Miami is a city with its fair share of badasses. Pain and Gain, hello! But bodybuilders, basketball players and bouncers are one thing -- ninjas are a whole other category of awesome. There are few who make the grade.
And finding these select few is the purpose of the hit G4 TV show, American Ninja Warrior, which took over Bayfront Park this weekend to test the skill of some of the nation's most talented athletes.
Here in Miami, Friday night was course-testing, and we stopped by Bayfront for a preview and a chat with Executive Producer Kent Weed, co-host Matt Iseman, and a few other members of the crew.
"It's so nice being right on the water. Now we feel like we get to convey Miami," Weed said of the new digs. Last year, they filmed at FIU.
As far as competition logistics, Saturday was the city qualifiers, and Sunday, the finals. The qualifying course was six obstacles long, the finals, ten -- and failure to complete any obstacle meant a dip in a splash pool below.
Obstacles included quintuple steps, utility pole slider, and unsteady bridge -- some of which were created specifically for the Miami course, Weed said.
125 applicants make the first-night qualifiers, and 30 (give or take) move on to the finals the next night. Anyone who completes the city finals gets a trip to Vegas to take on the famous Mt. Midoriyama course.
This year, hand-picked groups congregated in Venice, California; Baltimore, Maryland - and Miami. Later this month, they'll hit Denver, Colorado.
Champions could be parkour masters, retirees, schoolteachers - it's a playing field open to all. Although, no women have made it to the finals. YET. But Weed told us he thinks that might change this year.
A new lineup of hosts is also in store, and all three were on hand when we stopped by the set. Former NFL player and NFL Network sports analyst Akbar Gbaja Biamila and ESPN sports broadcaster Jenn Brown are the new blood, with actor and comedian Iseman as returning host.
Brown was attempting a few of the obstacles during our visit, and she splashed and burned more than a few times -- but all with a smile on her face.
"One of the great things is that we get people from all walks of life," Iseman told us. "NFL players, professional basketball players, Navy SEALS, and then you'll have teachers and insurance salesman and they compete on equal footing."
There were a few obstacles that were new just for Miami, according to Weed. The key to the course, he says, is expecting the unexpected. Obstacles look a lot different on TV than they do in real life. And despite many viewers' claims of, "I could totally do that," the reality is a lot harder than it appears.
"They don't know what they're going to face," Weed says. "They don't get to practice. The first time they experience it is when they're on the course. The difficulty level -- individually they're so hard, but string them together and the level of fatigue ... and the experience you need to get through them all."
It ain't easy.
Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until the show airs to see how competitors fared while facing the Miami heat -- but we're willing to bet the 305 made a good showing.
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