Interview: Survivor Gabon winner Bob Crowley

2011-04-01 14:39
Bob Crowley is the newest castaway to wear the Sole Survivor crown.

Former high school physics teacher Bob Crowley is the winner of Survivor: Gabon, the 17th instalment of the US series.

South African audiences saw him walk away with the title on Monday March 28 on SABC3.  

In winning the title, Crowley became the oldest Survivor winner in US history (age 57), when he beat fellow Survivor contestants hairdresser Susie Smith and pin-up model Jessica “Sugar” Kipa in a 4-3-0 vote at the final Tribal Council.

Age ain't nothing but a number

“I’m pretty proud at winning Survivor at age 57 when on the show, I was pitted against 25- and 35-year-old kids that were stronger than myself and had more energy during the physical challenges,” he says, via telephone from Maine.

The show, which aired in the US in 2008, visited Africa for a second time in the history of the series where contestants had to battle each other, the environment and endure a lack of food, while playing for $1m prize.

And that wasn't the only honour Crowley received. During the reunion episode, Crowley won $100 000 during a fan vote contest for the player of the season.

Crowley was a dominant force in challenges, winning a record five challenges in a row. He even became known for sneakily creating two fake idols in the game.

“I knew before I got to Gabon that my age was not a positive thing and that's why I was initially under the radar. It was my strategy to lay low and not get any unnecessary attention,” he says.


So how did he achieve this? “I ended up making people feel comfortable at camp, getting to know them better as well as providing food. Being from Maine, we have a hard working ethic and that's all I wanted to show to my fellow castaways out there.”

Being on Survivor was a real dream come true for the former physics teacher, who has since retired from his profession after winning the reality TV show.

“I've always liked adventure and being outdoors and I figured I had to do this at least once in my lifetime. When I was told I was selected for the show, I was ecstatic,” he says.

While Survivor: Gabon was airing in the US in 2008, Crowely says he had a tough time teaching his students.

“Me being on the show became very difficult for me to teach my physics students because they forgot about the class modules, and rather wanted to know more about my time on Survivor. I made a deal with them that if they completed their homework and the class modules in enough time, then I'd spend the rest of that week's classes talking about what it was like to be on Survivor.”

But Crowley had to stick to his guns. “Initially there was no work getting done in class and I became a strict teacher. Once they realised that I was serious, they started doing the work more and that's when we had some Survivor talking time in class,” he laughs. 

Hometown hero

With the prize and title came some celebrity status in his home state of Maine. Crowley was honoured with Crowley Day and received a plaque in his honour.

“We don't have real celebrities in Maine and I had a lot of support from fellow fans from the area. They all look up to me now as a role model and look at me as a celebrity.”

These days, Crowley gives inspirational talks and is enjoying retirement. But after winning almost three years ago, he hasn't really spent “a lot of money”.

“I had to give $400 000 to the federal government for taxes. I did also go visit Gabon with my wife and did some travelling in Greece, Turkey, Italy, New Zealand and Australia as well.”

Describing Survivor as a “scout boy trip on steroids”, Crowley is looking forward to visiting South Africa in the future.

“I've been to Gabon and I'd like to visit South Africa. I've seen the photos and heard so many great things about the place that I'm itching to come over and visit soon.”

Clayton Morar is a celebrity expert and autograph hunter. See his exploits at

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