing outdoor guiding certifications with the ACMG, and doing more travelling to climbing areas elsewhere in the world. When he isn’t working at the gym or climbing, Hutson enjoys cooking delicious food, enjoying single malt whisky, and playing board games with friends.
Ben Winstanley - Manager/Junior Team Coach
Ben grew up in England, moving to St. John's when he was 16, in 2002. Having been climbing since the age of 11 as part of the outdoor pursuits program at his secondary school (Bolton School), the first thing he did when he arrived was to search out the local climbing gym and get himself a membership.
Progressing up the ranks, from volunteer belay staff, to desk monkey, to instructor, and now head coach of the provincial junior team, he's constantly trying to improve his own climbing level and imparting that knowledge on to the next generation of rock stars. Along the way he's picked up his CWI certification and has attended the Canadian Coaches Conference in Banff, AB. Other than coaching, Ben also takes on the role of head routesetter and oversees the rotation of routes and problems to keep the gym fresh and exciting.
Ben is predominantly a boulderer, and spends much of his free time pebble wrestling in Newfoundland's great outdoors. When he's not climbing, Ben can often be found drinking copious amounts of coffee, drinking small amounts of expensive whiskey, or cuddling up with his cats on the couch.
Joel Harvie - Sales Manager/Instructor
Joel started climbing in 2010 at Wallnuts. For Joel, climbing was love at first sight. Within two weeks he was hired on as a belayer. Since then, his roles have included: Route setting, managing the Wallnuts Junior Climbing Program, coaching the Newfoundland Junior Climbing Team, coordinating local climbing competitions, and managing the Wallnuts staff. Joel is very passionate (i.e. very loud) about his love for Wallnuts and rock climbing. Joel currently holds a role as Wallnuts' sales manager, in addition to instruction duties, and heading up our events program.
Outside of the gym, Joel is an avid outdoor boulderer. Frequenting the many St. John’s bouldering destinations, he is always excited to have new climbers tag along to help grow the community.
Joel has travelled to Squamish, British Columbia and Red Rocks, Nevada on climbing trips. He can’t really get through a day without mentioning Squamish to someone…
If you need a belay or someone to climb with, Joel is the guy in the gym singing along loudly to whatever tunes happen to be playing. If the gym is quiet, he’s probably at home playing guitar, drinking beer, or eating tacos.
Sarah Spurrell - Instructor/Junior Program Administrator
Sarah Spurrell starting climbing at Wallnuts when she was 15 years old and has been hooked ever since. She climbed outdoors for the first time through the Wallnuts junior program, joined the Newfoundland Provincial Climbing team and has climbed indoors and out across the province, country, and continent, placing first in competitions locally and away.
Her most recent climbing destination was to The Red River Gorge, Kentucky. With her teammates, Sarah trains multiple times a week with a focus on sport climbing, while cross-training with gymnastics. She has an interest in experimenting with body movements as well as development/access to new climbing areas. Already setting routes in the gym, Sarah also learned to bolt recently; helping to bolt, name and then FA a project that was her first 5.12.
She credits climbing with helping her survive those awkward teen years. Sarah's favourite part of her job at Wallnuts is helping our youngest athletes grow as people and in their passion for the sport!
Jacqui Bodwell - Instructor
Jacqui Bodwell was born and raised in Surrey, British Columbia. At the age of 19, she packed up all her things, googled climbing gyms in Canada and moved all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland to attend Memorial University to get her degree in biology. Like many tiny humans, she used to throw her birthday parties in climbing gyms where she would race everyone to the top of the wall and refuse to come down.
When she entered the dreaded preteen years, she declared climbing “not her thing”. Later in life, fate so happened to give her a free drop in pass and her love for climbing was reborn. Jacqui has been climbing now for 6 years and while back home in BC she tries to make it out to Squamish as much as she can.
Jacqui loves sport climbing, and her goal is to get out to Flatrock as she has never been there. She loves kids and coaching is one of her favourite things to do. To see the kids improve and be super stoked makes her extremely happy. Jacqui’s wide range of hobbies includes reading, napping, going to aquariums, and watching Dr. Who. If you are ever in the gym and want to talk about climbing, Harry Potter or just want to say hi, she’ll greet you with a smile.
Thom Smith - Instructor
Thom started climbing in 2006 when a family friend brought him on a climbing trip to Pinnacles National Park in California. After his first trip outside, he immediately purchased a membership at his local climbing gym in Monterey, California, where he began route setting in 2011.
In 2012, he moved to Newfoundland to attend Memorial University where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in underwater vehicles. He started working for Wallnuts in 2014 as a routesetter and has recently started to work as an instructor with the gym.
Outside of climbing, Thom is an avid sailor and downhill skier and can be found either on the water or on themountain most weekends. He is very much enjoying his time in Canada and hopes to make it more permanent.
Newfoundland provides him with easy access to the types of outdoor activities he enjoys most as well as people equally enthusiastic about the outdoors.
Sophie LaMarre - Instructor
Sophie started climbing at Wallnuts in October of 2016 and a week later asked for a job. With the help of the tight knit and knowledgeable climbing community of Newfoundland and Wallnuts, she has expanded her climbing know-how and is excited to become more involved as her skill set grows. Thanks to her newfound interest in climbing, Sophie seeks out climbing opportunities wherever she travels in an attempt to get her friends and family in on the fun.
Originally from Toronto, Sophie has lived in BC, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, and NS where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Management and Community Development. She landed in St. John’s after two summers here with the Canadian Coast Guard and is currently pursuing a diploma to become a paramedic. She was drawn to Newfoundland by the friendly people and the abundance of outdoor adventure possibilities; she has found a fantastic mix of both of these things in the Newfoundland climbing scene and she hopes to stick around for a while.
Zoe Armstrong - Instructor
Zoe was born in Ottawa, Ontario and like many climbers she first experienced climbing through birthday parties. Despite her interest in the sport, university kept her away until she moved to St. John’s to pursue her MSc in Geography at MUN. The first thing she did upon arrival was book a Learn to Climb at Wallnuts, and she has been essentially living at the gym ever since.
Zoe has fallen in love with bouldering and can usually be found in the boulder cave encouraging others to send, disagreeing with the posted grades, and resisting the urge to spray beta. When she isn’t climbing, she enjoys weight-lifting, playing guitar, drinking beer, and loudly proclaiming that she’s “an environmental scientist, not a geographer.”
Her long-term goals include more outdoor bouldering, going on a climbing trip, and owning a wardrobe entirely made up of tank tops.