Dani Russell - Owner/Coach
If I could rap my bio to a beat by DJ Jazzy Jeff with a chorus featuring The Fresh Prince, I would. As a tyke growing up in a small town in Northern AZ, I played as many sports as my parents could tolerate chauffeuring me around to. It wasn’t easy being a “G” in a skinny, freckled girls’ body – see Google images for Jinco jeans. Although I continued to play multiple sports throughout high school, as far back as I can remember, both basketball and hip hop had my heart. Thankfully, the summers spent traveling around the country to play ball and the endless hours working on my jump shot secured me an athletic scholarship to attend Westmont College, bringing me to beautiful Santa Barbara.
After college and after basketball I moved around the country and to another country, I tried out several different jobs in different industries, I took up running and a lot of globo gym time, and in my quest for happiness, I landed back in Santa Barbara where I remembered life feeling the most right. I spent the first two years as an assistant coach on the Westmont Women’s Basketball team. Coaching basketball was awesome, but it was the relationships that it allowed me to build with the girls that I loved most.
Soon after my move back to SB I joined Gravitas Fitness after realizing I needed more than the big club gyms had to offer. I wanted sport, I wanted community, and I wanted to learn. The moment I stepped in the door I instantly fell in love with Gravitas and knew there was no turning back. I once again felt that community and camaraderie that fitness and competition can bring to life. And on the best days they played hip hop, very loudly…my search was over.
As an athlete, CrossFit reshaped my idea of health and fitness. It propelled me into a world that I love and to which I want to dedicate my life and study. I love both coaching classes and working with my individual clients to achieve their goals. After receiving my CrossFit Level 1 Certificate, I turned to OPEX Fitness for additional education and training and for my OPEX CCP (Coaching Certification Program) Certificate. I also coach an Olympic Lifting/Barbell Club and love working with young athletes. I can’t wait to see you at Gravitas Fitness where we can share our love of health and fitness while lip syncing to “Coolio Radio” on Pandora!
Chance Daskauskas - Coach
Following surgery and rehabilitation, Chance struggled to find his past identity of an athlete in a different sport. He taught private pitching lessons to children and teens and also ran a number of baseball clinics with future athletes.
Chance was introduced to the world of CrossFit in 2011 where he stumbled upon a small gym in Bakersfield, CA. He fell in love with the intensity, competition and community CrossFit provides and signed up immediately. He spent his spare time watching videos on crossfit.com to correct his form and understand proper movement patterns.
After moving to Santa Barbara, CA, he spent time analyzing and gathering trainer’s perspective on fitness. He spent time at various gyms to acquire a plethora of knowledge in different forms of fitness ranging from endurance, flexibility, and power. He also competes in local competitions, his first being a CrossFit competition in 2014. He became CrossFit certified in 2016.
His genuine passion for the sport of CrossFit and the members of the community radiates through the gym while he is coaching. You can hear him cheering whenever someone PR’s or gets their first muscle up (sometimes he is more excited than the athletes). His simplistic nature and patient coaching style helps people understand complex movements without feeling overwhelmed.
Edson Dorantes - Coach
Raised in beautiful Santa Barbara Ca, I grew up in an Athletic Familly. My dad played Soccer professionaly and my mom ran track in college. My first passion is Soccer and I can’t remember a time in my childhood when I wasn’t playing soccer. I pretty much had a ball permanently attached to my foot.
Growing up I played high level club soccer and Olympic development programs. In high school I was a 4yr starter on Varsity and achieved all league awards in CIF. I got recruited by top colleges in Ca. I ended up declining offers and took an opportunity to play soccer in Denmark for a small club. After about 3months of playing all over Europe I got injured and needed surgery.
During my time in a cast and rehab I felt really lost and confused everything I had worked for was gone( a little dramatic but that’s how it felt). The only thing that made me feel like me was exercising and fitness. This led me to the Fitness industry, I started with bodybuilding and continued on to Strength and Conditioning. I fell in love with human performance and watching people progress with their strength and fitness.
