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USA Insider Race to Survive: New Zealand

Race to Survive Creators Tapped This New Zealand Legend to Craft Season 2: "The GOAT"

Showrunner Jeff Conroy explains how the Race to Survive: New Zealand team picked the perfect locations to "brutalize" their contestants.

By Caitlin Busch

Before the nine teams of two donned their boots and were dropped into the thick of it for Season 2 of USA Network's Race to Survive, showrunner Jeff Conroy and his team first had to figure out where the hell they were going post-Alaska. How do you beat the constant threat of grizzlies and that kind of raw, untamed wilderness?

How to Watch

Watch new episodes of Race to Survive: New Zealand Mondays at 11/10c on USA Network

"If Season 1 is, like, this rough, difficult slog, I think Season 2 is that plus a lot more adventure," Conroy told USA Insider. "New Zealand has this crazy intense adventure vibe. It’s culturally ingrained in the people and the terrain ... Rivers, alpine environments, volcanic rock ... coastline. It just has so many different options for us. So it just made a lot of sense, you know?"

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Anyone watching Race to Survive: New Zealand, which premiered on USA Network in May, couldn't possibly argue with that logic. The sweeping, cinematic vistas alone are enough to render you speechless. If anything, it's just a bonus that the mountains, sheer cliffs, and harsh environment leave the competitors out of breath as well.

(And if those big screen-worthy views remind you of a certain Hobbit-led fantasy film series, you're not alone. They actually filmed at some of the same locations. "It's awesome. It's really awesome. You can’t help it. When you’re there, you can’t help but feel that, like, other-earthly feeling ... as Lord of the Rings was this epic adventure, [New Zealand] is the perfect setting for it," Conroy said.)

Race to Survive: New Zealand Course Designer Nathan Fa'avae

But with this embarrassment of riches at their fingertips, how did they go about narrowing down the best locales to torture, er, challenge the Season 2 competitors? They brought in the best of the best.

"We had a really, really cool situation in that our course designer was Nathan Fa'avae," Conroy explained. "And Nathan Fa'avae is the GOAT."

RELATED: Emilio & Heather Say Race to Survive: New Zealand Made Them Ready for the Apocalypse

For those unfamiliar with Fa'avae, Conroy isn't exaggerating. Fa'avae is a titan in the adventuring and outdoor sports world —  the captain of "the world's most successful adventure racing team" and an Officer of The New Zealand Order of Merit as of 2023 (per his official website).

"And he happens to be from South Island, New Zealand," Conroy said. "So, like, it was kind of a cheat when you think about it. This is the guy that has traveled the world and excelled at adventure racing, [and he's] designing a course ... [on] his home turf to brutalize our poor contestants.

"He knew all the best places to go, and really could give this incredibly epic and visceral experience," he added.

Beautiful, Brutal New Zealand

Race to Survive: New Zealand contestants row boats in Season 2, Episode 1.

While Fa'avae wasn't on board for Season 1 in Alaska, he was obviously the perfect choice to join the Race to Survive team when they trekked to New Zealand.

"He was excited to have it in his home country and excited to help design a course that added a lot of adventure to it, added a lot of different elements and [a] visually different landscape, but also physically different," Conroy explained.

For example, the second race takes place in Mangakura in the Auckland region of New Zealand. It's "beautiful," Conroy said, noting the red-tinted rocks that are almost scenic enough to make you forget how dangerous it can be. "But those rocks, if you ran your hand across it, you’d have a bloody hand, which is kind of a good metaphor for New Zealand: it looks beautiful and it looks amazing, but it is really brutal terrain. It’s deceivingly brutal."

You can see for yourself just how brutal things will get for the Race to Survive: New Zealand contestants when new episodes air on USA Network on Monday nights at 11/10c.

Catch up on Race to Survive: Alaska on Peacock.