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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 80° Today's Paper


It’s a wall-to-wall experience

Cindy Luis
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Jacinda Elias and Linda Awana were up against the wall at SoulTrex in Windward Mall.

No matter how spectacular the views from Makapuu Point or from atop the Main Wall at Mokuleia, there’s still a matter of getting to the top of all those rocks. And then how to get down.

Call it acrophobia — fear of heights — or bathophobia — fear of falling from high places — there are some phobias that aren’t so easy to overcome.

Enter SoulTrex at Windward Mall, a new store designed to give those who love being outdoors — climbers, campers, hikers, adventurers — the gear to make those activities safe and enjoyable in an eco-friendly way.


» soultrexinc.com
Windward Mall
» climbaloha.com
Climbing Shop
2241 Noah St. Honolulu
Hawaii Rocks Climbing School
» volcanicrockgym

94-423 Uke’e St. Waipio

Perhaps it wasn’t the intent of owner Jacinda Elias to help ‘phobes’ get over their fears, but the psychology degree holder from Occidental did have climbing walls and a bouldering cave built in the store. A subtle and subliminal encouragement to those who aren’t inclined to go up an incline.

The climbing walls are 10 feet high and were designed and built by Team Climb Aloha, with protective padding on the floor. The short height means climbers are not required to rope off and are free to explore various routes using footholds and hand grips.

“It’s fun to work with the kids on the wall,” said Elias, a Punahou graduate raised in Windward Oahu. “Some attack it right away, others are more cautious, but you see them overcoming their fears and they’re soon climbing all the way up.”

Elias grew up hiking and climbing on Oahu. The 41-year-old has since climbed in a number of national parks on the mainland and trekked to Peru, where she climbed Machu Picchu.

“It’s a growing sport on the mainland,” she said, “and there’s definitely interest here. What’s nice is it branches off into hiking, camping overnight, people just wanting to connect with nature.

“There’s a growing movement, maybe call it a trend, where people are wanting to get more in tune with what’s out there. There’s virtual reality and then there’s the reality that you can actually experience in the outdoors.”

Among Elias’ goals was to get people who weren’t involved in the outdoors to get involved, as well as provide quality equipment for people who already were. She’s been relying on her customers for feedback and recommendations as to what stock to carry.

Other plans are to get involved with adventure races and to work with the Department of Education to bring activities into the schools. King Intermediate already has a climbing wall and “I think this helps kids grow, physically, mentally, emotionally,” Elias said. “We’re going to start doing workshops in the store for climbing, orienteering, Hawaiian healing arts. Everything is connected.

“Climbing is very much part of our heritage in Hawaii. It was a way of life with the ancient Hawaiians, with the trails, having to get from one place to another.”

One percent of Soul Trex sales goes to support programs that get local youth outdoors. It also is a member of “1 Percent for the Planet,” which donates to environmental organizations worldwide.

» Climb Aloha offers several courses through its Hawaii Rocks Climbing School and provides the necessary equipment. Mike Richardson, Climb Aloha general manager, said that he hopes to have a full-scale climbing wall and store in the Kakaako area open within a few months.

“We’re still looking for a space big enough, with enough parking and high enough ceilings,” he said. “I think climbing has become more mainstream and our courses have been quite popular. It’s mostly residents taking them and it can be enjoyed by anyone of any age and fitness level.”

» An indoor climbing gym already exists in Waipio, operating out of What’s Up Gymnastics. Volcanic Rock Gym offers 3,000 square feet of climbing area with traversing walls, top-rope routes and crack climbing.

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