South Carolina

How a Surfside Beach native stunned reality TV by winning this popular show

CBS Entertainment

The Grand Strand has a “Survivor.”

And a winner.

Surfside Beach native Chris Underwood won season 38 of the popular reality show Wednesday night, earning the $1 million prize.

“CHRIS WON SURVIVOR!!! I AM ECSTATIC!!!” his mother, Ann Underwood, posted on Facebook late Wednesday night. “BEYOND WORDS REALLY!! IT WAS AMAZING AND WE TRUELY HAD NO IDEA TEAM CHRIS DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!”

He posted on Facebook early Thursday morning saying:

Swung for the fences. Nothing more, nothing less... What a ride. To everyone who picked me as their winner in their Survivor pool, thanks for hanging in there with me.”

The Greenville resident won “Survivor: Edge of Extinction,” in which he fulfilled a longtime dream of competing on the grueling and drama-filled CBS reality show.

“The craziest thing is you leave in May and get back in July, and you’ve got to stay dead quiet for eight months,” Underwood, 25, who attended high school at Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach, said in February. “So it’s super exciting now to finally be able to talk about it, and family members and friends go ‘Oh, so that’s why you’ve been gone for so long.’ So having that excitement is really cool.”

According to, he played just 13 days on the show.

“Sales manager Chris Underwood was the third person voted out of the game, when his allies turned on him at Manu. After 28 days on the Edge of Extinction, he fought his way back, won the million dollar prize and title of Sole Survivor, and most importantly, takes home the Final Fishy,” the website said.

He spoke to Entertainment Tonight after the finale and said the following:

“I just got married a few weeks ago, so I’ve always had a dream to take a little time and travel and actually get a sail boat and live on that with my wife. It’s kind of a crazy dream, but so is winning Survivor, so the sky’s the limit,” he said. “I’ll definitely put some to savings because I want to have a family someday, so I’ll have some money in the bank. But it’s such an incredible opportunity and I’m really just really happy. I’m just really happy.”

Underwood told The Sun News ahead of the airing the experience included 40 days of no contact with the outside world as he competed with others in a battle of will, wits and physical fitness.

“No phone, no internet, no nothing. It’s just a complete black hole until you get back. So whether it’s the first vote out or the sole survivor, you’re just on a major lockdown the whole time,” he said. “That was the hardest thing, knowing that going into it. For my family and my fiance, I was like ‘Hey, whether I’m out first or out last, I’m gone. I’ll see you six weeks from now.’ That was kind of tough to swallow, but obviously the experience and the opportunity to do such a cool thing was just a sacrifice of playing the game.”

Underwood had long been a fan of the longest-running reality show of all time. His father is from Panama, and the fact it was included in one of the early seasons led to what became a family tradition when Underwood was a kid. So when he finished college with no immediate job lined up, he attempted to get on the show.

“So I’m like, ‘You know what, screw it. I’m gonna go apply and see if I can get on “Survivor.” I think I have all the skills needed to do that.’ I got close, but I didn’t get the call out to L.A,” he said in February. “I just kept applying actually each year, and finally I got the call back and was sent out to casting finals last year. And then I was notified last spring that I made it.”

Underwood told The Sun News his experience in the great outdoors and in business would prepare him to succeed.

“I know what it takes to get to the end, and sometimes you’re going to have to lie and sometimes you can be honest with your alliance,” he said. “Just some of those elements, I was like ‘Yeah, I totally understand the psychology of “Survivor.” I think I can do really well.’”

Based on the outcome of the show, he was right.

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