Geoff Britten roared to notoriety during season 7 of American Ninja Warrior. In an incredible feat, he became the first person to ever complete all four stages of the National Finals. Geoff then immediately saw the $1 million prize slip away when Isaac Caldiero finished the Mt. Midoriyama rope climb just seconds faster.
The first time we met Geoff was in Philadelphia, preparing to tape his season 8 city Qualifying run. He was wearing a tee shirt that said, “I climbed Mt. Midoriyama and all I got was this shirt.”
The bit of self deprecating humor is characteristic of Geoff’s feelings about his American Ninja Warrior experience. Fans fell into a moment of shocked silence when Geoff stumbled on the first obstacle of his season 8 Stage One run. But Geoff rolled out of the water smiling and loudly chuckling at himself.
Once that run came to light on the September 5th airing of American Ninja Warrior, Geoff took to his social media to drop another shock on the fans: He was done with the show for the time being.
Thanks for the love #everyone and a huge congrats to those who moved on to stage 2! It's been a wild ride leading to the top of Mt. Midoryama. I won't be back next season, being on TV just isn't my thing. I keep telling everyone that maybe I'll give it a shot again when I'm 40, because why not? :) smile, enjoy what you're doing and get outside! #everyonefalls #ninjabrittens #bebrave #getoutside #seeyouintheNNL!!
Geoff has a lot going on when he’s not being watched on television. He’s a family man deeply dedicated to his wife Jessica (also a Ninja) and their daughter, Allison. He’s a professional cameraman who is in the thick the college football season.
We had a chance to speak with Geoff while he was heading out to work on one of these games. When asked if his week had been busy with the announcement that he wasn’t returning to American Ninja Warrior, Geoff pointed out that he was on his 20th day of work in a row, with about 20 more to go. His main concerns were getting some sleep and seeing his family when he could, not American Ninja Warrior.
We talked to Geoff about his experience on Season 8, and what went into his decision to take a break from the spotlight that made him a household name.
Did season 8 feel different to you throughout the entire process?
Well for me, it was my third season on American Ninja Warrior. The first two were really kind of nice for me because no one knew me, no one really paid attention to me. So I did really well.
Coming into season 8 was different because there were cameras on me. Every time I walked anywhere people wanted to take pictures with me. It was really neat, but I’m more of a private person. I never did Ninja Warrior to become famous. I know that will sounds silly to a lot of people because it is a TV show, but I saw it as a personal challenge, not a path to fame.
It felt awkward to me. At the end of the day I’d tell my wife, “All these people want to take pictures with me and want my autograph, but all we did was some obstacles.” It was kind of interesting.
In your interviews with Kristine Leahy, you talked about not feeling pressure this season. Do you feel like the media and the show were trying to put pressure on you?
No, not at all. What I said was very true. I never felt any pressure from the show. I never felt any pressure from myself either. I really feel like I did what I wanted to do and I’m super proud of it. I’m super happy with it, and it was just different.
The pressure that came about, I wouldn’t call it pressure. It was just eyeballs. Everyone was watching you. It was a very different feeling. It felt like, I guess pressure in a way, but a different kind of pressure. It’s not like a pressure like you have to do well. It’s a pressure where everyone is watching everything you do.
What were your predictions as you went into your stage one run at the national finals? What were you expecting of yourself?
My goal this year, my only real goal in coming into this season was to see how far I could keep my streak going. [Geoff held a ‘perfect’ season 7 by completing all 6 courses and hitting all 6 buzzers.]
I thought that was interesting. To see if I could do something that was really historic. Unfortunately after falling in Philadelphia, I just didn’t have that drive. [He placed in the top 15 at the Philadelphia City Finals, but was unable to complete the course, going out on the Stair Hopper.] I wasn’t as into it as I was before.
All the other years I competed I had this laser-like focus. I was completely driven to do what I wanted to do. And I just didn’t feel that. It was still fun but it felt different.
One thing that’s interesting about it for me, and this really sums it up for me, is I’ve been a rock climber my whole life. In rock climbing, people have long term projects. They’ll spend years on a single rock climb, working on it, training for it.
And they finally do it and the interesting thing about it is climbers never go back to climbs they’ve done. Once you’ve done it, that’s it. You’ve done it. Move on. Find something better, harder, whatever. But climbers never go back.
I think it’s interesting that Isaac, after last year, beat it all, didn’t come back. He’s another climber. I’m a climber and I kind of felt the same way. Like ‘Eh, it’s kind of weird to be back to this. I already did it.’ You know?
What was the first thing that popped into your head when you did have that little slip on Snake Run?
I thought it was hilarious. I really did. I thought it was so funny. To me, it was a perfect circle. It completed my circle of I went all the way, and then fell I on the first obstacle.
I’ve done it all. I never felt shame about it. I never thought about it. One of reasons I decided that I didn’t want to come back was after falling. A lot of people after they fall on American Ninja Warrior really try to figure out what went wrong. They sit down, they’ll talk about it. They’ll try to figure it out and it gnaws at you.
