Volcanic Gym Name Lives On in Kailua

Climbing walls at Volcanic Rock Gym
After three Volcanic Rock Gym locations closed in six years, Ali and Rex Huetter teamed up with original founder Justin Ridgely to open a new Volcanic Rock Gym in Hawaii (pictured) and have been keeping the dream going. (All images courtesy of Volcanic Rock Gym)

Volcanic Rock Gym
Kailua, Hawaii

Specs: The latest Volcanic Rock Gym—co-owned by Ali Huetter and Rex Huetter and opened with original founder Justin Ridgely—opened in September 2022 in Kailua, Hawaii. About 15 years ago, Ridgely moved from California to Hawaii and, discovering the climbing scene was still relatively young, started establishing climbs outdoors. Later, Ridgely opened an indoor climbing gym in Waipio, then Honolulu, and eventually on the outskirts of Kailua, where he and the Huetters met. By 2019, though, all three gym locations had permanently closed due to leasing issues. But the Huetters shared Ridgely’s vision of contributing to the growth of climbing on the island of Oahu, and in 2022 they decided to bring the Volcanic Rock Gym name back to Kailua.

Trango Holds Pardners

Before the 2022 gym opened, both the Huetters and Ridgely had routeset at Hi Climb, a mixed-discipline climbing gym on the other side of the island, where Ridgely was a head setter. Ali noted the group was looking to create a bouldering-focused gym and, because one of Ridgely’s gyms had been in Kailua, they chose to move back. “He had that reputation and following, and people knew that his last location was in Kailua,” Ali explained (adding that Ridgely helped open the new location but has since stepped back from the gym). Finding a suitable building at the time was not an easy task, though. Warehouses in Hawaii are pricey and “very few and far between at the moment,” according to Ali, but the team and local climbers were set on Kailua.

Kilter/Lemur Adjustable Slab wall at Volcanic
Volcanic’s owners opted to include multiple adjustable walls in their compact space, including a Kilter/Lemur Adjustable Slab wall (pictured).

Ali described the Kaliua area as already prosperous and growing, with a population consisting largely of tourists, families and military service members. The owners eventually found an available building in the area next to the Hamakua Marsh wildlife sanctuary, a backdrop that Ali says contributes to a natural feel in the gym. “It was small, it was intimate, it had nice tall ceilings,” she noted of the building. “The marsh behind was really nice, so we have this outdoor area that we could utilize. And there are a lot of buildings that are owned by big companies in Kailua, and this wasn’t owned by a big company; this is small, personally owned. So, it also gave that touch of getting back to the community, being part of something a little bit bigger.”

When searching for a suitable space, Ridgely wanted a facility that could fit 14-foot bouldering walls, a 24×14-foot Kilter/Lemur Adjustable Slab wall, two Kilter Boards and a Moon Board—all of which now reside in the chosen building, totaling over 2,100 square feet of climbing surface. The facility also features a rowing machine, squat rack, campus boards and hangboards in a gym space Ali describes as “small, cozy, [and] intimate.”

Mo’olelo Matters night hosted by Kanaka Climbers at Volcanic
In addition to events like Mo’olelo Matters nights (pictured) and setting clinics hosted by Kanaka Climbers, Volcanic has also held women and nonbinary climb nights at the gym, intro to climbing clinics, and youth teams and comps.

Volcanic organizes nonprofit evenings with local organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Club and Kanaka Climbers, “a group of local Native Hawaiian people who want to teach people how to ethically recreate in Hawaii,” said Ali. Every other month, for example, Kanaka Climbers has been hosting a free event at the gym that helps climbers learn about different climbing locations nearby and become better stewards.

Having been unaffected by the Maui fires last fall, the Volcanic ownership team wanted to give back to the local community. Ali and Rex both work at Buzz’s Original Steakhouse, as well, where they connected with others looking to help. In the end, the Huetters delivered nearly five truckloads of toiletries, diapers, formula, canned goods, clothes and more to people impacted by the fires.


Walls: Kilter/Lemur
Flooring: Kilter/Lemur
CRM Software: MindBody
Website: hawaiirockclimbinggym.com
Instagram: @VolcanicRockGym

In Their Words: “I’m still getting to know people in my community. We’re getting to know our neighbors who have the yoga studio and the brewery and the tattoo shop, and we’re doing events with them. And seeing the growth of some of these people that come in, whether it’s just a couple of times or they’re coming in daily—not just on the wall, but off the wall as well—and seeing their connections that happen, is actually the coolest part for me, just because I see it as we’re providing a space and people grow within the space. Being able to provide this meeting area is my favorite part.” – Ali Huetter, co-owner of Volcanic Rock Gym

Editor’s Note: Corrections were applied to this article on April 26, 2024.

Harness Consulting