‘The Amazing Race’s’ Aubrey and David on taking the penalty: ‘I don’t think we would’ve changed anything’

Aubrey Ares and David Hernandez were flying high (in a helicopter) in Iceland at the start of the penultimate leg of “The Amazing Race 34,” but things quickly went downhill. Or underwater. David cannot swim and there were two water challenges. While he got through the Roadblock, he struggled with the memory task that involved snorkeling. Knowing that they were last and not wanting to risk his health, the couple opted to take the two-hour penalty instead of going out in the water for a third time.

We caught up with the pair to discuss their emotional exit, why David didn’t learn to swim before the race and more.

Gold Derby: That was such a rough way to go out. How was it watching it?
David: Just reliving that moment was a little tough, knowing you were so close to that million dollar race and having it end like that.
Aubrey: It brought back a little emotion. That was the first time I saw David get in the water and swim because the first challenge, we didn’t get to see it — we were standing outside the cave — so when I saw David jump in, I was like, “OK!” [Laughs] No wonder it was a lot for him. No wonder he was having a moment afterward. It was incredible to see him conquer his fears and do something completely out of his comfort zone. It was emotional watching us making the decision to take the penalty, but ultimately I don’t think we would’ve changed anything.

Gold Derby: The leg started so promisingly for you in the helicopter. Were you thinking, “This is a good sign. We’re gonna rock this!”
David: [Laughs] That is exactly what I told Aubrey! At the very beginning, I was like, “Babe, this is a sign. This leg was meant for us.”
Aubrey: When we pulled up and saw the helicopters there, his eyes lit up. He was like, “We’ve been waiting for this!” [Laughs] We take the helicopter ride together, we see the beautiful views, the ice and everything.
David: We went so high up and then it was [falling sound].

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Gold Derby: After you got through the Roadblock, it was like, “Oh, he powered through,” but then it’s another water challenge. What went through your minds when you saw it was snorkeling?
David: When I saw that it was snorkeling, it hit me like a brick wall. I was like, “Oh, my God, here we go again.” Then I was like, “I got this. I’m going to be fine.” As soon as I stepped into the water and my body felt that instant cold, without noticing, I shifted into panic mode. I tried my best to calm myself. I was like, “OK, take deep breaths. Normal.”
Aubrey: I think the moment we pulled up, watching his reaction to seeing that we were snorkeling is kind of what started the whole trajectory of what happened. When we got in the water, I remember I was in front of David and I look back and he was standing there taking breaths, which I think everyone saw on the show last night. And when someone’s on the side taking breaths, it’s typically a sign that a sign that they’re trying to calm themselves down. And when he got in the water, there was a lot obviously that they didn’t show, but there were times where we just stopped, waited, kept going, stopped, waited, kept going because he was trying to catch his breath. By the time we got to the memory challenge the first time, we both knew.
David: I couldn’t focus. My body couldn’t process trying to memorize the names of the volcanoes and swimming.

Gold Derby: Did you consider learning how to swim before the race or were you hoping there’d be no swimming challenges?
David: We did. Funny thing is, I was supposed to learn how to swim and then we were told, “Oh, you’re not going to be in the cast.” I still need to learn how to swim or improve my swimming, but it was like, who’s going to drop out of the show? And then —
Aubrey: Two hours before they took off, we were packing to go on “The Amazing Race”! [Laughs] I mean, we do look back and wish David would’ve tried to learn how to swim, but swimming is one thing in a pool. Here in L.A., you’re in a pool. You don’t really swim at the beach unless you’re surfing and this and that, which neither of us do. But a pool is completely different than a lagoon with snorkeling gear. The gear — I mean, you guys saw our faces. It was [squished] the entire time, so just that feeling of being restricted and also trying to float in water. There were just so many other instances that were added onto the swimming part that even I was in panic mode.
David: It wasn’t just the swimming though. At least for me, a lot of it was the temperature of the water. I feel like I get cold easily and when I was swimming, I felt like I was cramping up. My legs were cramping up. The fact that I didn’t have a vest, in the back of my head, I was like, “You better be careful with how you swim your way through.”