It gnawed at me too after season six when I fell on the Jumping Spider. I’d think about it at night time before going to sleep. A lot of the competitors are like that. And this season after I fell on Snake Run, I never even thought about it once.
I’ve never thought about what happened, what went wrong. To me, it was just a great moment. Maybe my fall in Philadelphia started it. I knew in my heart that my heart isn’t there now.
I’m hoping I can come back when I’m 40. I set a goal for myself. Go away for awhile and come back and hopefully have that fire again. Have a new challenge.
When did you decide that you weren’t going to come back for season 9? Was that something you’d been thinking about for a long time?
Yeah, Jess and I had been talking about it. Family is very important to us. We kind of have done all the things we wanted to do with Ninja Warrior. It’s been great, we made so many friends. But it takes a lot too. It takes a lot of time trying to train and get ready for it. It takes time traveling.
Our daughter is getting older now and she has things she wants to do. I know most of us, in our limited time, want to be there to support her. So it kind of became a family decision to put our family and our love for each other over being selfish and chasing a goal. So that was a very easy answer to make.
Is this something that you’ve known for awhile and you knew you were going to announce once the episode aired?
Absolutely. Before we left Las Vegas, I told Jess that I was done. I don’t think she still even believes me. I think she still thinks next season I’m going to apply or go wait in the walk on line or something. But, no.
You’ve talked about how Jess reacted to it. How did the rest of your friends and family react to the decision?
Well, Jess was happy with it, as long as I hold up to it. Our daughter Allison is really happy with it. To her, this means more fun family trips instead of Ninja Warrior trips. All of my friends and family have been really supportive of it.
There’s been a lot of people online who I think are more upset, or sad by it, but understand. But at the end of the day it’s not their decision to make, it’s mine. It’s something I’m very comfortable with.
To be totally blunt honest, there’s a lot of other amazing Ninjas out there who will do amazing in the next years and they’ll become their favorites. I’m totally okay with that.
Is there a situation that could change that decision for you? Is there something that would make you want to come back before 40?
You know, I just set 40 as a number because for women and guys, we all have this number in our head of when we start to feel old. For me, that’s 40. So I want to still be able to do something amazing at 40. That just a life challenge for myself.
Other than that, I just want to feel young and spry. I’ve really been pushing, burning the candles at both ends for years now. Working, training really hard, competing at high levels, trying to do that and I’m kind of just worn out.
I’m really just going to take a year off and relax and try to get healthy again. I feel old and creaky sometimes. I don’t like that. I’ve never felt that before. I feel like my body is trying to tell me to back off a little bit, so I’m going to listen to it.
So no. No, I’m not going to be back until I’m 40 or something.
What are you planning on doing next? I saw you hash tagged the National Ninja League in your post. So do you plan on following that circuit?
[National Ninja League is a series of Ninja competitions all over the country, culminating in a championship. They’re now into their second season.]
Absolutely. It’s not like I don’t love doing obstacles. I may not love being on the TV part of it, being a reality star as it were. But I’ve always loved doing obstacles. The National Ninja League is great.
I was lucky enough to win it last year. I have my name on the trophy and I’ve got to go back and defend my title. I’ll definitely be excited to do that. It’s already started up, but unfortunately I won’t be able to do any of them until December, just based on my schedule.
The first #nationalninjaleague champions!! Congrats to @flexlabreck for winning the women's and I'm so proud of my better half @jessicabritten007 for coming in 4th in a stacked field of women!! Amazing to compete with so many talented ninjas! 175 took on stage 1 with 22 making it to stage 2. 7 made it to stage 3 and I managed to get a bit further than the others!! #ninjabrittens #BeBrave #anw #nnl @mlabpk
You said you’ll start competing again with the National Ninja League in December. Do you plan on doing anything athletically between then and now or are you giving your body a break?
I’m taking a complete month off. One of the more famous Ninjas, named Alan Connealy, the original beast, just did a 60 day complete rest. That intrigued me. I talked to him a little about it. I’m going to do a 30 day rest, see how I feel after that, and start training again in October. That gives me two months.
Do you feel like taking that break is going to drive you nuts? When active people try to rest it can get in their heads.
It’s already driving me nuts. It’s like day 3 and I’m already going insane. But that’s what it is. I’m actually going to start doing yoga with my wife so it’s not like I’m doing nothing. But I’ll be doing different things than I’ve always done. Trying to regain some flexibility.
There’s a lot of Geoff Britten avid fans out there. What do you want them to understand about your decision not to return?
It’s tough. There’s never an easy decision to make in life. And as you grow up and get older you’re forced to make decisions. That’s the decision I made. I had to walk away from it for awhile. And I really would like to come back when I’m a bit older.
At the end of the day, American Ninja Warrior is amazing. It’s changed people’s lives and I was so happy to a part of it. So happy to really motivate a lot of people to get out there and be kids again. That will always fill my heart with love.