The Significance of The Ranch

October 16, 2020 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit LLC (games.crossfit.com)

In less than a week the conclusion to a tumultuous 2020 CrossFit Games season will kick off at the Ranch in Aromas, CA. For the 14th time, the fittest man and woman will be crowned but for the first time in over a decade it will happen at the birthplace of the sport.

Longtime fans will revel in the nostalgia of the returning to the original home of the Games, but for many of the newer fans of the sport, the significance of hosting stage two on the grounds of Dave Castro’s family ranch might be lost.

Hallowed grounds: Across the sports landscape there are specific venues and locations that are held in high esteem as historical landmarks, where the early struggles and conflicts of the sport helped cement the very foundation that the modern era stands on today.

  • Augusta National Golf Course: Site of the annual Masters Tournament — one of professional golf’s four “majors,” and the only one that does not change location — it was originally established in 1934, and was one of the preeminent tournaments during professional golf’s rise during the 1940’s.
  • All England Lawn Tennis Club: Home of The Wimbledon Championships, professional tennis’s most prestigious tournament, held in Wimbledon, London since 1877. Today, the Centre Court of the club where the marquis matches of the tournament take place are only used for the two weeks the tournament runs each year.
  • Lambeau Field: Home of the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field is the oldest continually operating football stadium in the NFL and was the site of one of the most famous games in early NFL history: the 1967 NFL Championship between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, dubbed “The Ice Bowl.”

For the sport of fitness, the Ranch is the hallowed ground where early adopters of the CrossFit methodology came to compete. The very idea of CrossFit as a competitive sport actually came while founder Greg Glassman, and current Director of Sport Dave Castro were walking around the grounds of the Ranch months before the first ever CrossFit Games were born in 2007.

  • No frills, just fitness: Before there were big prize purses, television coverage, or even uniforms, the pursuit of excellence was enough to bring hundreds of people out to Aromas to camp in their cars, and chase fitness amongst the dirt, and hills of Castro’s corner of the world.
  • The result was the creation of an early cohort of legends in the sport that would serve as the springboard for the superstars we revere today. Before there was Tia-Clair Toomey, Mat Fraser, and even Rich Froning, there was Chris Spealler, Tanya Wagner, Josh Everett, and Jason Khalipa, and they all cut their teeth at the Ranch in Aromas.

The bottom line: When you boil down CrossFit as a global sport, and as a fitness methodology to its essence you’re left with a simple yet potent distillate of hard work and perseverance. The Ranch ultimately represents the nexus between the two. A dusty, gritty museum of fitness that stands as a monument for the sports humble roots, and as a reminder for common thread that binds the athletes and community of the past, present, and future.