Waynesboro man is a father, husband, youth pastor, lifeguard and ninja
Andy Friedman likes to challenge himself. The 45-year-old spent last summer as a lifeguard in Ocean City, Md., and this week was headed to Los Angeles to compete in NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”
Andy Friedman and his fellow lifeguards:‘The greatest adventure’: On watch with lifeguards in Ocean City
See more photos:Ocean City lifeguards: See behind the scenes
Both are second go-rounds for the husband and father of four who exhibits a combination of fitness and faith.
He lives in Waynesboro with wife Kristin and their children, Nastassja, 18, who goes by Ollie; Peyton, 15; Nate, 12; and Micah, 9.
“I’ve stayed in pretty good shape,” said Friedman, whose fitness activities include weightlifting, running (including marathons and events like Waynesboro’s July 4 Firecracker 5K), Spartan obstacle races and swimming.
“I have a hard time not going all out,” Friedman said. “I just push myself.”
How did Friedman end up on ‘American Ninja Warrior’ twice?
“American Ninja Warrior” combines athleticism and reality TV as competitors, called ninjas, vie on increasingly difficult obstacle courses. Friedman competed in season 6 in 2014 and has been training and hoping to return ever since.
It was about 10 years ago that a guy at work told Friedman he thought he’d like the show. Then, one of his kids mentioned it and they watched the show together.
“You should do that, you should do that,” Friedman remembers them saying. “Basically, I did it because my kids asked me to.”
In spring 2014, he and his wife flew to Miami for the taping.
Friedman made it through the first round of the regional competition and got to run up the Warped Wall, the final obstacle, and hit the buzzer. He fell in the finals in Miami and didn’t make it to the national level.
A few seconds of his fall on the Dancing Stones, which he described as wobbly pedestals of different heights and distances, made it on air when “American Ninja Warrior” was televised.
“They actually showed more of my wife because she was in the audience,” said Friedman, who was ready to try again.
“I started training more. I knew I could get better,” said Friedman, who admits it became an obsession, threw his life out of balance and God and his wife let him know it.
“My wife said, ‘I never felt threatened by another person, but right now I feel like second place to "Ninja Warrior,"'" said Friedman, who didn’t apply to be on the show in 2015.
After about six months, he got his life back in balance and doesn’t let training get out of hand.
“I don’t train like a maniac, but I have fun with it,” said Friedman, who applied to be on the show again seven times.
He doesn’t know what to expect in Los Angeles, since the format has changed from regional competitions to all the athletes being in one location.
The qualifying and semi-finals are this month on the backlot of Universal Studios in Los Angeles and the finals will be in May. “American Ninja Warrior” typically airs in the summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Friedman said.
According to online sources, upwards of 70,000 people apply to become ninjas, with 400 selected each season. They aren’t told anything about the course ahead of time.
“You just gotta go in with confidence,” according to Friedman. A lot of ninjas have a name or persona, and his may have something to do with Ocean City Beach Patrol, in a nod to the time he spent lifeguarding last summer and plans to repeat this year.
Why did he return to the OCMD Beach Patrol in his mid-40s?
“Lifeguarding is my favorite job I’ve ever had,” Friedman said in a July Salisbury (Md.) Daily Times and delmarvanow.com article titled, ‘The greatest adventure’: On watch with lifeguards in Ocean City. “When this opportunity came up, I wanted to come back and do it from a different perspective by living for God both on the job and outside of it.”
Friedman grew up in Laurel, Md., was on swim teams and attend Salisbury University. He wasn’t planning to be a lifeguard at the resort town, but an acquaintance mentioned trying out and Friedman thought it sounded challenging.
“It was much harder than I thought I would be,” he said, listing the running and swimming designed to wear people out and see if they’d give up or listen and learn. Friedman made the cut and was in the lifeguard chair during college summers from 1996 to 1999.
When did Friedman turn around his 'ungodly lifestyle'?
He went to church with his mother when he was young, but started slowly drifting away at 14 or 15.
“While in college and at the beach, I lived an ungodly lifestyle,” said Friedman, who surrendered his life to Jesus in 2000, the year after he graduated from college.
Part of the reason to go back to Ocean City, “the place I lived farthest from Him,” was to redeem that time and do good, according to Friedman, who likened Jesus to a lifeguard, who “pulls people from the water and gives them another chance.”
“I have a good, cushy job that I enjoy, but this is where I want to be,” Friedman said in the Salisbury Daily Times article. He’s a software engineer with Glacier Security, based in Annapolis Junction, Md. He mainly works from home and has a flexible schedule and a boss gracious toward his various endeavors.
He worked extra hours in the fall and spring to accrue comp time for the summer when he continued to work two days a week as a programmer while spending four days a week as a lifeguard. His wife and children moved to the beach with him.
How did the Friedman family end up in Waynesboro?
He and Kristin, the daughter of Rick and Sharon Twigg of Wolfsville, Md., were married in 2002, have been involved in some kind of youth ministry ever since and — surprisingly — moved to Waynesboro in 2008.
They lived in Laurel during the early years of their marriage and would visit his wife’s parents, but she said she never wanted to move back to the area.
They were driving home to Laurel after a holiday visit in 2007 when Kristin announced, “we need to move right now.” His wife is not prone to 180-degree turns so when she makes one, Friedman said, “I’ve learned to listen … that’s one of the ways God works in her.”
They started looking in January 2008, their house in Laurel sold in four days, and by March 2008, had moved to Waynesboro one-third of a mile down the road from her sister and brother-in-law, Janelle and Rodney Cool, who own Brio Coffeehouse, where Kirstin and Ollie have worked.
The Friedmans led or co-led Young Life, a ministry for adolescents, in Waynesboro for eight years.
After they started attending Experience Life Church in Waynesboro, he became youth pastor.
“God made it clear he wanted me to lead a youth group,” Friedman said.
Members of the group seem excited about his “American Ninja Warrior” endeavor, but he’s not sure if they watch the show or just know “it has something to do with TV.”
Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at email@example.com