Climbing Toward Higher Fitness

My family and friends are big fans of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, where competitors tackle a super-challenging obstacle course that requires an amazing amount of strength, balance, speed and courage.

These contestants include men and women from all walks of life — schoolteachers, firefighters, members of the military and even a weatherman. But one thing they all have in common is an active lifestyle, and it seems many of them are rock climbers.


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Ridgely climbing outdoors. DAVID CHATSUTHIPHAN PHOTO

So, it’s not surprising to find that the show has helped bring a boost in rock climbers at Volcanic Rock Gym in Kakaako. There are even a couple of members currently training with the specific goal to enter American Ninja Warrior (which, by the way, is now casting for its seventh season).

Volcanic Rock Gym has been in Kakaako (at 432 Keawe St.) for the past year-and-a-half, but will close in about a month and reopen at Kapaa Quarry Place in Kailua.

“The (rock climbing) walls from Kakaako will be transferred over to Kailua, and we’re making it about 20 feet taller,” says owner Justin Ridgely.

The new gym will have a 14-foot bouldering wall, a 14 to 16-foot top-out bouldering area (where you climb above a structure), a nearly 30-foot roped climbing wall, a kid’s area that will be designed like buildings (think SpiderMan) and more.

Ridgely, a professional climber sponsored by Five Ten shoes and Organic Climbing bouldering mats, discovered rock climbing while in college in Chattanooga, Tenn. He says he was instantly obsessed with the sport, working three to four days a week as a carpenter and traveling/climbing the rest of the time.

So when the Maryland native moved to Hawaii in 2009 and couldn’t find an indoor rock-climbing facility, he decided to open one himself.

“Rock climbing and bouldering, it’s a full-body work-out for sure,” says Ridgely.

“There’s a lot of finger grip, balance and core strength involved. It’s also a lot of mental and nerves. You’re in an environment where you’re off the ground, hanging from something, and just being comfortable in that setting, jumping from thing to thing, and not being afraid of falling.

“For me, physically, I was always really skinny. After I started rock climbing, I’ve put on a lot more muscle.”

For more information on Volcanic Rock Gym, visit or call 397-0095.