The day had arrived without hesitation or bias. Like a whirl wind of iron, stone and chalk dancing in the air we hit with a reality that 4 am could of been 4pm and we were all ready to work. Before the sun had come up, our staff of willing loaders, movers and lifters had shown up with beating hearts and sleepy eyes. Everyone driven to a sense of pure urgency and nerves but also the unrelenting energy of a culture moving forward. There weren’t many of us but the few that had come to work came with a vigor that was permeating. Between 5 and 7am the parking lot of Crossfit Kendall was a blur of human locomotives moving around with an industrial speed and precision.
The orders were militant in nature but the reasoning was a loving cause. Everything needed to be right, no… it needed to be perfect. We wanted to set a precedence and a standard. There was no stone unturned, literally, and no task too small. As more and more competitors arrived, it became apparent the competition was about to start. When all was said and done we had scrounged up 25 competitors and 4 vendors. There was no hiccups in our steps and no flinching in our dreams. I knew this was a small step in the right direction and more importantly, that we were in it together. I was not ashamed, or critical, or upset about the turn out.. as back then this was a very normal competition population and we had started with nothing!! Nothing! Not an idea or a format or a single penny and we were now putting on a REAL Strongman Competition and Miami’s first sanctioned event! There was no past event for us to compare to or even a future one to look forward to. The only thing that mattered was the moment, the present feeling of being alive, and absolute pride of looking around and seeing it unfold in front of our eyes.
The event pushed forward as we heard yells and screams and claps. The brave crowd sat in the unyielding sun as event after event surprised the crowd with feats of strength unseen in the city of Miami. Did I mention the heat? Absolutely brutal. Loaders, lifters, staff and spectators alike stood against the searing gaze of the sun hour after hour and yet, despite all this, the competition roared on with intensity. No hitches, no delays, no mistakes to truly poke fingers at. Judging, scoring, lifting and attitudes all soared high as everyone felt a wave of community and belonging.
A war was fought that day, on and off the competitive battlefield. As the day began to finally come to an end, we all began to sigh that major breath of relief as the last implement was moved and finally dropped upon the burning asphalt. The Baddest were crowned, medals were given out and sweaty brows finally got a moment to cool off. I remember finally got a moment off the mic to take a look. A moment to simply sit back and observe what had truly happened. I could see smiles on faces that would last an eternity. Proud handshakes and hugs, laughs that could be heard on the moon and gaze after gaze of true community. This is not something you can describe but something you FEEL when you belong to something bigger than yourself. We knew we had set upon a journey that we not only thought beyond our skills but also beyond all our comfort levels. What we felt that day was something beyond amazing, what we didn’t know and had no way of knowing then, were the overwhelming emotions of years to come..
The Waves of Legacy:
What would ensue the following years was a thing of beauty. Comp after comp, lift after lift, and standards after standards absolutely set and shattered. Word had spread that Miami’s Baddest wasn’t just some punk show and each year our attendance in both competitors and vendor participants, would sky rocket. What started as me going door to door, DM to DM, email to emails and phone call to phone call would turn into a sell out show and me having to actually tell people “No, we sold out”. An event that just barely filled one side of the parking lot now had “parking issues” as well over 150 parking spots were filled to the brim. What had started as a whisper in a dream was now a statement of pride and status. As the sport lay dying, Miami’s Baddest alongside the state champions and other flourishing shows would now bring new faces and new warrior to the Strongman battlefield. The south had a home turf and 3 years later the emergence of strongman lifters began to blossom world wide.
I am not going to sit here and tell you Miami’s Baddest was thee catalyst but what I will tell you with a sense true pride is that were a fucking part of that wave. We joined in the when times were bleak and spoke through our actions and example. Standards of what to expect at a show, accountability, discipline, character and respect for the sports were set in stone. The loading crew and the rise of a culture that would go beyond Strongman to help at events would rise out of this moment. Matching shirts and positive competition etiquette would rage on in the Battle Axe Clan and beyond. What many have never seen were the hours and years poured into building the back bone of not only this competition but also what this event and sport MEAN to so many…
If you are reading this now take a moment. Breath it in. Slowly at first, through your nostrils and deep inside your stomach filled with butterflies and a beautiful anxiety. Breath in the present moment as you embark on something greater than yourselves. Tomorrow you will not only compete, or help, or build this event… you will also partake in your own legacy. As time goes on you will remember being here, reading this. Being there tomorrow as you go to war in a battle only you and your sprit can understand will echo an eternity. You will be part of a world you will be able to tell your family, friends, and future loved ones in words that will be marinated in pride and honor. The man or woman that loads a plate will one day lift the bar, load the stone and raise the trophy. No gear is more important than the other. From large cog to tiny screw, each and every single one of you are a part of this moving machine that has not only filled the hearts of HUNDREDS but has raised thousands for charities and great causes. When you grow old, the numbers you lifted will pale in comparison to the courage you felt in your heart or the pride you developed in your soul while being a part of this.
Life has an ever lasting set of turns, pitfalls and crevices to part take in and or fall through. My friends, everything ends… but everything begins and tomorrow , for many of us, is that day. Read these words as not only a history of what you are a part of but more importantly, as a visceral sign that you are over taking an obstacle with will, passion and love. Fight on, not only against the iron and the stone but also for those that believe in you and care for you deeply… for we do not know who will be gone tomorrow without seeing what you did today. Feel pride as you step on the battle field tomorrow as a building block to not only your own tales of war but as part of a sport and world that has saved so many of our fucking LIVES!! Take a moment, breath it in… exhale out.. look deep within and accept that you may be alone for this moment but tomorrow you are a part of history.
Welcome to Miami’s Baddest
NEVER Stray from The Way
Michael De La Pava and The Battle Axe Gym