How many sports can you name that mix an equal amount of brute strength and puzzle-problem solving? When the kids and I visited the ARCH Project Climbing Center in Waipahu, we were surprised to find this gym reserved for rock climbers and open for all to learn, is a growing trend in the islands and a celebrated competitive sport world wide.

We learned that “bouldering,” which is free of ropes and harnesses, is goal-oriented climbing that requires mental focus and physical agility. Skill builds over time and can be an individual or team effort.

The space is located in an industrial warehouse and functions much like a Cross Fit gym, just without regularly scheduled classes.  You can walk in and climb as much as you want on a day pass, per month, or per year, and they have special discounts for kids, students, and military. You can also pay for one-on-one instruction.
The Arch Project Climbing Center is a sister project of The Arch Project, a grass roots movement that encourages strength of body and mind, particularly positivity in the way people think and live through the sport of climbing. Learn more about this non-profit organization here.

Equipment Required

Climbing Shoes – this gym will rent you a pair of shoes for $3, specific for climbing, or you can bring your own. But they must be climbing shoes that help your feet to grip. They run about $60-$150, and around $50 for kids. Check out these brands from La Sportiva, Evolv, or Mad Rock.
Chalk – used on hands to grip different holds, you can rent a bag for $2, and there are special brands for sale that help with extra dryness. More available to buy in bulk here.
Your Body – this sport relies on muscles and flexibility, both build over time. Although climbing can be an excellent way to lose weight and motivational because of its goal-oriented nature.

Climbing Up

Courses are set up by the different colored grips, and you can practice climbing at different elevations. The kids were given a crash course in hand and foot placement by the instructor, and some coaching as they embarked on their first boulder climb.

Where rope-climbing adds an extra measure of security to a potential fall, bouldering requires an extra reserve of strength to get down safely. Here are some things to consider when you’re starting out:

  • Keep your knees bent, never locked
  • Fall feet-to-butt to avoid neck & back injury
  • Acknowledge others climbing around you, or walking below
  • Keep hands in, don’t fall on your wrists
  • Only use hands and feet while climbing

My daughter was unsure about the climb up (for fear of falling), but once she got the hang of gripping and using her body, she didn’t want to stop! My son was eager to climb, and as high as he got, he was a bit too sure of himself and our instructor reminded him to pay attention for his own safety.

Climbing requires focus and problem-solving. Every reach, every step is like mastering a puzzle of sorts, as there are many courses to follow and each climber can challenge him or herself differently to achieve their own level of success. This is what I appreciated so much about the experience for my kids: climbing afforded them both the freedom and mental focus to achieve their own personal goals.

There are over 850 climbing gyms around the world. Walltopia is the company out of Bulgaria that builds these types of bouldering walls, and by whom this gym was designed.  Walltopia is now the most popular wall company in the world – they will work with gym owners to construct a 3D mockup of the space, and will even ship in the pieces along with a team of wall-building experts to construct the final product.  To have a bouldering gym established on the island of Oahu for the island-climbing community is a treasure!

[bctt tweet=”Climbing affords kids both the freedom and mental focus to achieve their own personal goals. #climbpono” username=”PracticalFamily”]

I thought it would be really scary since I heard there would be no ropes, but once I tried it, I never thought it would be this fun.

Chloe, age 9

It was really AWESOME! I got to go up high and got to use my whole body and my muscles.

Asher, age 8

Birthday Parties & Summer Camps

What makes the Arch Project Climbing Center unique is their availability to accommodate children. They have group rates for parties and summer camps for ages 5-8 and 9-12 which are comparable to other summer fun camps and offered in half or full-day increments.

Groups of kids can cheer each other on, practice competing, join teams, and make friends. Included in the packages is a private room upstairs, which also doubles as a yoga studio during the week.

Indoor climbing gyms seem to be a great alternative when mountainous opportunities are not immediately available. I love that the kids had this experience to use their body and mind to problem-solve, to think critically, and learn to be efficient in their own strength. Even when they felt stuck, it forced them think, breathe, and find a way down.

[bctt tweet=”I love that the kids had this experience to use their body and mind to problem-solve, to think critically, and learn to be efficient in their own strength. Even when they felt stuck, it forced them think, breathe, and find a way down. #climbpono” username=”PracticalFamily”]

Climbing is Skill-Building

Bouldering not only helps kids to approach skill-building challenges, but it helps them to overcome self-doubt as well. They will question: “Am I strong enough? ” “Am I smart enough?” and develop an awareness of their own body, their own ability that they may not have practiced in any other situation.

This connection between mind and body was wonderfully surprising for a sport which I once thought was reserved for adrenaline junkies and extreme sports nuts. Bouldering, as risky as it may look from the outside, is actually quite a sophisticated form of body movement and strength-building. I was pleased to have found this opportunity on Oahu and highly recommend the Arch Project Climbing Center as an excellent indoor opportunity.

Plan Your Visit

It is best to fill out this simple waiver form before coming into the gym. It saves time and gets you and the kids on the wall faster. Definitely bring socks to rent climbing shoes unless you plan to bring your own.
All photos taken by permission and/or provided courtesy of the Arch Project Climbing Center. 


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