WIPEOUT! Would you ever voluntarily choose to participate in a contest where the course was actively trying to make you wipeout? No? Well for Venga Ambassador, Justin Nucum, the opportunity was just too enticing. Oh, did I mention that millions of people would be watching you wipeout? Yeah, it’s on TV.
WIPEOUT, the popular reality TV series that takes contestants through fun, but challenging and sometimes downright dangerous obstacles, was popular in the early 2010’s, airing on ABC from 2008 – 2014. And because anything was game in 2020, it made a comeback! The pandemic wasn’t enough, people actually wanted to get taken out – on purpose! Ok, all joking aside, it does look kinda fun. And it definitely takes fitness, skill and guts to go for it.
We asked Justin to share his experience with us, and we can’t wait to see his episode air next month. Spolier alert – it’s all fun and games till someone’s wheeled away to the hospital.
Q: First things first, let’s get to know Justin as an athlete. Can you tell us a bit about your athletic background?
A: In high school, I played varsity basketball from my freshman year to my junior year. I transferred schools in my senior year and wasn’t allowed to play basketball due to CIF rules so I ended up transitioning to playing varsity volleyball.
In college, I ventured out a bit and competed collegiately in olympic weightlifting. My oly lifting career was short-lived due to having scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine). I had strict doctor’s orders to not lift anything heavy overhead anymore. Feeling devastated hearing that news, I wanted to compete at least ONE time (regardless of the results in the comp) before stopping completely..so I did.
After my last olympic lifting competition, that was when I started looking at other ways to stay fit. I did Brazilian jiu-jitsu, yoga and Crossfit. During this time of dabbling into different sports, I was very much into Ninja Warrior (back when it was still in Japan). I wanted to train and try these obstacles that these ninjas were doing. This urge of trying Ninja Warrior led me to the idea of my business: Hardkour Performance. Specializing in obstacle course race training, we prep for competitions such as Spartan Race, Tough Mudder and other mud runs. Our training consists of functional fitness, HIIT, Crossfit-style workouts and trail running.
Q: How did you hear about the opportunity to compete in Wipeout and what was the audition process? Have you ever competed on TV before?
A: I initially heard about the opportunity from Pamela Price who is part of the Hardkour Performance Pro Race Team. She was initially scouted to be on WIPEOUT since she was on American Ninja Warrior in 2019. When she got scouted, they told her that WIPEOUT is going through a reboot season and needed a partner on the show. She mentioned me as her obstacle course racing coach and they loved our dynamic since her energy is always at 110% and I’m more of a laid back guy. We just complimented each other well and it was a nice balance.
Pamela and I were casted rock climbers so our team name was the BOULDER BUDDIES. We had to send in photos and videos of us training together: indoor climbing at Pam’s loft where she built her own rock wall and climbing outdoors and previous Obstacle Course Race competitions that we participated in. We had multiple virtual and phone interviews with multiple producers before getting the approval that we were getting on the show. From there, we needed doctor clearance to compete and plenty of COVID testings.
WIPEOUT was my first BUT hopefully not last competition on TV.
Q: One of the things that makes the show entertaining is watching people… wipeout. Honestly it looks brutal. Did the thought ever enter your mind that you might get injured while competing? Did that make you nervous? Did anyone try to talk you out of it?
A: You know what..getting injured while competing did cross our minds. It was more of..how severe would it be. Of course, it made both Pam and I nervous since we did more research going into the show. Also knowing that someone passed away during their last season made us more concerned.
Mama Nukes (my mom) definitely did NOT want us competing haha. Mother’s instincts.
Q: In the show you compete with a partner, I assume you guys trained together before the show? What did you do to prepare?
A: Yes, Pamela and I did train together before the show. We would do weekly trail runs and do the Hardkour Performance training program at one of our outdoor locations or do the same workout but on our own time. This included HIIT, functional fitness and crossfit style workouts. During quarantine, we were still training as if races and other competitions were still happening (even though none were promising). It was a way for us to keep sane during the pandemic. Once we knew that we were on the show, we researched previous seasons of WIPEOUT and tried to replicate some of those movements and incorporated that into our workouts. Specifically, quick reaction in jumping, landing, skipping and of course, grip training to hold on to the big obstacles on the show. We also had to consider the course being wet and slippery which we are accustomed to due to competing in muddy, wet terrain constantly.
Q: You filmed this back in late 2020. What was that experience like? Did you get to hang out with the hosts? Did you get your own superstar trailer? 🙂 Lavish catered meals and massages?
A: So we actually filmed in two days: the first shoot was the first week of November and the second shoot was the week before Christmas.
It was such a blast! WIPEOUT did such an amazing job making everything happen especially during the pandemic. Because of the strict guidelines and protocols, they spoiled us with assistants to get us whatever we needed: food, snacks, water, all of our gear, getting our ankles taped, etc since we couldn’t touch anything! It was a full day of filming but everything was on a tight schedule that it went by so fast for us.
