Sender One to open first bouldering-only facility in Playa Vista
Story by Sara Edwards | Photo BY MATTHEW BECKER
Alice Kao first got into rock climbing 12 years ago after going through a break-up. She had just moved to London when it was too cold to exercise outside and didn’t have any friends there.
When Kao went to a climbing gym and completed her first climb, she realized that she had found her community. She felt invigorated and refreshed during her first climb and wanted others to be able to feel that same feeling of rejuvenation she experienced when climbing.
Kao was also blown away by how welcoming and inviting the climbing community had been to her. When she first started climbing, no one was judging her for being inexperienced or made her feel unwelcome.
“It changed my life and helped me get better,” Kao says. “When I climb, it reminds me of a time that made me happy or reminded me that this thing is healed.”
In 2001, Kao founded Sender One with Wes Shih and Wes Chu with the shared philosophy of self-discovery and connecting with a community through climbing. Sender One is Southern California’s only world-class indoor rock climbing, yoga and fitness facility.
“We’ve all been through something terrible and have survived grief,” Kao says. “We wanted to share climbing with others and have climbing help them the way climbing has helped us.”
In Summer 2021, Sender One is opening a new 7,000-square-foot facility in Playa Vista. It will include bouldering rock walls designed by Walltopia, a Bulgarian climbing wall manufacturer. Kao says the new location’s interior will reflect the Playa Vista neighborhood and surrounding communities with bouldering walls that reflect the ocean and California sun colors.
“This is our third location, which will be a bouldering-only location,” Kao says. “It’s not going to have the big tall walls because we’re going into a shopping mall right next to Starbucks.”
As a bouldering-only location, Kao says it will be a perfect site for people interested in climbing to dip their toes into the sport while also appealing to people looking for a creative place to hold a birthday party or get kids back into physical activities.
“Kids have been sitting online for the past year so they need to get back into some kind of activities,” Kao says. “We will definitely have some sort of family-oriented programming coming up as well.”
Currently, Sender One has two locations – one in Santa Ana and another that is just a five-minute drive from Los Angeles International Airport. The Santa Ana location offers bouldering and 50-foot rope climbing walls, including the iconic “Ice Cream Cone” feature. It also has two yoga studios, space for an aerial silks program and an expanded fitness area.
The LAX location includes a two-story bouldering area, top rope and lead climbing, yoga and fitness. It is also the tallest rope climbing facility in Southern California with an iconic centerpiece nicknamed “The Torch” that stands at 6 feet tall with 40 degrees of overhanging terrain.
Kao says the climbing community is one that is still heavily dominated by the white male population. A lot of times when people, especially women, are looking for a new sport, Kao says they are intimidated by the strong, muscular men portrayed in the media or by the equipment that is required. But because climbing has a low-barrier of entry, Kao hopes that more women and families look into the sport.
“A lot of women get into climbing and that’s because climbing is a very woman-friendly community,” Kao says. “You’re not lifting heavy barbells or weights, you’re lifting your own body weight and the competition is only with yourself.”
Sender One Playa Vista will offer the same monthly membership fees for access to the facility, as well as the other three locations in LA. A fourth location in Westwood Village is also currently in the works and slated to open in 2022, in addition to a Sender One Training Center in the same complex as the Santa Ana location. The training center will open sometime in 2021 and will be a space that focuses on dedicated trainers and competition climbers.
Sender One Playa Vista: 12775 Millennium Dr., Playa Vista