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Geoff Britten was hiding in plain sight during season nine

He may have retired from competition, but he was still on the course.

David Becker/NBC

During the filming of American Ninja Warrior’s ninth season, fans who attended the tapings were treated to a thrilling experience, and some eagle-eyed fans may have noticed a familiar face amongst the hardworking crew.

Geoff Britten’s storied runs on American Ninja Warrior are incredibly significant. In season seven, he hit all six buzzers, becoming the first to complete all four stages of the National Finals. In his return to season eight, he made it back to the National Finals once again, but shocked the fans with a slip on the first obstacle of the first stage.

Once that moment hit the airwaves, Geoff announced he was stepping back from American Ninja Warrior. And he was true to his word, there was no sign of him on season nine.

That is, unless you knew were to look. It turns out Geoff didn’t go too far. He joined the ATS team, who builds and manages the American Ninja Warrior course. He spent part of season nine on the road, building the course for the next generation of Ninjas.

We spoke with Geoff in San Antonio, TX, during the taping of season nine, to learn more about his work behind the scenes.

Responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.

In your own words, can you tell us what your position with ATS is currently?

GB: Sure. I’m working with ATS now, which is an amazing company that builds all these Ninja Warrior obstacles you’ve seen. They’ve been doing it since season four. I’m on board as a tester, testing out the difficulty of these obstacles and working with the producers a little bit to gauge difficulty. I know a lot of the Ninjas. I know how strong they are. I know what their weaknesses are. It kind of all comes together to build the perfect course.

How did you end up making this transition?

GB: After season eight’s Vegas episode aired, I put up a post that said, “I’m retiring. I’m done. It’s been great.” ATS actually contacted me very, very quickly and asked me if I’d be interested in coming to work for them. They thought it would be a good fit. I’m actually in a unique position. Not a lot of people are really good at obstacles and know television production. (Geoff is also a camera operator.) I actually don’t know another one. So here I am.

Why were you interested in taking the position?

GB: I think it’s a unique way to stay involved. Doing something I love. Staying involved in the community I love. And it’s really fun to get out and play on the obstacles and not have to worry about the whole TV aspect of it. I don’t have to worry about if I fall I’m done. To some extent, my fire kind of died inside after I beat the whole thing. I just didn’t have that will to go out and crush obstacles anymore. But I still like doing them, and this is the perfect way to do it.

So do you have the ability to make the obstacles harder? Are you a Ninja’s worst nightmare?

GB: I definitely think there’s a lot of Ninjas who are worried that I’d do something like that. But that’s not what I’m interested in, and I don’t think that’s what the producers are interested in either. It’s all about gauging what’s possible and what’s doable.

Ryan Tuttle/NBC

How has the experience been so far?

GB: Its been really great. Working in Los Angeles was fun. I got to see a lot of really cool Ninjas that I don’t usually get to see unless they make it to Vegas. It’s really fun being behind the scenes and getting to cheer for everybody. You’re not nervous. You’re not sitting back there pacing. You get to enjoy the night and cheer for everyone. San Antonio has been great. It’s warm here, which I enjoy. It’s nice and sunny, and it’s a great course.

What’s surprised you about the position?

GB: What’s surprised me most about working with ATS is the level of professionalism and detail that they put into everything. I’ve always kind of thought from being on the other side that there was some sort of set up. Where they would set things to be hard for some people and not for others. Absolutely none of that.

It’s an even playing field. And the lengths they go to to make it the same for everybody and at the same time, make it possible for everybody, are unparalleled. I’m a part of that now and I get to see it. I try and tell people that so they respect it because that’s how it is. They’re not out to get anybody. They’re trying to make it doable for everybody.

Justin Merriman/NBC

Has it been hard to transition behind the scenes when you found such success in front of the camera?

GB: There are a couple things they won’t let me do actually. We run course runs called “dirties,” which they use on the show to show people running across obstacles, or hands going across things. I hopped up to do it in LA and they said, “No, you can’t do it. It has to be a nameless face.” I thought that was interesting. Other than that, it’s very enjoyable. Some of the guys give me grief because people stop to take pictures of me and stuff. They’re like, “What about me? What am I? Chopped liver?”

When Kristine Leahy describes a new obstacle to the viewers, we see it demonstrated by mystery men and women in all black. Those are the ATS team members performing the “dirty runs” Geoff referred to above.

Do you get recognized a lot on set?

GB: Yes, all the time. A lot of people know who I am still.

How does that feel when you’re testing an obstacle in front of a bunch of people, and they recognize Geoff Britten up there?

GB: When I was in LA, I felt like I may have well as been a competitor. They called me up before the show started, got me on the start line, announced me on the PA and had me do a full course run. I was like a legitimate competitor at that point. I’m still doing the same stuff! But it’s fun. And there’s definitely more enjoyment.

What are you personally getting out of this role?

GB: I get to stay involved with the community. I get to see my friends and get paid for it, which is really neat. I get to try some cool obstacles and maybe I get to leave behind some really cool obstacles that will be around for a long time. Maybe they’ll be unbeatable.

Ryan Tuttle/NBC

When we spoke with you shortly after you announced your retirement from the show, you mentioned one big reason was you wanted more family time. Is this position allowing you to have that?

GB: Yeah, absolutely. We’re not going to Ninja Warrior gyms and training all the time. We go climbing a lot still as a family and that’s been a lot better. It’s just, Ninja Warrior isn’t the focal point of our lives at all anymore. It really was for about a year. It’s very relaxing now. We’re all close again. We’re (Geoff and wife, Jessica) more focused on our daughter (Allison) and school and what she wants to do. It’s not just about we want to do.

What’s next? You’ve gone from American Ninja Warrior competitor, to completing all the stages, and now behind the scenes. What’s the next step after that?

GB: I’m a big believer in everyone having five year plans. I had a plan to get on American Ninja Warrior and see how I could do. Kind of ticked that one off early. Took me two years. My next life goal is to actually write a book. I’m a big sci-fi nerd. I read a book almost every day. I may have a really good idea and I’m starting to go into it. I’m excited about it.

David Becker/NBC

You have also previously mentioned that around age 40, you might consider competing on American Ninja Warrior again. Does working with ATS affect that? Can you still become a competitor later on?

GB: The rules for working on the show and competing are that you have to have a year between. So I could work this season, and compete in season 11, if I wanted to. Which is when I would be 40, which is what I’ve always said. We’ll see how I’m feeling. I don’t know yet. We’ll see how I’m feeling. We’ll see how the courses are. If I still feel pretty good, I’ll absolutely go for it.