This fall, AVP fans were thrilled when Riley and Maddison McKibbin, the notorious Beard Bros, were featured on the hit reality competition show The Amazing Race. The Hawaiian brothers traveled the globe with 10 other teams in hopes of winning the big $1,000,000 prize. From racing goats in Trinidad to performing movie stunts in Kazahkstan to unscrambling letters while scaling a wall in Berlin, the McKibbins never failed to amaze.
This is the first season of the Amazing Race I’ve ever watched. And I loved every second. Each episode was more fun and engaging than the last. Mark Schuermann and I watched on the edge of our seats laughing hard and planning who among us would take which challenge if we were on the Race.
It was even more fun watching our friends crush the Race, winning four legs and advancing to the Finals. I couldn’t wait to catch up with Riley and Maddison via Zoom to hear about their experience. We talked for over an hour; it felt like I had raced along with them.
Throughout our reminiscing, it was apparent how much their experience as pro volleyball players influenced their success during the Race. Indoor experience improved their teamwork skills, which helped them form the most successful alliance in Amazing Race history. Beach experience prepared them for worldwide travel, physical challenges in extreme weather, and adjusting to each leg’s various challenges.
Plus, their brother bond grew even stronger. It’s hard to say whether volleyball helped their Race more or the Race helped their volleyball more.
Kim Smith – You guys were already close, and of course, you work and play volleyball together. But how did your relationship improve or change throughout the Race?
Maddison McKibbin – We had so much time to reflect between each leg, and each time we went through what worked well, what we could improve on. It made us take a deeper look at the strengths and weaknesses between us and be really honest about that. As siblings, it’s easy to recognize the weaknesses, but it’s harder to recognize the strengths. That’s something we really took a deep look at. In beach being brothers, sometimes Riley and I leave the other on an island. “Oh, it’s your fault. Not mine.” But the Race helped us bond and support each other. We both need things from each other that before we didn’t give because we didn’t want to admit that we really needed anything. So basically – we had to leave our egos at the door. We had a revelation in Brazil. Riley was able to figure out the knots on that hut, and I was like, “Alright, teach me.” And he was like, “No. Just do what I say.” So Riley ended up doing the entire thing and was just like – “bring me the palm fronds.” So I did. And at one point, he’s like, “Just bring me a water.” And I was like, “I’m not going to get you a water!” After that debrief, Riley was like…
Riley McKibbin – Yeah – I probably should have taught you.
KS – All along, it looked like you didn’t get lost like some other teams. Did traveling for volleyball help you with that? Or are you just good with directions?
MM – We’re good with directions, but we also did as much research as we could when we were in the airport. You can use other people’s computers and phones.
KS – What did you bring in your bag that you think really helped you?
Two pairs of shoes (they ditched one pair)
A bunch of socks so they could ditch them along the way
Laundry detergent packets (Maddison did all the laundry between legs)
Battery-powered alarm clock
A bunch of Lululemon – the down jacket was their favorite
MM – We also had a Lacrosse ball and collapsible roller that we used a lot. Ty Loomis gave me that idea, actually.
RM – And Maddison was really proud of his snacks. You only get a certain amount of money per leg. We’re bigger and need more calories than most of the other racers. We worked it out perfectly, so we just finished the last of our snacks at the end.
MM – I was the one who was prepared for both of us: Chomps, RX Bars, Nuun tablets.
KS – Sounds like my volleyball bag. Which brings me to – how did your career on the AVP Tour help you during the Race?
RM – The biggest mantra that carried us through that was bred into us playing sports was – If you can’t control something, don’t let it bother you. Like you can’t let the taxi ride stress you out. You can’t let that affect your performance once you get to the challenge. We’d tell ourselves that often. And also not wanting to get first. We didn’t want to push too hard for first to make mistakes.
MM – We’ve been in our fair share of qualifiers. And you never look past what’s in front of you. One thing with beach volleyball compared to any other sport is you’re playing multiple matches in one day against different opponents. So everything is changing. A lot of people said we had momentum going into the finals, but momentum can be a bad thing. It can lull you to sleep, thinking everything will go your way. When we did the Wilson media day for the AVP, Stafford had a great quote: “The win that you just had has no effect on your next match.” That’s a good thing that we held onto – when you’re in the lead, it doesn’t matter. We recognized that the more you’re pushing or trying too hard – even in beach, if you serve too hard or do things outside of your realm – you end up being blind because you want it too badly. In India, when we were in last place for the Mega Leg, we just kept going. At the end of the day, every leg is not about getting first. It’s not to get last. We wanted to make it to the finals. You’re not racing for a million dollars in every leg of the Race. You’re only racing for a million dollars if you make it to the end.