Lake Sunsets and Paddleboard Tours in Alabama – Gym of the Week

GadRock in Alabama paddleboard tours and climbing
GadRock in Alabama was established to fill a gap in the local community’s recreational offerings, and a spot on Lake Gadsden fit the owners’ vision for a climbing and paddleboarding gym. (All images courtesy of GadRock)

GYM: GadRock Microgym
LOCATION: Gadsden, Alabama
WHY WE’D VISIT: Treadwall, SUP tours, sunset views from the dock
WHO WE SPOKE TO: Carrie Machen
THEIR MOTTO: “Train here, explore there!”

Building What’s Missing

Located on beautiful Lake Gadsden in Alabama lies GadRock Microgym, opened in 2018. This gym is a multipurpose, mixed discipline climbing facility with 4,500 square feet of climbing surface, eight auto belays, 40-foot top-rope/lead climbing walls, and designated bouldering areas.

Carrie Machen, co-owner and COO of GadRock, described why she and her business partner Kate Wilson chose this location. Before GadRock, there were no full climbing facilities or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) outfitters within an hour of Gadsden, despite the proximity to outdoor climbing areas and inexhaustible waterways. They quickly found a facility that would reflect the needs of the community—a spot on the water and a thirty-minute drive from Horse Pens 40. “Our gym is a place to train and build the confidence to explore the amazing outdoor locations that surround us,” Machen explained.


Although they were limited by the size of the facility, the layout and capacity of GadRock was fitting for the area and population. “Kate and I just built what we thought was missing in our area,” said Machen.

To cater to a diverse crowd of climbers of all skill levels and interests, GadRock offers fitness classes such as ClimbFit, Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga, and a Rocks, Ropes & HIIT class. Additional features of the gym are a room for group gatherings and birthday parties, a Treadwall, an extensive retail area, and their own dock on the lake.

The dock at GadRock gym
Carrie Machen―who wears many hats at GadRock, from SUP guide to coach―leads a goal-setting session with youth team members on the gym’s dock.

Combining Education and Recreation

According to GadRock’s website, “Lake Gadsden is an extension of our indoor space.” For some, this means viewing the unobstructed lake through the gym’s large garage doors or relaxing on the outdoor deck and dock. For others, this means hanging out on the lake on a SUP, and GadRock is one of the few gyms to provide both climbing and paddleboarding.

“We knew that introducing new people to climbing and paddling meant that we needed to do our part in educating those new to the sport about how precious these recreational areas are. To do that, we offer many different guided SUP tours and in each one we really emphasize the outdoor opportunities that exist,” said Machen. The gym’s Eco tour, for example, leads paddlers around a heron rookery while the guides catalog wildlife in the region. GadRock runs other unique tours on the boards, such as the Intro tour, Yoga tour, and SUP & SIP tour (which explores the tributaries at a slower place and often involves visiting a swimming hole before relaxing on the dock with a cold drink).

“We want people on each tour to leave inspired to explore our waterways even more,” Machen recounts. “Our gym, classes, and tours are all about connection. We try to connect the indoor training and learning experience with the outdoor opportunities that are out there to explore.”

GadRock paddleboard tours at sunset
In addition to providing a workout, GadRock’s paddleboard tours―like the SUP & SIP tour at sunset―aim to foster an appreciation for Alabama’s waterways.


“Our community is so lucky to have access to amazing crags and waterways, and I hope the passion the next generation has for these areas will far exceed our own. Also, we have some of the best sunsets that are best enjoyed on the dock after a long climbing session.”