March 6, 2013
Getting Dirty in the Gulf
By Wendy Wilson
  Mike Wild trains for the Open on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
  Mike Wild trains for the Open on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I eat very clean and train every day, with no rest days. We do WODs onboard because it keeps you sane. It’s tough out there.”


Working on an oil rig is tough business, and for Mike Wild, it has been a way of life for the past two-plus years.

The motorman from Bend, Ore., rotates 21 grueling days on and 21 relaxing days off atop an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. CrossFit keeps him both fit and sane, he says, particularly as he trains for the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open.

Fourth Year the Charm?

Wild walked into his home box, High Desert CrossFit, four years ago. A former football player, he was looking for something to help him stay in shape. His buddy, Ryan Hudson, introduced him to CrossFit and he hasn’t looked back since.

“I got hooked on it the first time I tried it,” Wild says. “J.T. was my first real WOD. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

At the 2010 CrossFit Games Oregon Sectionals, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound athlete powered through the rope climb couplet, deadlift triplet and chipper, placing eighth overall. At the North West Regional, his momentum continued as he crushed all four events and landed in 17th place overall.

Wild performed even better in his run up to the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games. He secured eighth place again in the North West during the Open, but jumped to 12th at Regionals, taking first in the Thruster Ladder with 255 lb.

In 2012, he placed 51st in the Open and 16th at Regionals. He’s keeping his eyes on the prize as 2013 approaches, he says.

Life in the Gulf

Described by job tracking website,, as one of the 10 worst jobs in 2012, oil rig work is brutal.

Whether working as a roughneck, roustabout, engineer or motorman, life on an oil rig is not only dirty and intense, but dangerous, too. The United States Minerals Management Service reports that between 2001 and 2010 on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, 69 people died, 1,349 were injured and there were 858 fires and/or explosions — including the devastating Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010 that killed 11 people and leaked 20 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

Despite the hazards, Wild chose this life. Hailing from the “school of hard knocks,” he worked his way up the oil rig ladder and settled as a motorman.

“I work on the engines, generators, pumps — the working side of the rig,” he says. “I’m in there with the engineers and handle all the mechanical stuff.”

The accommodations on the rig aren’t too bad. The views are incredible, Wild says, adding that he and several of his co-workers regularly hammer out CrossFit workouts during their three-week stays, though they’re tight on space.

“We have 380 lb. of bumper plates, a ton of iron weights, kettlebells, a rower, a couple of bars and some dumbbells up to 100 lb.,” he says. “But the ceiling is only eight feet high, so it’s hard to do anything overhead, like shoulder and push presses.”

Open Bound

Despite the less-than-ideal training conditions onboard the rig, Wild has registered for this year’s Open.

“I’ve done this every year … I won’t be doing anything special to prepare other than working more on bodyweight movements and Olympic lifting, and training more with kettlebells,” Wild says.

Finding time to train has been a challenge, he admits.

“It’s mainly the amount of training I can do in a day,” Wild says. “We work 12 hours a day, minimum. A lot of times, we work more than 12 hours, and it’s pretty hard work, as well.”

Still, he makes time to improve his level of fitness and prepare for this year’s Games season. Doing so keeps him in physical and mental shape, he says.

“I eat very clean and train every day, with no rest days,” he says. “We do WODs onboard because it keeps you sane. It’s tough out there.”