Gold Derby: The second time you went in, David, it looked like you had, what I assume was, a panic attack. We didn’t really see what happened after that and you just said you took a lot of breaks. How were you able to complete the swim?
David: We completed the course twice. On that second one, I remember rushing through it. My instinct was to swim all the way across because I knew I had to swim all the way across in order for us to test.
Aubrey: I feel like because his focus was just to swim across, we weren’t actually stopping to read every volcano with their respective year. That was the ultimate challenge — to be able to memorize and put it together — but at that point we were trying to get through the snorkeling part of it. And once we saw Emily and Molly leave, it was like, why put ourselves through that again? Why put him in that situation? I’m not mentally there. He’s clearly not mentally there. You see your person have a hard time, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Your focus is on them, at least for us. Ultimately, we took the penalty.

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Gold Derby: It’s not worth it when you knew you were last. But if Emily and Molly had to do it again, do you think you would’ve gone out a third time?
David: I would’ve. Against her no, I would’ve said, “We’re doing it again.” I am convinced and I actually have told her this since that if they had gotten it wrong the second time, I would’ve gone again. I dunno how it would’ve went!

Gold Derby: Maybe it could’ve been Aubrey trying to memorize everything and you’re just trying to focus on swimming.
Aubrey: Right. I even thought about that too. If we had gotten in there and done that, maybe we would’ve done better. But at that point, my focus was on him. We haven’t said it like this, but the truth was that he was having an anxiety attack. I grew up dealing with people having anxiety attacks, I know what the signs are and so when I saw that happening to him in the water, that freaked me out. And ultimately that’s what made me say it’s not worth it. It’s not worth risking your health on the line.

Gold Derby: You said before you had trouble concentrating on the dates and names. You missed a lot of answers both times. I think some people might think you would’ve come in last even if David could swim since your answers were so off, but do you think your answers were so off because you couldn’t focus because he couldn’t swim?
David: I definitely believe that my answers were off because I couldn’t focus. I was responsible for the second half, and if you notice, on both attempts, the first six, seven were correct. It was the second half that was incorrect. That was on me. I couldn’t focus.
Aubrey: I don’t put that on him that he got it wrong. The truth is I could’ve done all of them too, like you had said, but my brain was not there. It was not there. It was just focused on him being OK.

Gold Derby: So if this were on dry land, you would’ve aced it.
Aubrey: One thousand percent! [Laughs]
David: Theoretically, yes.

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Gold Derby: What did you do during those two hours? You know you’re goners. Were you just taking in the view of Iceland?
David: Exactly. I remember expressing a lot of gratitude for our moment there and for her patience, for her love, for her willingness to understand.
Aubrey: I think he apologized for, like, the first 30 minutes. And I finally was like – and we joke about this, but I really said this to him and I don’t think this showed this on TV – but I said, “Your limit is my limit. If you’re not well, I’m not well. If I’m not well, you’re not well.” And I had to remind him of that. “Yes, I know, it’s a million dollars, I get it. But we’re on ‘The Amazing Race.’ We knew we were going to be put into tasks that were going to test our limits and it is not worth it to see you struggle the way that you were for money.”

Gold Derby: You guys had a lot of navigation issues and that happened again this leg. You got turned around and Derek and Claire passed you to the Roadblock. Did that impact how you decided who would do the Roadblock? If you had gotten there in the “correct” order, would you not have volunteered so quickly to do it? You didn’t know it involved swimming obviously.
David: No, I feel like the ultimate reason why I took that challenge is because it was my sixth Roadblock and I told her that if we make to that final race, I’d rather have you deal with that pressure of the final Roadblock, and that’s why I did it. Plus, I was concerned it would be heights. I saw the cliff and I didn’t want to put her through any height obstacle again.
Aubrey: He took it because we wanted to be strategic if and when we made the last race, who was going to do the final Roadblock. But I think when we got up there, because we got turned around and seeing Derek and Claire go so quickly, we just were like, “OK, you go!” We didn’t stop to really think about it and take in that there’s water here. [Laughs] You might have to swim!

Gold Derby: What do you think of the final three?
David: They deserve and they’ve earned every moment in that final race. They deserve it. All the love to them. Best of luck. It makes us happy that they got there because they truly deserve it. Each and every one of those teams put in so much work and they deserve to be there.
Aubrey: It’s going to be so much fun next week watching them battling it out because, like he said, they were all strong teams throughout the entire season and they all deserve to be there in the top three.

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