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Meet David van Beek of The Stronghold Gym Adaptive Rock Climbing Program

Today we’d like to introduce you to David van Beek.

Thanks for sharing your story with us David. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in a big family on a very remote farm in New Zealand simply called “The West Coast” (of the South Island). It’s full of rainforest, mountains, rivers and wild coastline, oh and not many people and definitely no internet, or power for that matter.

So very different from LA in so many ways. From a very young age, I realized that my true gifts lay in helping people connect with wild nature and through this connection with themselves and others. Over the past 25 years, I’ve instructed, guided and taught in many varied outdoor pursuits including Rock climbing, rafting, caving, sailing, climbing, kayaking, exploring glaciers, and tramping (that’s Kiwi lingo for backpacking).

Through this work and Instructing at New Zealand Outward Bound I truly came to understand the power of these activities for holistic growth, no matter who the person.

Fast forward to present day LA. The two key questions I get asked almost on a daily basis are; “Are you Australian”? and “How the …. did you end up here”? The short answer – Love. It truly makes one take on some crazy adventures in life. In many ways, LA has been my wilderness (that’s a much longer and personal story than we have space for here).

So it was love that bought me here but after a challenging “settling in period” it is now both that same love and the people and culture of this misunderstood city that has kept me here. Well, that and the easy access to the Sierra Nevada Mountains (if one gets out of bed early enough to beat the traffic)! -I’ve always rated cities by how easy they are to get out of and into true wilderness. There is so much amazing nature both within the city and in our “backyard”, and I think more people are starting to see and appreciate this.

Gina my gorgeous wife (an LA Native) and I have built a beautiful life here. We have wonderful friends and family and really appreciate the culture and happenings both within LA and the surrounding areas. A Key aspect that I’d like to highlight is my involvement with the Adaptive Rock Climbing Program at The Stronghold Climbing Gym in Downtown LA. I also work with an amazing outdoor nature-based school called Manzanita, out in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road at all! This is one amazingly crazy city, (and the country as a whole), and I mean that in a loving if somewhat confused way. Having spent most of my life in the wilderness, quite literally, adapting to any city was always going to be a challenge.

Coupled with this, New Zealand is a very understated culture, while I’ve found America and especially LA to be somewhat at the other end of the spectrum, adapting to this has both been freeing and an ongoing challenge. Self-promotion is not a Kiwi strength. The volume with which people speak in restaurants here is a quirky example of this. The weather has also been a struggle to adapt to. I’m used to a much more varied, some would say harsh weather conditions, I miss the variety and the challenges of this.

I do love the “Storm Watch” days here, they make me smile. Of course being so far away from old friends and family is hard, as well as the land and culture itself. However I now consider myself an American as well as a Kiwi, there are so many wonderful people and places here and I’m so glad that VoyageLA is making a point of highlighting this.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Stronghold Gym Adaptive Rock Climbing Program – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Firstly I really want to say thank you to VoyageLA for the opportunity to highlight the Adaptive Rock Climbing Program at The Stronghold Climbing Gym in The Brewery complex in Downtown LA. While working at Outward Bound New Zealand I helped develop and run 8-day wilderness programs for people with all sorts of physical and intellectual disabilities.

Combining this with my own recovery from some serious injuries I’ve come to realize the power of Rock Climbing in physical, cognitive and soulful regeneration. With this in mind, I approached The Stronghold Gym about 2 years ago in the hopes that they would get behind the development of our current program they jumped at the opportunity. The Management, staff, volunteers and fellow climbers at Stronghold are truly beautiful people and have been incredibly supportive of this program.

Our Adaptive Climbing Program works with a number of Hospitals, Non-Profits, and Veteran Organizations. as well as individuals. We use a variety of adaptive equipment and specialized instructional techniques to help people of all ages and abilities to grow in confidence, ability and vitality through the challenge of rock climbing. Seeing and being a part of the holistic and therapeutic results makes this hugely rewarding work. We have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers which really helps to keep the program affordable.

We customize sessions for individual organizations as well as run an open evening at the gym every Wednesday night from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. This is simply a drop in opportunity for ANYONE wanting to know more about Adaptive Climbing. The word is starting to get out there and the program continues to grow. For those wanting more details, we can be contacted via the gym at

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love …. the diversity and the acceptance of individuals for simply being who they are. If you don’t mind getting out of bed early then it’s an easy city to get out of. On the whole, people want to see and support others in success. The scope and variety of cultural and outdoor activities throughout the city is a real treat.

There are a number of wonderful aspects that I have a love/dislike relationship with these include, the weather, the number of people, the craziness.

Some of the challenges I see and experience include. The homeless crisis, this breaks my heart when it is such a wealthy city. The lack of understanding between much of the diverse people and subcultures of the city, however, there are some wonderful people and organizations working hard to improve this. That it is a bit of a cultural norm to flake on commitments.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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