‘Amazing Race’ champion turns up in San Francisco

Now that everyone knows he won the “Amazing Race,” San Francisco's golden-haired hippie, Tyler Macniven, no longer has to keep his champion status a secret.

Macniven, 25, and best friend B.J. Averell, 26, emerged Wednesday night as this season's winners of CBS's intercontinental scavenger hunt. Filming wrapped in December, forcing the newly minted millionaires to keep their mouths shut for six months.

“It's a big weight lifted from our shoulders,” Macniven, a Woodside native, said Thursday. “But it was a good secret. If it was a bad secret, it would have been harder to keep.”

He didn't even tell his own father, Jamis Macniven, who owns Buck's restaurant in Woodside. “The tension was killing me,” Jamis said. “But he never let on to any of us.”

“The Amazing Race” took Macniven and Averill — along with 10 other teams — from Thailand to Brazil, with stops in Russia and Australia along the way. Dubbed “The Hippies” early in the season, they were nearly eliminated twice before racing neck and neck with “The Frat Boys” to the finish line.

Along the way, the duo bungee-jumped in Greece, made peace with the denizens of Oman and ate bowls full of crickets in Bangkok, which Macniven described as “like eating tortilla chips with bug guts on them.”

They also fended off plenty of “dirty hippie” comments from other teams, but competitors laughed about those barbs after the race ended, according to Macniven.

Macniven and Averill met four years ago on a boat, and since then have been dashing from one adventure to another, traveling to Cuba, India, Southeast Asia and China. He even once walked across Japan — the long way — to impress a girl.

Macniven insists that yes, they really are hippies: “If the definition is someone who has long hair and is having more fun than you are — then yes.”

Once Uncle Sam takes his cut of Macniven's half-million, the Bay Area native may consider buying a boat and docking it in San Francisco, Berkeley or Sausalito. He's also considering investing in his brother Dylan's new restaurant, the Woodhouse Fish Company, opening this month at the corner of 14th and Castro streets.

Some of the “Amazing Race” competitors may have been playing a role, but Macniven's personality is the real deal, according to his father. “Tyler never acted during this whole thing. That is the real kid,” Jamis said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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