fondo_history

History

The Early Years

Boreal was founded in 1975 by Jesus Garcia Lopez in the town of Villena, Spain. The area around Villena has a rich history in footwear manufacturing and Jesus was an expert in the manufacturing processes of footwear production. Together with a business partner, Jesus started a new company, Calzados Boreal S.L. 

The first products to be developed were a mixture of outdoor styles, including both advanced new lightweight trekking boots and premium quality Norwegian welted leather mountaineering boots.

As the reputation of this new brand grew, it came to the attention of legendary Spanish rock climbing pioneers, the Gallego brothers heard about this new footwear manufacturer and approached Jesus to ask him if he could develop a superior rubber sole unit specifically for rock climbing shoes. Together with Miguel Gallego, Jesus began to experiment with the first ‘sticky rubber’ rock shoes. Boreal’s very first rock shoe, the ‘El Capitan’, was born.

Boreal early years. Gallego and García in front of the Spire Firé.

The sticky rubber revolution

In the mid to late 1970’s Boreal pursued a research and development program with the aim of improving the performance of rock shoes. A key goal was to develop a new rubber compound specifically for climbing, with not only unmatched friction but also the right balance of durability, hardness and abrasion resistance needed to give the best overall performance. 

In 1979 Boreal designed and produced the final prototype of a model which was to become the now legendary “Firé” rock shoe. The shoe was so named after being used to establish a new route on the Mallo Fire, a spectacular 300m conglomerate spire at Riglos in Huesca, Spain. In 1980, the Gallego brothers used their new Firé rock shoes to open the first non-American route on El Capitan. They called this route Mediterraneo. News of their ascent spread quickly and when the brothers were welcomed back to Camp 4 they showed their new shoes to the waiting climbers. John Bachar tested the Firé on the classic boulder problem Midnight Lightning and was amazed by the revolutionary sticky rubber.

By spring of 1983, Bachar had teamed up with Boreal and the Gallegos brothers to import 265 pairs to be sold at the Yosemite Mountain Shop. Within the first two hours of trading on the first day of sales, they had sold every pair!

The secret was out and from this moment on, the best climbers in the world began to wear Boreal shoes.

Fire Rock Shoes born. Midnight Lightning by Bachar. Gallego brothers in El Capitan.

Global Success

In the 1980’s the demand for Boreal rock shoes was huge, quickly establishing Boreal as the first choice in rock shoes worldwide. Boreal continued to design and develop high performance rock shoes and the introduction of new materials and manufacturing techniques gave rise to now famous groundbreaking models such as the Ace, Ninja, Vector and Laser. Many climbers of this period reported jumping a full grade just by wearing Boreal shoes!

This period saw huge advances in climbing standards and in synchronicity with achievements of the athletes Boreal continued to develop ever more advanced models, helping to push the boundaries of what was possible.

Legendary climbers of this period such as John Bachar, Ron Fawcett, Lynn Hill, Wolfgang Güllich, Jerry Moffat, Ben Moon and Yuji Hirayama naturally chose to wear Boreal shoes:

  • 1983:Jerry Moffatt climbs “The face”, Frankenjura - Europe’s first 8a+
  • 1984: Wolfgang Güllich climbs “Kanal im Rücken”, Frankenjura - The world’s first 8b
  • 1985: Wolfgang Güllich climbs “Punks in the gym”, Australia - The world’s first 8b+
  • 1987: Wolfgang Güllich climbs “Wall Street”, Frankenjura - The world’s first 8c
  • 1990: Ben Moon climbs the first 8c+ in the world Hubble, in Raven Tor, England- The world’s first 8c+ (now widely considered to be 9a)
  • 1990: Lynn Hill makes the first female ascent of an 8b+ “Masse Critique”
  • 1991: Wolfgang Gülcich climbs “Action Directe”, Frankenjura, Germany – The world’s first 9a
  • 1992: Lynn Hill makes the first free ascent of “The Nose”, El Capitan.
  • 1993: Lynn Hill makes the first female on-sight 8a.
  • 1999: Yuji Hirayama makes the world’s hardest on-sight “Mortal combat”, France 8c (later reduced to 8b+)

Lynn Hill in the nose. Shoe Testing in Peñia Rubia.

Innovation and Technology

The passion for technological innovation is deeply rooted in Boreal and is a defining characteristic of our company. Breaking new ground is not easy and requires great commitment and determination and Boreal are very proud to have brought many significant advances to the world of outdoor footwear.

Boreal are famous for introducing sticky rubber to rock shoes but that’s only one part of the story. In 1985 Boreal revolutionized the climbing world again with the introduction of the first slip lasted rock shoe the ‘Ninja’(also the first shoe with an elastic closure). Previously rock shoes had been board-lasted and rather unyielding, the new slip-lasted Ninja with its superb sensitivity revolutionized the construction of rock shoes and today 99% of rock shoes are made in this way.

