Back handsprings, cartwheels, and floor routines are practiced daily by gymnasts at Kona Aerial Gymnastics in Kailua-Kona.
For 25 years, Kona Aerials Gymnastics has worked with gymnasts of all ages and shared its love and passion of the sport with others.
In 1989, the company was opened by founder Nanette Guiffrida. A gymnast since age 7, she fell in love with the sport, trained hard and competed for 10 years. At age 17, after working her way up to the highest level in the sport, she began coaching at a California gym. A few years later, she moved to Kailua-Kona with the thought that she was done with gymnastics. But she couldn’t stay away from it for long and ended up opening what is now Kona Aerial Gymnastics.
On the first day of instruction in 1989, 75 kids showed up for class and the gym has flourished ever since. Today, the gym has around 130 students, which are under the care of five instructors and compete in about 15 competitions on Hawaii Island, Oahu and the mainland. The team program is highly competitive and recently earned the third place team award in the state competition.
“Our team spends a lot of time training, a lot of time together,” Guiffrida said when asked about why they do so well at competitions. “We run a really strict competitive program to keep them safe,” she added.
Guiffrida said her athletes adhere to the motto, “It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get up.” She hopes her athletes become successful adults through the passion, dedication and motivation it takes to be a gymnast.
Kona Aerials Gymnastics offers classes for children as young as 16 months old. Classes are also offered for adults.
Classes for younger children focus on motor skills and getting the brain ready for more complicated tasks. The recreational program is similar to a junior Olympic program while the team program is highly competitive.
To make the team program, Guiffrida looks at the athlete from more than one perspective before a selection is made. An athlete must display a passion for the sport, a desire to succeed and a willingness to perform their best in all tasks asked of them, she said.
“It’s important to give to the island,” Guiffrida said. “To give back to the children, especially the girls.”
Guiffrida noted Kona Aerials Gymnastics sees more girls at its gym than boys. When she first opened, she realized there were not so many opportunities for children, especially girls, in the area and decided she would help to see that they succeeded.
Over the years, this business has had its ups and downs, Guiffrida said. Since gymnastics takes up so much space in order to house all of the equipment and practice areas, the gym has changed locations six times since opening. Maintaining rental fees for a large space has been challenging, but she has made it through and looks forward to the years to come.
“[Making it 25 years] shows our dedication. No matter how many times we got up, we beat the odds,” Guiffrida said.
To celebrate the milestone, Kona Aerials Gymnastics will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday with free food, drinks and demonstrations by the gymnasts. It’s located in the big white tent above the Queen Kaahumanu Tesoro at 74-550 Honokohau St. in Kailua-Kona.
For more information, contact Guiffrida at 329-4313, 987-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.