Ex-Paras will now get people fighting fit

HEALTHY Mike Eburne, left, and Ray Pharoah at the Crossfit Southern Legion gym in Hilsea. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (132635-1)
HEALTHY Mike Eburne, left, and Ray Pharoah at the Crossfit Southern Legion gym in Hilsea. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (132635-1)

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From the deserts of Iraq, to the Indian Ocean.

Two best friends have had their fair share of adventure and danger across the globe.

Now former Paratroopers Ray Pharoah and Michael Eburne have decided to put skills learned in the forces and patrolling pirate-infested seas to good use in their home city.

The pair grew up just doors away from each other in Buckland, Portsmouth, and as schoolboys their relationship always had a competitive edge.

They are now using that to their advantage as they open their new venture – Crossfit Southern Legion.

It is a high-intensity strength and conditioning regime which is coming to the UK from America and has already won over United Services Rugby Club players who are training with the lads once a week.

Crossfit is used in police academies and military special operations units around the world because it’s so tough.

But behind the tough-guy image there is a very good reason for the boys wanting to bring Crossfit to the UK – to spend time with their young families.

Both Ray and Mike married their long-term girlfriends in the past year and both became fathers.

Understandably, they want to be close to home, which means living in the country permanently for the first time in years.

Mike said: ‘We’ve had our fair share of adventure over the years but having our families is the best thing that’s ever happened to both of us.

‘We were both into Crossfit training and loved everything about it.

‘And we knew that by setting up our own Crossfit gym it would be a brilliant way to help people get fit, see results and do something they will never get bored of because the workouts – known as WODs – are constantly changing.’

Ray, 36, from Hilsea, joined the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, when he was 19 and stayed for nine years, during which time he served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq.

He said: ‘It was life-changing.

‘Without wanting to sound corny, it made me into a man. It was the making of me.

‘I loved working as a team, never knowing one day what I would be doing the next.

‘There were obviously dangerous situations and there are times your life depends on your comrades.

‘That is when you realise how important team work is.’

Mike joined the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, when he was 20.

He said: ’I was young and unsure of what I wanted to do with my life.

‘But joining the Paras truly set me in the right direction.

‘I learned so many skills and disciplines and made friends for life. There are skills I learned that we want to bring out in Crossfit.’

After leaving the Army both Ray and Mike went into a form of security called close protection.

They worked in dangerous, hostile conditions protecting the workers who were trying to rebuild Iraq after the second Gulf War.

It meant long stints away from home where their daily lives revolved around stopping people getting kidnapped.

They have both worked as bodyguards – with Ray protecting the England football team and a host of celebrities, including Elton John.

At around the same time – in 2005 – he moved into maritime security.

It was lucrative work but also demanded long contracts which took them into the pirate infested waters of the Indian Ocean for up to three months at a time, with little chance to speak to loved ones at home.

Their job was to protect large tankers with valuable cargo and oil rigs from the ever present threat of ambush from Somali pirates.

Ray said: ‘It was tough.

‘I would be on call almost 24/7 and there were obviously some dangerous times when the threat of pirates came on the horizon. But, to be honest, what was even tougher was leaving my family.

‘Any father who has ever had to work away will tell you how hard it is to say goodbye to your child.

‘Just after my daughter was born in February I made my last long trip – five weeks.

‘She’d changed so much in that short space of time and I vowed I’d never go back.’

And Mike felt the same, having to leave his young son Jude. He said: ‘Opening the Crossfit gym is a dream for us. It is something we have talked about for year because we are passionate about Crossfit.

‘And it means, for the first time in years, we can be with our families every night instead of having to snatch a few words down a crackly telephone line every few weeks.’

The crossfit gym, in Ackworth Road, Shawcross Industrial Estate, Hilsea opened this week.

To find out more go to crossfitsouthernlegion.co.uk or call (023) 9269 6444.


AS VETERANS the welfare of serving and former comrades is a cause close to the hearts of former Paratroopers Ray Pharoah and Michael Eburne.

On Sunday they are holding a Crossfit competition at Crossfit Southern Legion in aid of the charity Help for Heroes.

Teams taking part are CF Keelhaul, CF Trafalgar and CF Southern Legion - the only team with non-serving military.

Michael said: ‘Obviously this is a cause that means a lot to both me and Ray.

‘We would like to raise as much money as possible for Help for Heroes.

‘But also we can’t wait to get in there and beat the other teams!’

To sponsor the teams go to crossfitsouthernlegion.co.uk, head to the Facebook page or pop in to the gym to watch.


FOR someone who avoids exercise like the plague I can honestly say I had no idea what I was in for when I agreed to have a go at Crossfit.

So it came as a huge shock at my first session, after already signing on the dotted line for a 12-week boot camp.

To say it was tough going was an understatement. Fortunately there were lots of other women in the same boat and, by the end of the class, we were hooked.

It began with 20 minutes talking through basic skills – such as how to do a squat. ‘Easy’ you might think. Wrong. I’ve been doing them badly for years and could have really injured myself.

Next was 20 minutes of strength training. If you’d told me the day before that I’d be lifting weights on a bar I would have laughed out loud. Now I love them. That was mixed in with work on my core, doing planks and leg raises. If you think that sounds easy, again, you’d be wrong.

Lastly came the WOD. It is a workout that changes every single day – and it can be brutal. For example, 20 burpees, followed by kettle bell squats, finishing off with a 400m run.

There were points when I wanted to cry but at the end of it the sense of achievement was worth it.

After five sessions I feel amazing and I can already feel the difference in my fitness levels.