Behind the Scenes with Amazing Race Finalists Riley and Maddison McKibbin

Last week, I talked to Amazing Race Finalists and AVP fan favorites Riley and Maddison McKibbin about how their volleyball experience paid off during their worldwide travels and challenges. I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of my favorite stories from our chat. 

So let’s go Behind the Scenes and get a few tidbits from the Beard Bros about The Amazing Race Season 32. 

KS – What’s one of your favorite memories from the Race that wasn’t shown on TV? 

MM – When Riley and I were playing indoor in Greece, I celebrated my birthday. A lot of the Greek guys were really struggling, but they pitched in together to make me a cake. It was a really emotional moment for me. So we celebrated my birthday on the boat in Manaus, Brazil, which was awesome. But when we got to the airport the day after my birthday – Hung and Chee and Will and James all pitched together their extra money and bought me a piece of cake. So it was very reminiscent of Greece and just solidified our friendship with them.

RM – The fact that we finished on his birthday was so cool. We sailed off into the sunset, and they had this DJ set up. Everyone was dancing.

MM – Also that day, we had to wait a long time to do our interview. I brought a lacrosse ball to roll out – you know, being a volleyball player – and Riley and I played catch in the sand. It just brought us back to being kids again. And then on the boat, this Brazilian family came and made the best fish we’d ever had. And there were beers! I think they were there for my birthday. There are so few moments during the Race when you get to pause and take it in. 

KS – What was the hardest challenge? Like when was the moment that you were most worried you were going to go home? 

RMI’d say Paraguay was the worst. 

MMWe had actually watched the watermelon stacking challenge in a previous season. But the challenge we had to do right before that was the cello. I made it there first, and I totally blew it. We went from first to fifth. That was the most stressful moment of the Race up to that time. And then we got to the watermelons, and Riley wasn’t sure if we picked the right Detour. The other one was the bottles on your head, and everyone went there. So Riley was kinda pissed when we got to the watermelons… 

RM – I thought we chose the wrong one because I knew that only the football players would do the watermelon challenge. And if we lost to them and everyone else did the bottle one, we might come in last. So that’s why I was anxious. 

MM – Yeah, that’s where the anxiety comes from, right, Riley? Like – imagine playing in a tournament, and your advancing is dependent on another game that’s going on. And you have no idea what’s going on in that game. It’s completely out of your control – whether you win or lose your match, it’s out of your control. So when we got there, [Gary and DeAngelo] looked like they were almost done. So I jumped into hyper-mode (because I knew it was my fault), and I was just squatting, throwing watermelons. And Riley had the great idea of building one pyramid at a time instead of going the whole 10 by 10. 

RM – You can’t reach into the middle of 100 watermelons. So I figured I’d stand in the middle and build it up and then move to the other side. Maddison was just launching these 15-pound watermelons 30 feet, and I’m catching it and putting it down. It comes out to like 400 watermelon reps. I strained both my hamstrings; my body completely broke down after that leg. I had a fever. 

MM – So we were at the end and did it great, and the last one was too far to reach. Growing up, our Nana had a pool. Riley and I would always play this game where someone leans over, and the other person holds their hips, and you see how close they can get to the water before they fall in. It was so funny: Riley was like, “Grab me!” And I knew exactly what he was talking about. It was like clockwork. “Boop. Done. Check!” And we got it. 

Okay, we have to talk about the alliance. There were mixed feelings from fans about it. A lot of people didn’t like the alliance, but it obviously worked. Tell me about how it formed and if you regret it at all. 

RMI think a lot of people didn’t like it because it made the show predictable. Someone in the alliance always won, and the others likely got second and third. 

MM – We actually just got along best with Hung and Chee, Will and James. That’s what it came down to. We knew there were alliances on the show, but we didn’t know how to approach it. That’s why Gary felt like we backstabbed them, because after the first leg, like a schoolboy asking a girl out, I went up to him and was like, “Hey, do you guys want to have an alliance?” And he gave me a wishy-washy answer, and DeAngelo wasn’t even looking at me. And then, right after that, Will and James approached us wanting to make an alliance. And right after that, Hung and Chee did the same thing. 

RM – We were confused and flattered when those teams came up to us. We were like, “Sick, we’re in an alliance now!” When it was just the boyfriends, we were fired up because we knew they were a strong team. And then literally like 15 minutes later, Hung and Chee did the exact same thing. We wondered if we should tell the two teams or keep it separate. So we ended up bringing everyone together. 

KS – So it was pretty natural. Are you still friends with any of the teams or talk to them at all? 

MMHung and Chee actually came to the 2019 AVP Austin event. They brought their three brilliant little genius daughters. I asked Josh Glazebrook [AVP Senior VP] for three mini Wilson volleyballs and some VIP tickets and said, “Please don’t ask me any questions. Just trust me.” So he hooked it up, and they had a great time. Will and James came over and watched two of the episodes with us. They’re great – they’re so much fun. 

KS – There were two years between filming and airing. Was that really hard to stay quiet? 

RMThose first few months you’re back, you really want to tell everyone. Especially Maddison. After the first six months go by, you’re still waiting for the show to air. It’s not that you forget about it, but you get used to it. We thought it might not air. 

MM – There was absolutely no way it wasn’t going to air. This show wins an Emmy like every single year. 

KS – Where were you the coldest? 

Both – Kazakhstan 

KS – Where were you the warmest? 

RM – Brazil, doing that hut thing. 

KS – Any other BTS moments? 

MM – In the van after the Philippines when we were all in the finals, I forget who brought it up, but someone asked if anyone had any secrets. And no one really did until Hung was like, “Well, I went to Stanford and Harvard, and I didn’t want anyone to find that out because I thought it would be a target on me.” 

**Check out Maddison’s Instagram for an unaired, absolutely delightful moment between the six finalists. I really wish it had been aired. It showed the genuine affection between them and the pure elation they collectively felt to be standing in front of Phil on their way to the Finals. 

KS – Okay, let’s only talk about the finale for a second. It looked like the cab driver really set you up for failure. Do you equate your third-place finish to him at all? 

RM – Almost nothing, maybe 5%. The only thing I can credit him for is maybe the Butterfly Effect. Maybe if we got into a different cab, everything would’ve changed. But we lost it in the King’s Cake. It was the proverbial needle in the haystack challenge, but like you’re blindfolded. 

MM – The cakes separated each team by over an hour. You know, people have asked us if we’d rather have kept a weaker team in the finals. Riley had the best answer for it. 

RM – It wouldn’t have mattered if two second-graders were in the finals with us. We still would have lost because we spent like 3.5 hours with that King’s Cake. Every single team on that show would’ve beaten us in the final. 

KS- So it’s safe to say you’ll never eat a King’s Cake in your life. 


MM – I have a hard time watching all the Saints games; I hate that stadium. 

RM – If the AVP ever goes back to Louisiana, I don’t think we’ll go. 

MM – The boyfriends are planning to get married in New Orleans. I told them we’re not [explicit] going.