Article

The World's Most Isolated Affiliate Competes in the Open

Published on Thu, 2014-03-27 12:00
By: 
Rebecca Marshallsay

Tumuora means 'strong life' in the Cook Islands Maori language and that is certainly what the affiliate is creating for the local community.


Photos courtesy of Olivia Heather.

As soon as Open Workout 14.4 was announced, Tumuora CrossFit put out a plea to the local community to help it locate a Concept2 rower.

With the nearest affiliate more than 1,800 miles away in Auckland, New Zealand, sourcing equipment is just one of the challenges facing the most geographically isolated affiliate in the world.

“It was a big mission,” said Olivia Heather, co-owner of Tumoura CrossFit. “First, we found two where the monitors didn’t work properly, and finally we found a lady on the island that owned a Concept 2, but we were only able to use it for a couple hours before she took it back.”

Tumuora CrossFit is located in the Cook Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and is part of the Australia Region. In addition to being one of the most remote affiliates participating in the Open, it is also one of the newest, opening only eight months ago.

Co-owner and head coach Geoff Halston said he discovered CrossFit while coaching the Cook Islands’ touch rugby team in preparation for the 2011 World Cup, held in Scotland.

“Basically, our team couldn't train together ... they could only do a lunch-time session, so I was looking for something that was really short, and something for our strength and conditioning just to do in our lunch breaks,” Halston said.

“I was googling on the Internet and CrossFit kept popping up and then I tried a couple of the workouts and from there I was hooked ... and I've been doing CrossFit ever since.”

Once hooked, Halston started CrossFit-style training with about a dozen personal training clients before flying to New Zealand in 2012 to earn his Level 1 certificate.

Halston and Heather said they were initially concerned about the financial viability of opening an official CrossFit affiliate in the Cook Islands due to the costs of getting established compared to the country's minimum wage.

"Arguably we are probably the cheapest box in the world with annual rates of NZD$900,” Heather said, “but to our people, this is really steep when our minimum wage is only $5 an hour.”

Halston confirmed the cost and time involved in ordering equipment continues to be their biggest challenge. They do not have the luxury of picking up the latest “toys” as new training and conditioning equipment becomes available.

"We order our equipment out of China so it (comes) through China, through New Zealand and then New Zealand to us," Halston said. "So we always have to factor that in.”

“If we lose something or some of our equipment breaks down ... it's very hard for us just to order one bar because the freight just kills us," he added.

Despite the challenges, Halston and Heather are adamant that establishing Tumuora CrossFit, now 100 members strong, is one of the best decisions they've ever made. One of their biggest motivators has been the desire to make a positive difference to the local community.

“I believe our overweight rate is greater than 80 percent and our obese rate is greater than 63 percent,” Heather said. “With a population of just 10,000 plus (on the main island of Rarotonga) these are shocking numbers.”

“Along with providing CrossFit, we also provide a lot of nutrition advice, mostly targeted around paleo, to help educate people as to how they should be eating to supplement their training, combat fat and improve their quality of life in general,” she added.

Tumuora means “strong life” in the Cook Islands Maori language and that is certainly what the affiliate is creating for the local community.

"It has been a great journey so far,” Heather said. “The CrossFit model based around creating a community has been the biggest driver in our success. We have found that the community that we have been successfully building, and continue to build, has created a family-like atmosphere and this is part of the reason why people love it so much."

The Open is Tumuora CrossFit’s first opportunity to compete against athletes from other affiliates. However, Halston has been working hard to create opportunities within the box to keep his athletes engaged prior to the Open.

“We have to fly over to New Zealand or Australia if we want to compete,” Halston said. “So we've had a summer games, and then we have a winter games and then we're hosting our own in house competitions with powerlifting, weightlifting … just so that we give our members something to train for … a bit of a goal rather than just come to the box and just train for the whole year. At least there's an incentive for them if they do want to compete.”

The affiliate has five members registered for the Open with Jamie Gotty the highest place individual, sitting in 1,286th place in the Australia Region heading into 14.5.

“We didn't really know what to expect so we just thought we'll use it as a bit of a learning experience ... we've loved it,” Halston said. “A lot of our other members were a little bit reluctant about it I guess, a little bit intimidated with it. So I’ve managed to rope in five people and it gives them a bit of an eye opener, (and shows) that anybody can do it.”

Halston said they’ve enjoyed the Open workouts so far.

“They've been tough; they've exposed some of our weaknesses,” he admitted. “I'm kind of happy with my programming now and I know what to program a little bit more for us.”

Looking to the future, Halston said he expects to increase participation in the Open next year and they hope to get involved with the regional competition as spectators or participants.

“(The Australia Regional) is definitely something for the future I think … we probably want to aim for next year to see if we can get at least somebody there,” Halston said.

“We've got a good masters crew as well,” he added. “Definitely next year … like I said, we wanted to use this year to get our feet a bit wet and to get some experience as to what it's about.”

Although they are physically isolated and face a unique set of challenges, Halston said he feels that participating in the Open is just another step to cement their place within the broader CrossFit community.

“We just love CrossFit and what it's done for us here,” he said. “We don't feel like we're even isolated because the Internet is such a powerful tool. I mean we got a Christmas card just a couple of weeks ago from CrossFit HQ but in no way do we feel like (we’re isolated) ... you know it's just part and parcel of being out here I guess. We just do our thing and carry on!”

 

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