I began doing personal training in a small neighborhood gym in San Francisco and ran soccer camps at the SF state. I eventually moved back to S.B and got back to my same globo gym and soccer camp routine. I started feeling really bored with my workouts and progress. Then I found Crossfit on ESPN and my mind was blown! I fell in love with every aspect of this training methodology. I began working out at gravitas around 2012 and soon after got my CF-level 1 and was hungry to start developing my crossfit skills. A friend and I started running classes out of our garage for our friends and family with great results. We ended up disbanding and I found myself back at Gravitas Fitness!
Eric and Dani were nice enough to give me the opportunity to bring my strength/conditioning and soccer background to Gravitas! I am excited to part of the Familly!
Tom Straub - Coach
Locally grown here in Santa Barbara, I have been involved in sports my entire life. Living in Southern California, it was only natural that I began playing long hours of baseball at the early age of 5. I immediately fell in love with the constant challenge and team camaraderie that the sport emphasized and continued playing throughout my high school years.
However, with high school over and my professional sports career nonexistent, I did what I could to remain involved in my passion of sports. I went on to study Kinesiology (Exercise Physiology) at Arizona State University thereby combining my love of sports with my interest in science. This experience led me to a plethora of information involving exercise and performance, all of which constantly changes due to more and more research within the subject.
Around this time I was also becoming more involved in endurance racing, particularly triathlons. I feel that the combination of swimming, biking and running is an ultimate test of endurance as well as a monumental test of one’s mental and emotional strengths. My training regime was strict and mostly sport specific involving long days with a mixture of long low-intensity aerobic training sessions, periodic high-intensity interval training sessions and additional supplemental weight training. While the program worked and I was a top performer in the few races I competed in, I found it difficult to maintain the hours of training.
Following my time at ASU, my rigorous training schedule lapsed. Although I tried to remain in shape, frequenting the local “globo gym” and getting in an occasional run/bike/swim, I never felt at the top of my game.
My career path soon led me to the Fire Academy at Allan Hancock which undoubtedly required me to be in tip-top physical shape. Again, my self-programmed routine was effective but I knew there was room for improvement. It was at this time that I was introduced to the way of life referred to as Crossfit. Praised amongst firefighters, police and the military service alike, Crossfit was quickly growing and becoming the preferred method of training for likeminded individuals.
Dabbing into some quick research, I was amazed and impressed on the amount of information and the education Crossfit supplied in addition to their unique and basic fundamental workouts. After a brief experimental period, I made my way into Crossfit Pacific Coast for proper training.
The results I have experienced have been unparallel to any other program I have attempted. My strength gains constantly climb; I continue to PR with my Olympic lifting (which was a new experience for me) and my endurance level has been elevated beyond that of my triathlon days.
Being involved with Crossfit Pacific Coast for nearly 2 years now, my natural progression is to want to teach and share with others the benefits and education I have gained from my experience. Coaching allows me to inspire others to perform to the best of their ability thereby meeting and exceeding personal gains, while promoting safe training practices so that others may enjoy a long and injury-free experience.
Bret Williams - Coach
My journey with sports began in Stockton, California at the ripe old age of 5. I had joined my older brother and sister at their first tennis lesson…to young to start, I was relegated to the bench where I had grabbed a racquet and was trying to hit a fly or the bench or my brother. After a few minutes the coach decided to throw me a bone because I was obviously itching to participate so she tossed a ball to me…which I promptly hit center of the strings sending the ball naturally arching over the coaches head. She looked at my mom and said ‘he can start today!’.
Fast forward eight years, I was now living with the same coach and her husband who started me at 5…playing tennis every day! I would leave school at 2:30, be at the courts at 2:45…put some ankle weights and wrist weights on and jump rope for 30 minutes. Play a match with one of the UOP tennis players or some random 40 year old dude, Run 3-5 miles, Play another match, Do some home work, and finish with a lesson from my coach, then race my coaches home (I would run, they would drive…it was about a mile). I’d do that every day and play tournaments every weekend. I lasted about a year. It was lonely on the court and the thing I LOVED became a job.
I moved back home to Los Angeles for high school. I gravitated towards team sports after that, basketball in particular. I still played tennis and fell back in love with it once the expectations had been removed.
I came to UCSB for undergraduate and quickly realized I needed to figure out how to stay here. I played a ton of basketball and some tennis during my time at UCSB. I had some friends who played on the tennis team so I was fortunate enough to hit with them.
