We all know that dirtbagging can be arduous. I’m talking real dirtbagging, not the kind where you drive around in a van bigger than my apartment, with far finer appointments. There are still some holdouts who fret over whether their rig will survive its next cross-country trip. (Then, if it does, they’ll scramble for cash to shovel into repairs once they arrive.)
No way around it: The travails of the dirtbag exist at and around the poverty line. Few know that better than Cedar Wright, a late-blooming climbing influencer with years on the road behind him.
These are salad days, though, for Wright, and he’s found himself with relatively abundant financial means. What could be better than giving it away to young, deserving nomads and seekers like he once was?
Under the tenets of the Dirtbag Fund, nothing.
Wright launched the program in late April, and the first wave will issue five grants worth $1,000 each. A second, identically structured funding release is in the works now. To apply, all you need to do is send in a “short essay” with photos and (strongly encouraged) video content explaining why you deserve the cake.
“I’m setting up the Dirtbag fund to recognize, support, and amplify the voice of young climbers who are contributing to the culture and community of climbing, while scrapping by on next to nothing,” Wright wrote in an Instagram post announcing the grants.
The idea, he continued, is to boost these young migrants toward their goals, helping “magnify their stories and reach.”
More ambitiously, Wright’s making a play to ”expand and redefine the where and who of dirtbagism.”
Specifics are blurry here at the program’s outset — but that’s OK because Wright’s the only stakeholder, and it was all his idea. The Dirtbag Fund materialized in the wake of a catastrophic incident that could have left Wright paralyzed. Instead, the 48-year-old athlete fully recovered and started reflecting on his circumstances.
“Coming back from it, I wasn’t sure whether I was ever going to climb or fly again,” Wright said on a recent episode of The Runout podcast. “It was a dark time for me — it was really unclear what my recovery would look like.
“I’d been kicking the idea [of the Dirtbag Fund] around for a long time. Then after the accident, I had this feeling of gratitude,” he continued.
So he leaped at his first opportunity to parlay it into reality: a sponsorship pitch from a fish oil company. The company offered Wright a $5,000 check, and that was all it took. As soon as he fired off an April 26 Instagram post, the Dirtbag Fund took off. More than 100 applications arrived within two weeks.
Wright called the response “heartwarming” and said he wished he could “go full Oprah” and start shelling out cash in seven figures.
Long story short, one day, he might. There’s another $5,000 up for grabs as of the Runout episode, plus gear from The North Face and beer from Fat Tire.
Increasing numbers, size, and scope of sponsors and publicity would undoubtedly transform the Dirtbag Fund. (It can’t just be fish oil forever.) With even a rudimentary scaling plan, the program’s future could take almost any shape.
However, its crusty, originating benefactor has made his founding principles clear.
“I’m hoping to award the money to a varied group of climbers…from desert rats to gym rats…and outcasts to activists. ‘Dirtbags’ in six-figure Sprinter vans need not apply,” Wright wrote.
Tally ho, noble scoundrels.