April 8, 2013
The Barber Brothers
By Lauryn Lax

It could be the genes, the nine-year exposure to CrossFit, or the facial hair. No one knows for certain.

Photo Credit: Justin Casas

There’s something about the Barbers.

It could be the genes, the nine-year exposure to CrossFit, or the facial hair. No one knows for certain. All we do know is that the two brothers, Pat and Jonji, are pretty damn good at CrossFit.

Pat finished in fifth in Northern California. His younger brother, Jonji, holds 80th.

It all started in 2004, when their high school English teacher, Tony Budding — now CrossFit Media Director — started offering free, early morning workouts at the school gym.

“Don’t let Pat tell you otherwise, I was a CrossFitter before he was,” Jonji says. “I think he had tried one workout before I started regularly attending classes, but the interval between his workouts was so long you’d have a hard time saying he ‘did’ CrossFit.”

Waking up early just to suffer through a workout didn’t appeal to 17-year-old Pat at first, but, not to be outdone by his younger brother, he eventually joined the class. The two learned the basics at the school gym, and soon took the winding, redwood lined road from Mount Madonna in Watsonville, Calif., to the original CrossFit box on Research Park Drive.

Pat had a habit of “showing up unannounced, smashing the workout and everyone in it (including himself), puking, and then not showing up again for a couple months, when he would follow the same procedure,” Jonji says.

Not long after graduating from high school, Pat got caught up in CrossFit. He spent his days training, coaching at CrossFit Santa Cruz, and working as Budding’s assistant in the three-man CrossFit Media Department.

From 2007 to 2011, Pat went on to join the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff, meet his wife, Tamaryn, at the CrossFit Games, take 8th at the 2011 CrossFit Games and help open a box.

“CrossFit has really shaped my life for the last few years and has really become all consuming for me,” Pat says. “I have had nonstop improvement in every aspect of my fitness for nine years straight. What other program can boast that? I recently watched an old Mike Burgener video where he coached me in the clean and jerk and snatch, and realized, I now snatch more than I clean and jerked in that video.”

For the last nine years, the two constants in Pat’s life have been CrossFit and his younger brother’s support.

“Jonji gives me confidence in my own abilities,” Pat says. “He tends to believe in me and my abilities more than I do, and that helps me a ton when it comes to competition, training and my overall mindset.”

With little prompting, Jonji shows his true fan-bro colors.

“As far as I’m concerned, Pat is the most athletically-gifted person I’ve ever met,” Jonji says. “What takes years of practice for some, comes to him in seconds, and the discrepancy between our abilities is equally great ... I’m his biggest fan.”

For the last year, the brothers have been training together at NorCal CrossFit.

“We’re as competitive as you can get, but because he’s on such a higher level than me, I would say our CrossFit relationship is more motivational than competitive,” Jonji says. “Pat does a really good job of coaching my mental game. He always is able to keep things in perspective for me when I’m feeling down or motivate me when I’m being lazy.”

And, of course, Jonji finds ways he can compete with his brother from a game of volleyball to a Zone challenge.

“We set a goal of one month strict Zone, and the first person to break the challenge would have to shave their body,” Pat says. “One night, I tried to sneak some ice cream in a cup while Jonji was not looking. He caught me and immediately grabbed my cup, spit in it and said, ‘I expect you to do the same for me!’”

Without each other’s commitment to CrossFit, both doubt they would have stuck with it for so long.

“I think we both would be a lot less involved in CrossFit had the other not stuck with it for so long,” Jonji says. “CrossFit has been so much a part of our lives for so long, it’s hard to imagine life before it.”