group at rock wall

Students know and show the ropes of climbing. New routes, new climbers and new experiences make up a night at the Doti-Struppa rock wall.

we checked in
over summer,
Chapman University’s 51-foot Doti-Struppa Rock Wall
was in pieces and getting a bath. That is to say, all the holds were off the wall, sorted and about to be soaked down with an acid wash. With the dirty work behind them, rock wall staffers are back to the most pressing business — climbing and teaching others to do the same.

Music composition major 
Sam Naff ’16 is one of the rock wall staff charged with getting newcomers to know the ropes of rock-climbing — literally.

On one particular evening, a trio of football players have decided to test their vertical climbing limit. Naff gets them in harness, hooked up and trained on how to operate a belay rope system.

“You’re going to want to keep some tension here,” Naff explains to the soon-to-be climbers, while pointing to the part of the rope in his right hand — its the direct line pressure from the climber. “And you can keep this loose.” He points to the other part. The climbers nod, understanding the process.

The main thing, Naff says, is keeping an steady, even cycle of rope pulling through while your buddy is going up the wall.

After an introductory round, the new climbers take to the heights. Kind of. Well, it takes a few tries, laughs and then a few pauses.

Up front

Back at the rock wall front desk,
 Television and Broadcast Journalism major
 Nicholas McDonald ’16 is a rock wall shift/student lead. But he jokes he has given himself a more lofty title.

“I like to call myself King,” McDonald laughs, tipping back his chair.

He considers his job hardly work – it’s fun, relaxing and exciting, definitely not a “job” job and it is never
to go come into work. McDonald, like the other staffers, climbs outside of Chapman, but he throws in a little something extra – he skydives and may soon start base jumping. Oh, and he’s seriously considering traveling — as in selling or storing everything, packing up what’s left in his car to follow, interview and film the culture of base jumpers.

“It’s a very tight knit community,” McDonald said. He thinks that sometimes the world of extreme sports gets a bad rap from the media and is too often portrayed as filled with crazy or irresponsible people. The reality, McDonald says, is the people are caring, helpful and love to spread their hobbies – it’s what makes them happy.

rock wall

From Top Left, clockwise: Owen Savage ’20 and Hunter Spriggs ’20, Robert Harrelson ’20, Sam Naff ’16 and Alec Kohn ’20 climb and assist, respectively at the Doti-Struppa Rock Climbing wall.

Feat on the ground

Once the initial climber is back on terra firma, Naff explains a little more about climbing technique and scales part of the wall, sans rope, and accomplishes what looks to this writer as rather impressive stretches.

“This is a lot harder than I thought it would be,” said Owen Savage ’20.

Naff is all business once the climbers are on the wall, but he candidly reveals that he loves  to teach people to climb.

“It’s a really interesting way to push yourself and get out of your comfort zone,” Naff said. “I like to see people who haven’t done it before. They’re putting their bodies into new positions and (using them) in new ways … seeing people inch themselves up the wall, it’s really fun to watch.”

Hours and more information for the Doti-Struppa Rock Wall


rock wall

Sam Naff ’16, left, gives Hunter Sprigs ’20 the all-clear to climb the wall.

Woman with red hair in yellow dress

Brittany Hanson

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