In 1997 Boreal radically reinvented rock shoe construction again with the introduction of the IRS system in which the sole unit and rand are created as a single molded component. IRS eliminates the need for glued joins and consequently makes shoes which are much more durable. IRS shoes are also more resistant to deformation and the desired rubber thickness in all areas of the shoe can be optimized. Today we use IRS technology to make our incredibly durable hire shoes, something which is greatly appreciated by climbing gyms around the world.

Boreal continue to push the boundaries of rock shoe performance and our testing and development program never stops. In 2009 we released the latest advance in rock shoe rubber, Zenith®. This new rubber formulation is quite simply the best all-round climbing shoe rubber compound available today. Zenith combines astonishingly high levels of friction with excellent durability and a remarkably consistent performance across a wide range of temperatures.

Our expertise in advanced rubber moldings has also been put to good use on our trekking and mountain boot collections. In 1998 Boreal developed the remarkable FDS sole unit. This unique outsole is co-molded in one-piece and uses three different rubber compounds, each formulated to optimise specific performance parameters. FDS was the first outsole unit in the world to feature integrated crampon lugs. FDS is still being produced today and is demanded by many mountain professionals for its unmatched reliability and performance.

Boreal Ninja born. Jerry Moffatt. Catherine Destivelle with Jesús García.

The realization of waterproof breathable linings

BOREAL actively sets itself the goal of developing the most technically advanced and comfortable boots for hikers and mountaineers. In 1984 BOREAL launched the first ever boot with a waterproof and breathable lining, called New-Tex®. Later BOREAL worked in collaboration with W.L. Gore & assoc. in an intensive two-year research and development program which led to development of the world’s first mountaineering boot to have a Gore-Tex® lining.

Throughout the early 1990’s BOREAL worked closely with Akzo-Nobel with the ambitious aim of developing a lining system which would surpass all others in reliability, waterproofness and breathability.  The result of this collaboration was the development of the BOREAL Dry-Line® system using the Sympatex 337 professional membrane. Dry-Line® was first introduced to the range in 1995. On October 15th of the same year Jesús García Sr., CEO of BOREAL received the ‘Business Award for Managerial Excellency in the field of Competitiveness and Design’ from Prince Felipe of Spain.

BOREAL continues to use the Sympatex based Dry-Line® lining system on their top-end footwear models and thanks to the unique properties  of Dry-Line® we believe it remains the most durable, breathable and comfortable lining system available on the market.

 

Boreal Dryline. Sympatex. Business Award for Managerial Excellency.

Company Philosophy

BOREAL has always focused on gaining first-hand experience and input through close collaboration with the world’s best climbers and mountaineers. It is also necessary to have the right commercial vision, manufacturing facilities and the passion to develop the revolutionary products which have so widely influenced the outdoor footwear market.

Unusually for a footwear manufacturer, BOREAL produces the full collection continuously throughout the whole year. This means that all models and all sizes are consistently available. This approach to manufacturing also allows continuing to offer some of the slower selling older ‘classic’ styles. Since it is not necessary to manufacture large production runs at any one time it is possible to keep these styles available to those who want them.

The continuous production of all models means that the products delivered to store are very new and ‘fresh’. In fact the majority of shoes despatched from the factory are rarely older than three months old. This especially makes a difference with climbing shoes since the rubber oxidizes on the surface slowly and loses its sticky feel.

 

Boreal Zenith rubber. Diabola. Boreal Shoe range

Made in Spain – a family led company

BOREAL produces all climbing shoes, mountaineering boots and the majority of the other products in-house at the factory in Villena. The unique rubber compounds are exclusively used throughout the whole rock shoe range and are produced in the own factory, as well as a smaller selection of the trekking sole units such as the famous FDS-3. BOREAL takes great care in sourcing raw materials from only the best suppliers and the overwhelming majority of the raw materials are sourced from within Europe.

Quality control is paramount and the on-site factory laboratory works constantly tests the quality of all raw materials entering the factory.

Although many processes are mechanised, the footwear remains handmade and this is reflected in the finished product. There is no substitute for the keen eye and ‘feel’ of an experienced artisan and this is why BOREAL chooses to do many things in the traditional way. For example, all leather hides are individually inspected for imperfections and then orientated and cut by hand to make best use of the infinite subtle variations of grain and stretch of the leather hide. Skills like this take time to learn and cannot simply be replicated by a computer.

Probably the best part of BOREAL is the committed team of people working at the factory in Villena, Spain. Many employees stay at BOREAL for their entire careers. The company values and rewards the employees and we believe this is reflected in the consistent high quality of the footwear produced.

In 2015 BOREAL turned 40 years old and is a still a family-led company which is focused solely on footwear manufacturing. Jesús Jr. was born the exact same day that the company was founded and today he and his brother Jorge have taken the reins of the company.  The next chapter of BOREAL is in full momentum and their father, Jesús Sr., continues to celebrate every day the success that has been created.

 

Boreal turn 40 years. Jesús Garcia holding the famous rock shoe Firé.