MIAMI – As a self-proclaimed fitness fanatic, Steve Suarez was always searching for an innovative way to make his mark on South Florida.
"The initial idea was to do a free Crossfit class in Miami's Bayfront Park," said Suarez, 38, who played football and basketball at Coconut Grove's Immaculata-LaSalle High School. "Then, we thought about making it a competition. Three months later, we had 150 athletes and 400 spectators."
That was in 2011. Now, fast forward seven years, and Suarez and his business partner, Guido Trinidad, are in charge of Wodapalooza Miami Fitness Festival, the world's largest functional fitness competition.
The four-day event, which concluded Sunday evening, attracted more than 30,000 spectators who watched more than 1,600 competitors from all over the world square off against each other for a fitness competition that catered to all ages.
The competitors, ranging in age from 13 to 70, were all competing for $250,000 in prize money.
"We've met people from France, Australia, South America and all over Europe," said Laura Herrera, of Miami, who competed in the team event. "This event is like Christmas all over again."
In addition to team events, there were also individual events that featured some of the top male and female athletes in the world. In fact, this year featured crowd favorites like Katrín Davíðsdóttir. The 24-year-old was named the "fittest woman on Earth" in 2015 and 2016.
Although this event is not affiliated with Crossfit, the WOD's or workout of the day, are very similar to what you see at the Crossfit Games, which are broadcast every year on ESPN.
Outside the fitness competition, 150 vendors showcased their cutting-edge technology, supplements and fitness attire. There were also seminars for those looking to improve their performance and nutrition.
Suarez, who describes the event as a "celebration of community, fitness and life," believes this was the best year yet, and he is hoping for an even bigger year in 2019.
"There's a palpable energy and spirit about this event," he said. "It's just great to be able to host this in South Florida."