Getting primal on Daniel Island
Tribes of mostly young adults set up camp on the edge of the Wando River for something that was really old – like caveman old.
In its second year, The New Primal Games on Daniel Island featured competitions that tested the strength, endurance, and often, the sheer will, of nearly 175 men and women, most of whom belonged to respective tribes, a.k.a. Crossfit gyms.
In the last five years, Crossfit has spread like a Western wildfire across the United States and the Lowcountry, drawing mostly young adults to high intensity “WODs” (Workouts of the Day) in bare bones gyms that are often located in warehouses.
Crossfitters embrace functional fitness and many also are drawn to “paleo” eating habits, recognizing that humans evolved not only by being fit for survival but by eating simple, unprocessed whole foods.
Robert VanNewkirk, owner of Crossfit Discovery and a co-organizer of The New Primal Games, said the intent of the games were not to draw only Crossfit devotees but anyone who wants to put their fitness to test – with fun being the No. 1 draw.
“Any event with a Slip ‘n’ Slide is meant to be fun,” noted a smiling VanNewkirk, of the last “obstacle” contestants faced at the end of a 2-mile trail run.
While most of the contestants hailed from Crossfit gyms in the Lowcountry, Keith Sherman and six others, including two females, drove from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to compete in the games – and slept in tents at the KOA in Mount Pleasant the night before.
“We’re going primal all the way,” said the 21-year-old Sherman.
While Sherman was among the first-time Primal Games participants, many of the 98 who competed last year returned.
Last year’s winner, Crossfit Integrity owner Brian Kost, didn’t come back to defend his championship, but to coach 20 mostly-male athletes from the West Ashley gym. The showing by females was not reflective of his gym’s demographic, which is about 40 percent female.
Still, women were certainly representing the gender well on Saturday.
Tiffany Peltier, Ulrike Mersch and Joy Hotchkiss were among 30 participants from the Crossfit Charleston team, which had two reasons to be extra pumped to compete on Saturday: defend their championship from last year and to represent their coach, Will Graham, who had to miss the games for a family emergency.
Peltier said most didn’t train specifically for the games – such as practicing by going over walls - but probably were ready for them anyway.
“Our coaches are really good at preparing WODs for us. We probably trained for it everyday, but just didn’t know it,” said Peltier.
And while it’s competitive, Peltier said everyone is supportive.
“We’re cheering for other athletes out there. In itself, Crossfit is a big family, and within it, are little families. But in and of itself, it’s one big family.”