J.C. and Joel at the Southwest Regional

2010 CrossFit Games Finals

Like Father, Like Son

The Nessa’s are setting the standard for the CrossFit generation gap.

J.C. Nessa is veteran CrossFit Games competitor. Last year at the ’09 Games he finished 20th overall, with two top ten finishes throughout the grueling weekend. This year he finished 9th overall at the Southwest Regional, not enough to qualify for the Games.

Joel Nessa, J.C.’s father, entered the Masters competition this year for a shot at Games stardom. He finished 9th overall in the worldwide competition, and earned a spot at the Home Depot Center. We recently caught up with J.C. to chat about his father's successful bid for the '10 Games.

How did you get into CrossFit?
I was inspired to start CrossFit by a friend who was a rescue diver for the Navy. I began CrossFitting in 2006. As a firefighter/paramedic, I met him in the local hospital where we take our patients. He was a nurse there and we got to chatting about fitness. Since we were about the same build, size and height, he tricked me into coming over to his house and "doing a workout that would blow my mind." The only thing I blew were chunks. I was skeptical at first because he said all we would be doing were bodyweight exercises. How can you get all schwoll and get a good workout in from this easy stuff? We hit Angie in his one-car garage that he called the "Dungeon." With the door closed, Slayer blasting on the cd player and a 60 watt light bulb buzzing overhead, It felt like I was in Alcatraz.

Immediately afterwards I told my dad about this "style" of workout that made me sick and took me forever to recover from. I already thought I was in good shape. This turned the gears in his head, and as he researched it more, we both became more curious. I went to the first CrossFit gym where a guy would give me the time of day, CrossFit Marina's Steve Serrano. He and Denise welcomed me in and taught me so much. After going to my Level 1 I was completely hooked. I got me level 2 and Oly Lifting Certs and I brought my dad info, notes, extended conversations, etc. He didn't need much more than that and we lined up a mini-cert as an intro to CrossFit for him and his wildland fire crew. (My dad is a Firefighter Specialist, beter known as a Camp Crew Foreman for LA County Fire Camp 9).

Do you two train together?
I train occasionally with my dad. Whenever I am home at my parents house, we work out together. He follows the main site religiously because it works. I will sometimes push him to do other things, other wod's or force him to focus on weaknesses with our own creative programming. It's an awesome experience to work out with my dad.

What’s your father’s athletic background like?
My dad was a competitive wrestler though high school and had several scholarship offers from top colleges. He didn't end up going because he was hit by a car while on a run training for a meet. I've always looked up to him in many ways, including fitness and becoming a fireman. Back to my comment about working out with him, we did a Fight Gone Bad while he and his crew were at CrossFit Marina. It was an honor competing with, next to, and against him as we pounded out our last reps. With the support of his guys and new friends it was a battle to the finish. I think he actually beat me by a few reps! But I had to give it to him! Fast forward to the Regionals this year. It was amazing to be at the same place and the same time competing with him. Although I wish I was there to cheer him on, our wod's had conflicting times. Let's see a father/son team next year?!

He has come a long way since doing CrossFit. He's snapped back after a few minor injuries and made adjustments/improvements along the way. Recently at his fire camp, he was the instrumental figure in remodeling their gym into a CrossFit-type facility. He is now hated by a few of the non-CrossFit, traditional guys! They spin out on CrossFit WOD's. He's turned fit guys into monsters, and now they are avid CrossFit followers. He has always been and still remains one of the top finishers on their runs, workouts, hikes, etc. He is a well respected and feared animal, as I've seen and heard from his co-workers. I used to work at the same fire camp in LACoFD before I left for Newport Beach Fire Department. Guys that still work there hate me for introducing my dad to CrossFit!

How do you think he will do in LA?
I think he will end up in the top 5 at least in LA this year. I'd like to see him at the very top of the podium, but only time will tell. We still have a lot work and training to do. In a way, he is like me: he charges hard out of the gates (which has it's pros and cons). He likes to be a leader not a follower; yet he'll still have a plan to catch the others if he is behind.

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13 comments on this entry

1. Geoff Aucoin wrote...

Very cool article. JC spent some time in Calgary a while back so I know he's a good guy, I guess he gets it from his dad! Nice 'stache JC!

2. Christopher Cavanaugh wrote...

Freakin nice job on your 3 masters wods. What will be the wods at the games? At this point who cares your ready. Go like hell.
The 16th master

3. Mike wrote...

his dad looks like a complete bad ass!!!

4. P Dizzle wrote...

So proud of these guys!!! What ever happens these two will give it their all.

Love you both!!!!!!!!!

5. Robert Foss wrote...

Joel and J.C.

What an inspiration and outstanding example! Congratulations both of you! Good luck at the Games Joel and best wishes to you both in your future CrossFit and father-son competitions!

6. Emily Petit wrote...

Nessa Sr. and young Blood Do work! So impressive!!! yessss!

7. John M wrote...

Congratulations to you both, and Joel Good luck at the Masters in the Games! From another family of crossfitters, as my two sons, daughter-in-law and myself (Masters) all competed at the same Southwest Regionals. I say, bring on the family/team competition!

8. Eric wrote...

Very cool to see the father-son combo. Great inspiration to other families to build relationships through fitness.

9. Steve wrote...

Not supposed to cheer for your locals when you're hosting the event, but we were sure yellin' on the inside guys. Your friends and families are justifiably proud to have such role models.

Great job to both pop and son for their work at the Regionals and the way they have helped spread the method to folks who need it as much any, the firefighting community.

All the best at the Games Joel. Kick some ass!

10. Bill Grundler wrote...

Very cool! Its nice to have inspiration like this. I feel the same way about my dad. He is the one i have looked up to, and always aspired to be like. And its even better when you can get these monster old timers to embrace the crossfit training and then go crazy all over again! Sr. Nessa......kick ass my friend!

11. Bill Pappas wrote...

Rock it Joel!
Awesome work qualifying. Good to see you at this.

12. Carol Pappas wrote...

Hey, Joel. Great going! It has been a long time. Bill even sucked me into doing CF although it's mostly at puppy level. Get in touch. The best to you at the Games!!!

13. faruk wrote...

I taught joel everything he knows. what a stud


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