Local entrepreneurs wade into new realm with ‘WOD on the Waves’ fitness cruise: Stretching Out

July 13, 2018

Local entrepreneurs wade into new realm with ‘WOD on the Waves’ fitness cruise: Stretching Out

CLEVELAND, Ohio – No longer is cruising just about eating and relaxing.

If you board “WOD on the Waves,” a new cruise concept being launched by three local entrepreneurs, you’ll earn that extra dessert or lazy afternoon on the beach by working out. Hard.

In lieu of chocolate fountains and bottomless margarita glasses, these guys are offering four days of exercise and seminars with the stars of the CrossFit world, all while tootling around the Bahamas on a Royal Caribbean ship. The boat will have all the usual amenities of a cruise, including excursions and family-friendly activities, only you’ll also have your pick of decked-out gyms and fitness classes.

“Get your workout in, then have fun,” said Chris Brauser, chief executive of Cleveland-based Gabriel Partners and the lead investor in the project. “This is a party for the community.”

Themed cruising is nothing new. For years, people have been boarding ships to indulge their passions for cooking, wine, and jazz, rock, or country music. Fitness fanatics, too, have been known to grab blocks of rooms on the water.

What’s new here is the scale, and the focus on (but not formal affiliation with) CrossFit, a rigorous exercise discipline practiced by millions worldwide. Indeed, many of those who’ve signed for “WOD on the Waves” to date hail from outside the U.S.

Brauser and Cleveland-area partners Zak Leighton and Edward Ellis have booked an entire ship. All 1,670 rooms on the “Mariner of the Seas” will be filled by people more than casually interested in fitness, by those unsatisfied by most hotel gyms and who worry about missing workouts while on vacation. Also on board: expert coaches and athletes renowned for their performances at the CrossFit Games.

“The entire functional fitness realm is an exciting market,” Brauser said. “It’s juvenile now, and it’s waiting to break. But this is a new world. We’re getting to learn a business that’s all new to us.”

Two years in the making, “WOD on the Waves” (“WOD” is a CrossFit acronym for “Workout of the Day”) began as a joke. Friends Brauser, Leighton, and Ellis were musing about winning the lottery when one said if he were to win, he’d buy an island and do CrossFit all day.

Intrigue with that possibility led to brainstorming, which led to the idea of taking CrossFit to the sea, which led to incorporation, hiring help, and proceeding to realize an enormously complicated dream.

“When we dove down this rabbit hole, we had no idea what we were getting into,” said Leighton, co-owner of CrossFit Distinction in Beachwood. “But it made a lot of sense. We loved the idea of bringing everybody together and bettering the community as a whole.”

The idea first sounded like a joke to others, too. Even to those with experience working out on boats.

Dan Bailey, an Akron-area native and Columbus-based CrossFit star who spent two years living and exercising on a houseboat in San Diego, said “WOD on the Waves” struck him as a notion too good to be true. Now, though, he said he sees its merits, and he’s one of several elite athletes – including Rich Froning, Brooke Wells, Patrick Vellner, and Chyna Cho – booked to lead workouts, teach classes, and hang out with fans.

“I honestly didn’t believe it, ” Bailey said. “It sounded like an amazing idea but also something that was going to be really difficult to pull off.

“But if I can work out on a 46-foot boat, you bet we can do it on a huge cruise ship. It’s just another way to blow off steam, but in a healthier way.”

Details of the January 21-25 trip are still being finalized. Announced so far (at wodonthewaves.com) are the fares, $575 (in a shared room) to $2,600, and the list of ports. The ship departs from Miami and stops in Nassau and Cococay, a private island owned by Royal Caribbean.

Beyond that, count on CrossFit workouts using Rogue and Concept 2 equipment as well as yoga, bootcamps, stationary cycling, and wellness seminars. Most barbell work will take place on land. Also look for healthy cooking classes, wine tastings, and excursions with some of the fittest people on Earth. Children are welcome, too, and babysitting will be available.

And fitness is just the theme, not an obligation. Just as easily as you could spend all of “WOD on the Waves” exercising, you could also spend four days on the “Mariner of the Seas” sitting by a pool, bungee jumping, riding water-slides, or yes, dining luxuriously.

“We really are striving to provide a high-end experience,” Leighton said. “This is something you really cannot replicate anywhere in the world.”