Rock Climbing Classes Offered at SMC Help Build Mental Fortitude

 SMC students climbing during the Intermediate rock climbing class at the Core Performance Center at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California. on March 30, 2018. (Claudia Vardoni/Corsair Photo)

SMC students climbing during the Intermediate rock climbing class at the Core Performance Center at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California. on March 30, 2018. (Claudia Vardoni/Corsair Photo)

In the world of sports, rock climbing is somewhat less well-known, as team sports receive the most attention and coverage. With more popular sports focusing on which team is winning and who scores the most points, rock climbing provides an alternative type of sport while remaining challenging as any other sport.

Rock climbing is a sport for all age groups and is growing more popular by the year. As an emerging sport, rock climbing for the first time has been approved to be a part of the Olympic Games that will take place in Tokyo in 2020.

Santa Monica College offers rock climbing under the Kinesiology/ Physical Education department in the new Core Performance Center since last year. Before this, the class was taught off-site at the local climbing gym Rockreation in Santa Monica, where the rock climbing professor, Blaine Eastcott, is also the owner. 

There are currently three sections of classes offered to students, two sections of beginning rock climbing (KIN PE 16A) and one intermediate class (KIN PE 16B). A class holds around 24 students to allow sufficient climb-time and for maximum student safety. The class teaches belaying and climbing techniques such as efficient movement and correct positioning, along with the essential safety skills. The intermediate class teaches top rope, bouldering and lead climbing. Both theory and actual practice are incorporated in the class.

SMC rock climbing instructor and general manager of Rockreation, Jennifer Tanaka, says rock climbing is more than just a sport that can help you in many ways. “While climbing you are forced to figure out a problem and the mental aspect is a big part of it,” Tanaka said. "It helps you in other parts of life as well, it helps you conquer fear and build confidence.” 

Rock climbing provides a full-body workout that builds strength, stamina, and mental stability. The sport also requires team effort, as the climber and the belayer, the person on the ground securing the climber, constantly have to work together. Unless you are an advanced climber participating in competitions, you only compete against yourself with the wall.

Theatre Arts major Genesis Napel, 25 years old, thinks teamwork and trust are the most important aspects in rock climbing when having to push past your fears of falling, as he needs to trust his ability, gear, and partner. “When you climb with someone, you’re trusting them with your life, and they’re trusting you with theirs,” Napel said. “You get to know somebody pretty quick and get an idea of what kind of person they are and if you can trust them.”

Napel likes how the instructors can put words to the movements that make climbs easier, and the thrill of knowing you might fall, but have enough confidence in yourself to know that you’ll be okay. To him, muscle strength is important, but without the mental focus and confidence, each climb will only take you so far.

"It’s the scariest thing you can do and live. The 'oh crap' feeling is really enlivening in a way, playing with this line of risk and personal reward,” Napel said. “It’s a mental game, and if you fall, you have to be solid in your head that your gear has you. It becomes a physical meditation, and you have no choice but to be present."