HAHA. Oh man..I wish we got superstar trailers but we got the next best thing. We had tables properly labeled of all the teams and its members along with their gear for the course. All were spread apart so each team had their own space and stations to hang out and get ready before they take on the course. We did get superstar trailer showers for after we ran the course so that was nice! WIPEOUT did provide us lunch each round but no massages 🙁 I’ll let them know to provide massages along with our lunches next time LOL!
Each team got to chat with Camille Kostek, who was the field host for this season. She has such great energy about her; it was fun chatting with her before running the course and afterwards once we were absolutely exhausted. AND she’s even prettier in person.
Unfortunately, we did not get to hang out nor meet John Cena or Nicole Byer as they only came on set during the second round of filming in the announcer booth.
Q: During filming, you got a pretty nasty injury. How’d that happen?
A: It was on the last obstacle in the WIPEOUT Zone (which is the last round). I was jumping from one spinning hexagon platform to another. As they spin, sometimes they are closer together and sometimes they are further apart. I jumped from the first to the second just fine. Two and three were too far apart for me to jump so I instinctively decided to go back up two to wait for three but was falling off. As I was bailing, my ankle got caught in between the first and second hexagon and fractured my ankle in two places plus chipped off a piece of bone too.
As I landed in ice cold water, I knew I was done and could not continue with the course. I had to swim back to shore as the medics and WIPEOUT staff helped me on the wheelchair to take me to the medical tent for further examination. As they had to cut off the wetsuit, I knew it was bad. Pain level wasn’t too bad (4 out of 10) due to the adrenaline and temperature of the water.
At the time of injury, we knew it was either broken or dislocated. When Pamela initially saw my ankle, she told me that “it wasn’t straight,” as her eyes were tearing up. She had to rush me to urgent care that night to get x-rays.
Q: If I recall correctly, you’ve only recently been able to bear weight on your injured ankle. Can you take us through your recovery process? How has Venga CBD played a role?
A: That is correct..I just recently got off crutches and my walking boot and am now 100% weight bearing. 6 weeks ago, I was only 20% weight bearing.
After surgery, it was the most pain I have ever experienced. (Mind you that this was my first major injury throughout my entire life.) The doctor prescribed me Hydrocodone or Norcos which I personally did not feel like it helped nor did I want to get addicted to. So I transitioned to using Ibuprofen instead to help with the pain post-surgery. Two weeks after surgery, I was placed into a hard cast then a soft cast four weeks after that. The entire time, my ankle was naturally swelling up. I constantly needed to elevate, ice and take Venga Ultra Gels.
Once I transitioned into the walking boot, I was able to use the Venga Recovery Balm on my ankle and scars from the surgery.
There were days where I was out working or standing for a long period of time training clients and knew my ankle was swelling up. The Venga Ultra Gels helped alleviate the inflammation. I would take it once to twice a day.
Q: What kind of advice would you give to an athlete who is suffering a similar setback in training due to acute or even chronic injury? For so many of us, when we can’t do the things we love to do, it’s a major blow to our mentality and identity. Particularly when that thing is physical. How have you remained positive through your recovery process or has it been a bit of a struggle?
A: My advice would be to take the time to rest and recover. Do not rush the process of getting healthy again nor take shortcuts to jump back into training or competitions. By the same token, to trust the process of physical therapy and letting your body fully heal before putting it through heavy stress again.
I see this plenty of times with athletes and coaches (who are defined by their physicality) get injured. Once that is taken away or once they get hurt, it affects their mentality, identity, and lifestyle. I personally know of some that have gotten depressed or veered off track.
For me, I always try to look at the positives of the situation. Knowing that someone passed away a couple of episodes after filming our episode of WIPEOUT, I was thankful to just be alive. I fractured my left ankle which I thought was a blessing because I was still able to drive myself, work, do errands and continue with most of my daily activities. With the pandemic, it caused events, races, and competitions to take a pause, so I was not missing out on too many events as well. This also gave me the realization of how to grow my business, Hardkour Performance, without me being there physically. Can the business continue with me doing things remotely/virtually? And it has! I was able to transition and acquire new clients via Zoom and through our online training program.
My injury was a blessing in disguise. It was a way for me to elevate my business as well as for myself to grow personally.
Q: Given the chance, would you compete in something like this again? And given the injury recovery time, do you have any events planned for the rest of 2021?
A: I would definitely compete in something like this again. I believe WIPEOUT is just the foot in the door. Hopefully, you will see me or the BOULDER BUDDIES again soon on your television, phone, or computer 😉
I have another 5 weeks of physical therapy which I am hoping that I can start running again shortly after. I am looking forward to a few short distance obstacle course races by Spartan and local events that we are affiliated with such as OCRFF (Obstacle Course Race + Functional Fitness) Competition Race with Transform to Perform, and hopefully some local trail races in the fall/winter time.
Most of them will be non-competitive. I gave myself this year to just get healthy and regain my fitness from where I left off.
– End of Interview
You can find out how far Justin and Pamela make it on Thursday, May 5th during Episode 6 of WIPEOUT! on TBS.