Many of you might be surprised to find that Oahu, Hawaii boasts an enthusiastic culture of rock climbers. These diehards climb wet, slippery, and painfully sharp boulders in miserably hot and humid conditions because they love the sport, and well, they have no other option!
Oahu is home to two of the smallest climbing gyms I have ever witnessed; one must be extremely passionate and dedicated to get strong around here. The island’s inhabitants regularly watch great surfers compete for serious titles in their backyard breaks — so do they enjoy watching rock climbing. The people of Oahu view surfing and climbing as spectator sports, watching and participating in equal measure. It seemed bizarre to me, coming from Colorado where everyone around you is constantly in training for some athletic feat. But I got used to it, and began to love the supportive and enthusiastic climbing community of Oahu.
I was somewhat amazed to see how strong the climbers in Hawaii were, as many of them practice their craft sporadically. As a dedicated climber, I tend to practice five or six days a week. I found myself wondering how much stronger they could be if they climbed more often, and had decent gym facilities in which to train.
It was inspiring to be with a group of people so motivated to try their hardest. The women would jump, swing, and take terrifying falls, and the men would put on their own macho-man contests and attempt the most difficult climbs — all equally thrilled to be part of the action. Whether we were climbing outside or having a rainy day session in the gym, the locals were having a blast.
There are a variety of climbing areas spread out around Oahu. For such a small island, it’s not quick to get around: there is only one main road that travels along the coast, and some of the climbing areas can only be reached through difficult, long hikes, or with a high-clearance SUV. Two small zones that have gained a lot of popularity are located in the westernmost tip of Oahu, at Kaena Point. The Arch and Future Cave boast some of the hardest-rated climbs, as well as some of the highest climbs with the worst landings.
There is another bouldering area in the famous Waimea Bay. These boulders sit right on the beach, providing a soft, sandy landing and eliminating the need for extra padding. The climbs are not as difficult, and tend to be crowded with tourists who notice the chalk from afar and decide to have a gander. Nonetheless, it’s a two-minute walk from the parking lot, and makes for a great afternoon on the beach.
There are nearly a dozen areas around the island located in the jungle-filled mountains, providing muggy, bug-filled climbing conditions. There is also a rope climbing area, but after someone sustained an injury, the state was forced to shut down the activities. Anyone caught climbing on the premises is now slapped with a hefty fine.
Overall, I was surprised and impressed with the quality and quantity of rock on this incredibly beautiful island. It is the ultimate mecca for any adventure sports enthusiast. Nowhere else in America can you rock climb, surf world-class waves, stand-up paddle board in bright turquoise waters, snorkel beautiful reefs, hike up jungle mountains, and take bike rides and runs alongside the beach.
This is Oahu — the land of outdoor adventure.