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Firefighter Throwdown: The Levels of Competition

A number of people, mainly sponsors and potential sponsors, have asked me how many Firefighter Throwdowns have been staged before this one coming up in San Diego. They’re surprised to learn that this is the flagship event given the stature and commitment of our sponsors which includes Reebok, Elkhart Brass, ROGUE, Starkist,, Quest Nutrition, South Coast Fire and Firehouse. Generally speaking, some of these sponsors simply do not sponsor first time events since they are involved in the larger and more established athletic venues nationally and those sponsorships are expensive and labor intensive.

I’ve been surprised by some of the less obvious aspects of the Firefighter Throwdown, some no one would know unless they were the organizer of the event. Keep in mind, I am relatively new to the fire industry in regards to anything other than working with clients to market and sell their products, for example, preparing them for tradeshows, equipping their sales people, helping strategize on marketing direction, branding, etc. So full immersion into the fire industry and spending real time with career and volunteer firefighters is all new and a true learning experience. Asking questions then sitting back and listening to detailed answers from firefighters has been eye opening and intriguing. I already had a tremendous amount of respect, but this last year, learning about the hardships of the industry, the cut backs, the job struggles, not to mention the heavy losses to fellow firefighters is a total reality check. One can quickly see where the spirit of athletic dedication, brotherhood and personal drive comes from after only a few hours of conversation.

The idea of the Throwdown evolved from spending two years attending multiple CrossFit Regional Competitions and the LA Games with a couple of our clients who target athletes. It wasn’t glamorous work slogging samples behind the counter of a tradeshow booth, but every time I was immersed in the CrossFit culture for three to five days at a clip, I came away feeling revitalized with a fresh take on this thing called the human race. At the core, I was meeting caring, competitive, friendly, helpful, cordial, funny people time after time after time…then I realized how many of these folks were firefighters. It was uncanny and call me perceptive, but probably not by coincidence.

Every competition I attended, I would meet individual and sometimes groups of firefighters. Men and women who stopped to talk, had a kind word, a good story, or a smart remark, or were in the mood for a cold beer… and all were ripped (keep in mind this was at an athletic event), some with tattoos that had stories behind the design, firefighter t-shirts, department jackets, but overall, I kept noticing an unspoken sense of togetherness and commitment to a relatively new sport. The athletes were not there to compete for the money, or the celebrity, but for the sheer challenge of winning. And the attitude was aggressive but not offensive. No one was reveling in the failure of another, instead, the attitude to be the best you could be prevailed and people helped each other to get there. This is much different than other sports where the overriding theme seems to support a culture of having to kill the other team in order to win. You don’t win for long if all your opponents end up dead right?

The Firefighter Throwdown was created to provide a stage to showcase this level of commitment and healthy competition. Any competition prior showcased the athletes, who happen to include firefighters, but nowhere had I seen a competition where the firefighters owned it and used only their physical strength to win. There’s no equipment to carry, no bunkers or props; just firefighters pitted against other firefighters to compare physical endurance and strength, then let the chips fall.

As an event organizer, we need to give sponsors projections, e.g., attendance, Facebook activity, number of print ads, number of web visits, click throughs, audience reach, etc. Projections justify marketing budget allocations to support events. There has to be a return for sponsors investments, it’s a rather simple concept and fully understandable. So after hours of studying the industry, the sport, the cross pollination of firefighters and the number of competition level athletic firefighters, my numbers were gleaned, organized, presented and approved, but what followed was not nearly that systematic.

As an industry, and as individuals, your response to this event has been overwhelming, far above projections in regards to response. The web traffic is higher, the number of Facebook “Likes” keeps climbing, the geography covered by the applicants spans Maine, to Florida, to Albuquerque, to Washington State, and there are more examples. As well, the experience level of the firefighter athletes is stellar, truly impressive. Then there are all the Facebook comments from friends/family/loved ones, which is heartwarming and entertaining. Plus, the support shown among fellow athletes is commendable. In all, the conclusion is that we have the makings of an extraordinary event because we are drawing from an extraordinary segment of the American population, there’s no other explanation.

The quality of the event sponsors set the bar for the competition. Every sponsor had 500 other events they could have supported, but they chose to vote with their marketing budgets and staff to support the fire industry and firefighters on a first time event. This is more than a boardroom decision from the sponsors you see on the Firefighter Throwdown website,, it’s really their show of support to you the individual firefighter.

You will be seeing photos of the athletes released on Facebook, between now and the competition. Check out the experience levels, times, weights, and photos of the athletes, these people are serious about their craft. Some have overcome major life struggles, while others are simply born competitors it seems, but in all, an impressive lot.

If there were a way possible for any of you readers to make your way to the San Diego Convention Center on February 19 and 20, I would recommend it. The Throwdown will be fun, exciting, competitive, any adjective you want to apply to it, plus don’t forget, our media partner, Firehouse is running Firehouse World in the hall next to us, so there’s a double benefit to showing up. See you in San Diego!