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Air Surfer was designed by a 14-year-old fan

Jennie’s design was selected as the 2020 Obstacle Design Challenge winner.

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Elizabeth Morris/NBC

On night three of the American Ninja Warrior Qualifiers, we were introduced to a new obstacle, Air Surfer.

The obstacle was trickier than it looked. Competitors were required to leap from pad to pad using what looked like a snowboard. It was incredibly easy to slide off one side or another. With the shape and lightness of the board, it was also easy to overshoot the landings or fall backward while trying to build up a swing.

Who came up with the idea for this thing? That would be 14-year-old, Jennie Bensley! She, along with her dad, Wayne, submitted her idea to the 2020 Obstacle Design Challenge and the producers decided to make her idea come to life this season.

Here’s the original description Jennie came up with, along with her vision of the obstacle.

“A panel sits atop a set of parallel bars that zig-zag up and down three times. There are handles underneath the panel in between the two outside bars with which runners use to move through the obstacle. The obstacle is 10 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and 22 feet long. Runners must first jump and grab the handles, then use them to tip the panel down to the other side of the peak, then jump up to the next peak. They then repeat the tipping down and jumping up, ending by sliding back down at the end and dismounting.”

Air Surfer. 2020 ODC submission
Air Surfer. 2020 ODC submission
Wayne Bensley

The American Ninja Warrior producers took her idea and ran with it. There were some tweaks in the process. However, you can see that Jennie’s idea of having the Ninjas hold on to handles that are under the “board” was preserved.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

So far, Air Surfer has been featured twice on the course, on nights three and four. In that short period of time, the obstacle has taken out 21 competitors. Thanks to Jennie’s genius idea, all of the Ninjas below hit the water (so far), including Grant McCartney and Nick Hanson. They both fell after making identical mistakes!

  • Bryan Mendez
  • Craig Stowell
  • Guang Chi
  • Ivan King
  • Joshua Vigo
  • Conor Galvin
  • Troy Helming
  • Taylor Johnson
  • Andrew East
  • Blake Feero
  • Brandon Richards
  • Heather Weissinger
  • Megan Budway
  • Lenny Lopez
  • Landon Nagao
  • Michael Johnson
  • Hector Gomez
  • Cara Mack
  • Grant McCartney
  • Bryce Buckland
  • Nick Hanson

Every year we host the American Ninja Warrior Obstacle Design Challenge, we love seeing what the fans come up with. Some of the best ideas come from the youngest viewers. The 2021 Obstacle Design Challenge is accepting submissions right now! Do you have the next great obstacle idea? It could send the Ninjas splashing during season 14.

Remember, if you’re under the age of 18, please have a parent or guardian submit your idea for you!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited. Legal residents of the 50 US or DC who are 18 or older. Begins May 31, 2021 at 12:00 PM PT and ends September 20, 2021 at 11:59 AM PT. Limit 2 entries per person. To enter, and for Official Rules, odds, and prize details, visit Sponsors: American Ninja Warrior and NBCUniversal Media, LLC.