After graduating UCSB, I moved away for law school. Thankfully, I found my way back to Santa Barbara and met my amazing wife Nicole. I would still play basketball a couple of times a week and tennis once a week but I wasn’t in the best shape (to put it mildly). This point was undeniable when I joined Nicole for a personal training session. About a third of the way through I was lightheaded and about to vomit. I was unable to finish the training session…and did I mention my wife was about 6 months pregnant with our second kid. At that point I knew something had to change.
My wife was introduced to crossfit by some friends of ours. She went through the zombie apocalypse intro session at CPC/Gravitas. She thought I’d like it and man was she right. After the first few months of weirdness, new super awkward movements, people cheering for me as I barely finished workouts…I was hooked!
My crossfit experience has been so profoundly shaped by two things; the community and the coaches. When I had the opportunity to coach, it was something I had to do. I love crossfit and the impact it has had on me individually and it being a shared passion of my wife has been amazing. I look forward to being a part of the athlete’s experience at Gravitas.
David Downey - Coach
Growing up in Tucson, Arizona in the early 1980’s, on a golf course, solidified three things; one, I needed to get out of Tucson as soon as possible to escape the heat and inevitable doom of being stuck in a small desert city the rest of my life, two, I played outside more than inside and invested my self in as many sports as I could, and three, I have dominated every Nintendo game ever invented. Of course Tucson, and Arizona in general, has many redeeming qualities and afforded me the opportunity to be incredibly active in my youth. Golf, Baseball, Soccer, Snowboarding, Hiking, Football, Swimming and a little bit of BMX riding in the old Tucson neighborhood.
My active youth fizzled somewhat in high school and college as I pursued other endeavors, like, ehhmm (throat clear) fraternity. Enough said. Having survived the chaos of college and vowing that fitness and a healthy lifestyle were my true calling, I decided to realign those priorities and look to put my efforts into helping people lead healthier lifestyles.
After a number of years of bouncing around different big box gyms and not seeing any results, I decided to give crossfit a go. What was only to be a month long trial, has become a five (5) year journey into a passion & adrenaline filled thrill ride that has led me here to Gravitas Fitness.
Within a year of trying my first crossfit class, I obtained my CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certification, CrossFit Mobility Certification and began my love affair with coaching. This led me to my absolute love and respect for Olympic Weightlifting, which then led to a USAW Certification, a full year of oly training under the tutelage of Olympic Lifting coach, Istvan Dioszegi, and ultimately competition. Through my journey in fitness, I have participated in and written many different types of programming, all with wildly different results. So when it came to trying to perfect my coaching abilities and techniques (which is ever changing), I have found the methods and protocols provided my James Fitzgerald at OPEX to be the most beneficial, which is why I continue to pursue the OPEX Coaching Certification Program (NASM accredited).
Like my beautiful fiancée, Coach ACE, I too live my life with a lot of passion and dedication to perfecting my craft of coaching, being an athlete and an overall kick ass human being (note: the kick ass human being requires a cup of organic single origin coffee in the AM, end note. Just saying.).
To this day, I continue to train as a semi-competitive athlete and thrive off of empowering others with their health and fitness goals. I believe in using movement to live a pain free and active lifestyle. For me, movement is more than just working out, it bleeds into all aspects of living, bringing a sense accomplishment, determination and desire to live a larger life. Setting goals and using movement to increase and maintain a high quality of life for my athletes drives my passion as a trainer and mentor. My mission is to empower people to improve their lives through safe, fun and effective fitness!
Embrace your current reality. Empower yourself and others. Evolve into someone better than yesterday.
Becky Villaneda - Ambassador of Sparkle
Danielle Hewitt - Head Coach
I lived in Syracuse, Utah for the first 24 years of my life. During that time I spent most of my earlier days riding horses, helping out on my uncles farm during harvest season (yes, I can even drive a tractor and forklift), and herding goats.
Growing up in a time without X-Box and Nintendo, I spent my days outside. Playing hide and go seek, croquet, and lawn darts (resulting in only one casualty…not fatal).
I started playing softball at the ripe age of 10, and continued on throughout high school, in both club and school leagues. But unfortunately this career came to an early end after severely spraining both ankles, making walking in stilettos difficult (I know, not how you picture a softball player).
