Astonishing Survivor data about who’s won the most challenges

The list of people who’ve won the most challenges during Survivor‘s 27-season history is very surprising, both for who tops the lists and for the people who rarely make it on the lists: women.

While there have been women who dominated challenges–most recently, Laura Morrett, who had a streak of Redemption Island wins during Survivor Blood vs. Water–the real surprise of this data is how insanely lopsided the lists are in terms of sex.

True Dork Times has run the challenge win numbers, having previously ranked Survivors using 10 different criteria. When percent of total wins is considered (TDT defines that as “the sum of total challenge wins, including tribal, team, and individual challenges, divided by total challenge appearances”), six out of the 50 people on the two lists are women. Because those 50 people are spread over two lists, one for a single season and another for total Survivor career, two people repeat, making it just four women among those with the highest percent of total wins.

The data shows that men overwhelmingly dominate when it comes to having the most Survivor challenge wins, as women are barely represented on any of the lists, even though casts are essentially half men and half women. Only the duel challenge rankings have approximately equal representation: with six women out of 13 people on the total duel wins list, and a 50-50 split on the list of longest duel streaks.

However, women have won the game itself just under half the time: 12 out of 27 seasons, including Sandra’s double win. That may tell us something about how being a challenge boss is not crucial to victory, even though some people may value challenge wins highly.

Overall, the most successful individual challenge winner in a single season was Survivor Panama‘s Terry Deitz, while Ozzy Lusth rules among those who’ve appeared on more than one season.

For total challenge wins, the top five are Deitz, Colby Donaldson, Lusth, Brian Heidik, and Tom Westman (10 of the top 31 are women). For those people who’ve appeared on multiple seasons, the top five is similar: Lusth, Rob Mariano, Deitz, Donaldson, and Heidik (11 of the top 35 are women).

For total challenge wins–including tribe and individual challenges–Deitz is also the single-season leader, followed closely by Colby Donaldson, Ozzy Lusth, and Rob Mariano (four of the top 25 are women). The career leaders are Mariano, Lusth, Donaldson, Deitz, and Amanda Kimmel (eight of the top 25 are women).

There are a lot of variables here, such as the way challenges have changed throughout the past 13 years in terms of how they emphasize physicality, endurance, and/or intelligence, never mind that some have been repeated–and then even played by people who’d previously played them. So, the lists may be imperfect–just as the challenges may be. Still, it’s interesting raw data about a significant part of Survivor.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.