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Crossfit and Rowing: Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate?

The rowing community is very aware of the Crossfit community. When Crossfit made the erg a major piece of its fitness toolbox, the rowing community noticed. Now, after twenty years of active growth, the most prevalent erg users in the United States are Crossfit athletes. Crossfit however, is barely aware of on the water rowing.

Why then are we not tapping more into the Crossfit community as a source for new rowers, as a way to grow and enhance our community? In this article I will highlight the advantages of actively engaging the Crossfit community and a few suggestions on how your club can start recruiting those athletes.

What’s the big deal about Crossfit?

Crossfit is a billion dollar industry. Over the last 20 years it has grown to over 15,000 “boxes” in 120 countries, and it is estimated up to 4 million people use Crossfit. Crossfit competitions have sprung up all over the world, and has given rise to the pro Crossfit athlete, with the top 4 male and female athletes all making over $100K in 2020.

In addition, Crossfit athletes are clearly committed. Most athletes will train 3-6 days a week, and when they are not “Crossfitting” they are running, biking, swimming, etc. Retention is high, and those who join Crossfit as former “NARPs” (Non-Athletic Regular Person) tend to stick with it as well. Most Crossfit boxes charge between $100-$150 month, so the market is also one with disposable income.

Crossfitters "love" the erg. While the technique demonstrated by even the most athletic pro-crossfitters may cause the casual rower to cringe, their effort does not. The top tier athletes are putting down some increasingly impressive scores, and there is a clear community “favor” for the erg. When their community’s favorite tool is our community’s arguably least favorite tool, it is clear that we have the brave new world of on the water rowing we can share with the Crossfit community

Finally, the stable of athletes available at the local Crossfit box could impact your club overnight. Besides a generally solid work ethic, Crossfitters tend to be very high energy and enthusiastic about training, work, and team building. They challenge each other and thrive in high competition environments. When you consider the make-up of a typical adult learn-to-row class vs. filling that class with experienced Crossfitters, the distinction is clear.

How do we introduce more Crossfitters into real rowing?

The first step is to reach out to your local Crossfit boxes and offer a partnership, some form of cross promotion or discount between organizations. Crossfit boxes are businesses, so they may be especially wary of losing members, but if it is pitched as a value-add for both organizations (consider offering free learn to row classes for the entire box in exchange for promoting their business to your membership), there may be some openness to the idea.

Secondly, use your digital media platform(s) to market your club specifically to Crossfit athletes. Using #crossfit or #localcrossfit will capture the attention of all the Crossfit athletes in your area, most of whom are using digital media. Paid ad boosts via Facebook and Instagram can also directly target individuals who follow Crossfit in your area.

When you do get those athletes in the door, consider incorporating more functional strength equipment (kettlebells, bars, bands, platforms, etc) into your boathouse training space, to make it look a little more friendly and familiar to those athletes.

When you consider how large and committed the Crossfit community is, it seems wasteful that many of those 4 million athletes world wide will put in millions of meters on the erg, but yet never take an on-the-water stroke. There is a whole world of athletic enjoyment out there on the water that these athletes have not been introduced to, and they can bring some additional energy and enthusiasm into our community.

H.B. Reese created the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. While confectioners in the past had mixed peanut butter and chocolate before, Reese marketed the mix and branded it, making a sizable fortune and delighting candy lovers. Crossfit and Rowing clearly have qualities that overlap, and the outcome of their mixture could be a significant step forward for both communities.

Madder Consulting can help your rowing organization market itself to the local Crossfit community. Reach out to to find out more!

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