After high school, I attended Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. However, the slopes called, so I left early to pursue a career in snow-boarding. Although not successful, had a hell of a time!
Fast forward a couple of years, and my former stalker now husband, moved to Santa Barbara County. So he could pursue his lifelong love and heart’s desire to be a used car salesman. (Ask for Jedd at Jim Vreeland Ford, “Still the Home of Mister Nobody”).
My interest in CrossFit started when my friend, and brother from another mother, Dani, and I first joined a boot camp at another gym. After being encouraged by the trainer to pursue our new passion, we joined CPC, and haven’t looked back since.
I’ve now been doing CrossFit for over four years, and during that time I have gone from a skinny girl to a bro. My love for this sport has led me to coaching at Gravitas. One of the most rewarding parts of being a coach is to see a member’s confidence grow. Many new members come in scared of what Crossfit is all about. But after only a few weeks, they gain a confidence in their abilities, both athletically and mentally.
Hannah Jenner - Nutrition Coach
I always dreamed of being athletic when I was young but athletic at my high school meant you basically had to be good at yelling loud and I was that shy kid who was hiding behind the one that could yell. I had grand notions of sporting success from becoming the Prima Ballerina of the English National Ballet (I am aware I have no grace) to visualizing my win at Wimbledon but the best I ever managed was to make the ‘D’ team at netball. Before you ask, the D team was basically some parents idea of what we might call the participation award today and netball is some dainty British ball sport involving the wearing of skirts.
I finally discovered rowing around the age of 16 and realized that I really rather liked pushing myself out of my comfort zone and that I was actually pretty good at it once I set my mind to it. Sadly a drunken antic involving doing the splits messed up my hip and put an end to my brief sporting career.
Roll on a couple of years and I discovered sailing while at university. After one day out on the water I decided that I would take on the world’s oceans and make it my career. Approximately five years after making this bold statement I set off as the first female captain of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Ten months and 35,000 miles of sailing later and I sailed my team home with a podium position and a victory over all those people who had doubted the little blond girl – did I mention that ocean racing is still very much a dude’s sport!
Over the course of my sailing career I have sailed the Atlantic Ocean 17 times, set race records, made history, seen 60 foot waves, rescued a man over board in near impossible conditions, almost been hit by a supertanker, been chased by (potential) pirates and been to extremes of exhaustion. Sounds fun right?
I discovered Crossfit in 2013 and went through the baseline workout after flying 16 hours from Hawaii to London and drinking red wine for about 8 of those hours. I had my ass handed to me. And I loved it. When I started Crossfit I made it fit around sailing but now it is going the other way. As I got fitter and stronger, I began to pay more attention to my nutrition and how to fuel my body to enable all those awesome gains. In the past 4 years I have got into the best shape of my life, I feel fantastic, I understand how to eat and I can recover really well and guess what I want nothing more than to share all that knowledge with you guys. Its never too late to get started!!
Shane Wallace - Coach
I was raised in Santa Barbara and attended local public schools prior to graduating from San Marcos High School in 2005. My parents both work in Santa Barbara and I feel very fortunate that I have been raised in such a wonderful city. I am truly a local boy.
When I was five years old my dad brought me to my first soccer practice. After dragging me out of the bathroom because I was too scared to go out by myself, I finally made it to the field. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing sports. As a child I played every sport that I could: soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball and participated in various triathlons. My family, also very active, would go on numerous backpacking, skiing, and camping trips.
Through out the years, soccer has been my passion. Beginning with our local AYSO, I started playing on a club team at age 10. I continued on this club team throughout high school. This meant juggling a very busy schedule, which included traveling every weekend, training and trying to maintain a good academic status and somewhat of a social life. In High School, I was also interested in playing volleyball, which was difficult with off-season soccer training. Life seemed to be going along just fine, until my junior year when I blew out my knee, tearing both my ACL and MCL. I was young and I didn’t want to give up. This is how I found the gym. The gym inspired me to learn more about my self and how my body worked.
During my time at San Diego State, I continued playing soccer, coaching and studying kinesiology. I was in a good space, but once again, I had a serious knee injury. This time the other knee, again tearing both the ACL and MCL. I was discouraged and lost. I needed to make some serious decisions on how I would change my attitude and my life. I decided that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a firefighter.
