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Long-awaited climbing gym Sender One opens, first of its kind in Westwood

Sender One, during its construction phase, is pictured. The climbing gym opened in Westwood on Wednesday. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

By Gabby Jamall

Feb. 28, 2024 6:30 p.m.

This post was updated March 1 at 12:22 a.m.

Climbing gym Sender One opened to the public Wednesday, making it the first of its kind in the area.

Located on Lindbrook Drive, between Westwood Boulevard and Glendon Avenue, the indoor rock climbing gym was once the site of the Mann Festival Theater. Sender One first opened its flagship gym in Santa Ana in 2013.

Co-founder and CEO Alice Kao said she started climbing during a rough period of her life and immediately became attached to the sport and community. Climbing’s impact on Kao inspired her and her business partners to create Sender One, she added.

“We wanted to build a place where people like ourselves can find each other,” Kao said. “That is why the purpose of Sender One is to discover ourselves and connect with others through climbing.”

Kao, a UCLA alumnus, said her own memories of the area from her time as a student inspired her to build a gym in Westwood Village.

“I had a lot of feelings and personal connection to the space, where I wanted to turn it into something cool that had meaning to me,” she said.

The gym will also work to preserve the cinematic history of the building by putting up movie posters and potentially displaying films in the gym, said Czar Goss, manager of the gym.

“We don’t want to impact the history of Westwood in that way … it’s pretty awesome to leave architecture just the way we found it as much as we possibly can,” Goss said. “The plan, too, is to even take some of that movie theater influence and bring it into the climbing gym.”

The logo for the gym’s Westwood location even features a film strip, paying homage to the former theater.

The Westwood Sender One gym contains more than 10,000 square feet of space, 2,000 of which are dedicated to an upstairs mezzanine that will hold fitness equipment. Along with 12-to-15-foot tall bouldering walls, the gym will also offer yoga classes, a fitness center and climbing boards for targeted training.

(Nina Schmidt/Daily Bruin)
Sender One offers a monthly membership that gives members access to climbing and other fitness classes/spaces. The membership costs $109 per month, but with the student discount, memberships will be $89. Day passes and introductory climbing classes will be $39. (Nina Schmidt/Daily Bruin)

Goss added that the youthfulness and vibrance of Westwood, with its large student population, was definitely a factor in choosing the gym’s location.

“It’s a young, bustling neighborhood, so we obviously had UCLA in mind when this location was picked,” he said. “We’re expecting a lot of college-age students to come in and climb here.”

Having a climbing gym in Westwood brings the opportunity to have a diverse group of people from both the UCLA campus and the surrounding Westwood community, said first-year economics student and employee at the gym Daniel Bason.

Most climbers in Westwood go to Cliffs of Id, a climbing gym in Culver City, which usually requires them to drive, said second-year English student Samantha Shaw. They added that they are eager to see people come to Westwood for a change.

“I’m excited to see all the kinds of people that come here, like the climbing people from UCLA who do go over to different gyms around,” they said. “It would be cool to see them here.”

Memberships at the gym will cost $109 per month, but with the student discount, memberships will be $89 , Goss said. Day passes and introductory climbing classes will be sold for $39.

Kao added that all Sender One gyms now include free climbing shoe rentals and chalk rentals to incentivize more people to begin their journey in the sport.

“We really believe in teaching people how to climb like introducing climbing to new climbers and having a pair of rentals. It makes a huge difference,” she said.

Official construction for the gym began in 2022 after a two-year delay halted progress. Kao said many of the delays came down to city-permitting issues, which she says speak to a larger conversation about the city’s structure and the challenges it poses for small business owners.

“If you want to encourage more small businesses to come to Westwood, we have to be able to help them to solve these problems,” she said. “Nobody has unlimited amounts of money and time and resources to deal with the city.”

There are several physical and mental health benefits to climbing. According to CNN, climbing can strengthen the cardiorespiratory system, build muscle mass, improve memory retention and increase problem-solving skills.

Shaw said they first got into climbing because it offered a good balance between physical activity and mental exercise.

Bason said climbing is a unique sport in how social it can be, providing the opportunity to meet and converse with others who share the same passion.

“Every person that I’ve met is just so genuine with their love of climbing and so friendly and so quick to offer feedback or advice,” he said. “It’s such a great place to be.”

Sender One is now open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, but from March 2 and onward, hours will expand from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. The gym also plans to have its grand opening celebration party on April 6.

Kao said, for those who have not gotten to visit Sender One or have never climbed before, that although a new experience like this can be overwhelming, it can also provide the chance to explore a new aspect of oneself and meet others.

“What I found at the climbing gym was not just myself, it was other people,” she said. “There’s something you’re always going to discover about yourself and discover about others when you commit to stepping out of your comfort zone.”

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