"[I] wanted to bring a bigger event to the community and give as many people a competition setting as possible."This was it for me. Like...

"[I] wanted to bring a bigger event to the community and give as many people a competition setting as possible."

This was it for me. Like the vast majority of the 68,000-plus people competing in the CrossFit Games Open, I had no delusions about moving on to Regionals. My goals were more personal, but this was my one shot to be a part of the CrossFit Games and objectively assess my fitness level.

It was for people like me that Chris Michelmore of CrossFit Moxie in San Jose, Calif., started the “South Bay Open.” With the advent of the Open in 2011, and the elimination of the live Sectional events, Michelmore said he “wanted to bring a bigger event to the community and give as many people a competition setting as possible.”

After sending out a mass email to several boxes in the South San Francisco Bay Area, Josh Rogers from CrossFit Cadence and Lee Pappas from Brethren CrossFit were the first to respond. Thus was born the South Bay Open. Rogers also saw this “as an opportunity to build relationships with other affiliates in the area, and that certainly has happened.”

Each box took a turn hosting the event, and for a small fee was open to any athlete registered for the Open. As the weeks progressed, the organizers seeded heats, so each heat had athletes of comparable abilities to help push each other, and to build excitement as the day progressed. There were even sponsors, vendors and prizes for the day’s top performers, and T-shirts for those participating.

With up to 75 athletes competing from four to five different affiliates, it was a successful first year. The energizing effect on the gyms that hosted the events is palpable. “I should have been prepared for this from last year, but I’m always kind of surprised what a buzz this all creates down at our gym,” Rogers says. “People communicate even more, stick around after class longer, organize workouts. It’s pretty cool.”

And that buzz has extended to other boxes in the area, as the attendance and energy grew each week.

Understandably, many boxes opted to hold their own events for the Open, using it as an opportunity to build their internal community. In talking with athletes who attended the South Bay Open and those that chose not to, traveling to another facility and working out with strange equipment and a judge who isn’t a familiar face was an obstacle. But this is CrossFit – we are all one community and we are all about pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. Sometimes that involves leaving the familiar surroundings of your home affiliate, forgoing your favorite barbell, and experiencing the unknown and unknowable in a different way. 

“People get nervous about it, they get to meet new people, make new friends,” Michelmore says. “It also makes for better performances. The event adds a level of legitimacy, so that it’s just a little more than a regular workout.”

Michelmore says doing the Open this way gave a more real feel of live competition. “We really just wanted to give as many people the chance to feel like Regionals as possible – especially for all the people that won’t get to move on. It makes it way more fun when there are sponsors, assigned heats, food and drinks and the rest. Our goals were all about the community.”