To do this, I knew I needed to be in the best physical and mental shape possible. Becoming a firefighter is hard work, but I used that same work ethic that I used in sports. After years of schooling and determination to physically become the best I possibly could, I got hired with the United States Forest Service. I now work for the Los Padres Hot Shot Crew, one of the oldest and most elite Wildland Fire Crews in the nation. I love my job in so many ways, but one of the biggest reasons is because it brought me to CPC. My first year with the Forest Service we started doing what one of the guys called “Crossfit” and after that first workout I was hooked.
A little over three years ago I wandered into 209 Anacapa and met Traver and Eric. After a few weeks at CPC, all I could think about was continuing to learn the details involved in crossfit. Today I am coaching and happy to be helping people just like me learn about fitness and exceeding their goals.
Crossfit Pacific Coast is much more then a gym. The people I work with and workout with are so much more than fellow athletes. They are my family. For me Crossfit is related so closely to my life and my job. The struggles you go through and the feeling of total satisfaction when you complete a task or a WOD cannot be over emphasized. I have become stronger then I ever imagined both mentally and physically. More importantly, I haven’t hurt my knees in over 3 years. Besides working out at CPC, my dog Koda and I enjoy running, hiking local trails and a beach runs. CPC has changed my life and I am honored to be a part of this establishment.
Sean Von Hoetzendorff - Coach
I was born and raised in Mammoth Lakes California in the beautiful High Sierra Mountains. I grew up playing a wide variety of sports. In the winter I skied, snowboarded and snowmobiled, and in the summer I went rock climbing, played soccer and golfed. During any down I was exploring the great outdoors by hiking and motorcycling . I always supplemented my sports with working out in my local gym.
I spent my last two years of summer in Mammoth leading guided trips on the John Muir trail where we covered ground from Mt. to Yosemite.
I Moved to Santa Barbara in 2000, went to SBCC cosmetology school and got my license in hair dressing. In 2010 I opened my own hair salon. During my time in Santa Barbara I jumped around from gym to gym trying to keep my motivation and love for fitness . Four years ago I found CrossFit. At first CrossFit and its movements were so foreign to me but that’s what intrigued me especially Olympic lifting and gymnastics, Crossfit has pushed me to new fitness highs and has helped keep me in the best shape of my life.
Dr. ACE (Alexandra Carswell Engle) - Coach
I am a SB native, who studied 5 languages and traveled the world and decided there is no place like home! If I had to sum up the things that matter the most to me, it would be; Movement. Health. Sunshine. Nature… all things we can easily find here in SB 🙂
I tend to live my life with rigorous passion and dedication to everything that I do! So, when I decided to go to medical school, I jumped in head first. I received my undergraduate degree from Pitzer (Claremont Colleges) in International Relations and completed a Post-Bac pre-med program at UC Berkeley. In 2011, I made the leap to medical school in Tempe, Arizona to study Naturopathic Medicine. After 4 grueling years, I achieved my goal and became a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. Within a year, I found myself engaged to my long time boyfriend, Dave, living back in my home state of California and opening my very own medical practice in the South Bay of Los Angeles. I had always wanted to come back Santa Barbara and so I did just that in 2016 and moved my medical practice here. Owing my own business is stressful, yet wonderfully rewarding. Every day I have the opportunity to empower people to live healthier and more fulfilling lives by achieving the freedom and power of feeling great in their body!
My health hasn’t always been so good… Following an auto accident at an early age, this left me determined to build a strong and healthy body. Sports have always been a part of my life, whether it was competitive basketball, swimming or competing in triathlons at the collegiate level, I have always maintained a strong will to succeed despite injuries and limitations. To this day, I continue with a rigorous strength and conditioning program that has evolved out of over training as an endurance athlete and making myself sick to now feeling strong and powerful in a healthy body. My experiences with limitations, athletic injuries and digestive issues drive my passion for coaching and treating my patients and athletes. My experiences made me well aware of how acute and chronic pain can affect performance and recovery, and the importance of a balanced lifestyle.
My goal with all of the people I interact with, is to help empower them to do more than they ever thought possible. Having the opportunity to share my passion with the Gravitas community is a dream. I look forward to seeing you in the gym and pushing you to be the best version of yourself!
Dania Vega - Membership Coordinator
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