God defend our deck hands (Image: Alex Casey)
God defend our deck hands (Image: Alex Casey)

Pop CultureJune 20, 2024

A brief history of New Zealanders featuring on Below Deck

God defend our deck hands (Image: Alex Casey)
God defend our deck hands (Image: Alex Casey)

Alex Casey and Tara Ward look back at the best and brightest New Zealanders to appear in the greatest reality franchise of all time. 

It’s the hugely addictive reality show with a little bit of everything. “It’s got the high octane Hell’s Kitchen action in the chef’s galley, the nouveau riche aesthetics and drama of Real Housewives, the outdoor elements of Man vs Wild, the workplace drama and power dynamics of Undercover Boss and The Apprentice, the “coupling up” of Love Island and sometimes even the singing and dancing of X Factor,” we wrote of Below Deck back in 2022. 

Following all the behind-the-scenes action on a luxury super yacht packed with cashed-up and demanding charter guests, Below Deck always remains firmly on the side of the hardworking, tireless crew. Living and working together in the most testing of situations, including guests demanding to be painted head to toe in chocolate, or Roy Orbison’s son pissing all over the floor, it is the rock solid crew of Below Deck who truly keep the show afloat. 

Aesha Scott and Captain Jason on Below Deck Down Under

And within those crews, there are a surprising number of New Zealanders who have popped up in various franchises over the years. Part of it, leading local Below Deck expert Dominic Corry muses, is due to our aquatic inclinations. “We are a boating nation and lots of young New Zealanders work on the superyachts,” he says. “We’re all up in that field already, so it makes sense.” But even more powerful than our penchant for salty sea air is our calm and down to earth nature. 

“We are pretty grounded, chilled-out people, and that often hilariously conflicts with the bullshit-forward style of most of the other people on these shows,” explains Corry. “Where the other cast members are always escalating the conflict, Kiwis, for the most part, try to de-escalate any drama.” With a familiar face returning to Below Deck: Mediterranean on Bravo this week, we look back at the New Zealanders who have hauled ass, and anchor, over the years. 

Aesha Scott (Below Deck: Mediterranean, Below Deck Down Under)

Aesha Scott (Image: Archi Banal)

Not only is Aesha Scott one of Below Deck’s biggest stars, but she’s also arguably the most successful New Zealander in any reality television show ever. Scott first rose to fame as a stew on Below Deck: Mediterranean, and quickly became a fan favourite for her huge energy, “amaaaaaaaaazing” vocabulary and enthusiasm for touching her Captain’s eyeballs every morning. She’s also brilliant in a crisis, and never short of a filthy joke. Scott went on to appear in other reality shows like Winter House and I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here Australia, but this month, she’s returning to her spiritual reality home as chief stew in Below Deck Med season nine. Is she Below Deck’s greatest all rounder? Like they say on the high seas: yes. 

Katie Flood (Below Deck: Mediterranean)

Katie Flood
Below Deck: Mediterranean’s Katie Flood (Photos: supplied; additional design by Tina Tiller)

Whangārei-born Katie Flood sailed into Below Deck: Med as chief stew in season six, but she took some persuading to join the reality show. Flood told The Spinoff in 2021 that she’d turned the reality juggernaut down several times, thinking it was “a bit rough around the edges”. Once she joined the crew, Flood quickly discovered that serving rich guests and making a TV show was actually one of the “best things” she has ever done – and also one of the hardest. “The job alone is already such an intense environment,” Flood revealed. “Then you add 50 other people running around the boat, camera crew, audio mixers, lighting, producers. It’s chaotic.”

Colin MacRae (Below Deck: Sailing Yacht)

Colin MacRae (Photo: Supplied)

Below Deck: Sailing Yacht is viewed by many aficionados as the best iteration of the series, and MacRae was the chief engineer on Below Deck Sailing Yacht season 2 and 3. He quickly became known for his relaxed vibe, strong work ethic and calmness under pressure, but it was the love triangle between McCrae, chief stew Daisy and lothario bosun Gary that dominated storylines in season three. When not fixing exploding motors and getting called the wrong name in bed, McCrae can be found sailing his salvaged catamaran around the world

Kevin Dobson (Below Deck)

Chef Kevin (Photo: Supplied)

One of the more controversial representatives from our country, Chef Kevin became known for his explosive anger, kicking sand at a crew member, and forgetting to fix a plate for Captain Lee (big, big mistake) on Below Deck S7. He also famously dedicated way too much time to sculpting this deeply detailed penis cake for a bachelorette party on board, but even that show of craftmanship wasn’t enough to win over Below Deck fans. Audiences on Reddit have referred to him as “a petulant four-year-old trapped in the body of a grown man”, a “crotchety asshole” and a “top tier villain”. His website now seems to be a graveyard. God defend out free-eee land. 

Ross Inia (Below Deck)

Lead deckhand comes with a lot of responsibility, and nobody knows that better than Rotorua-born Ross Inia from Below Deck S6. A former professional rugby player, he found yachting after a serious injury left him unable to play. He initially turned down the offer of appearing on Below Deck, but agreed to join the cast in its sixth season to be a role model to Māori teenagers. “Growing up as a Māori boy in Rotorua, I was hoping to inspire, to let others know there are opportunities out there in the world,” he told the Herald. Known for cultivating interesting nicknames such as “octo-snake” and telling his crew members to “fix that attitude or ship out”, Inia brought a calm and sometimes cheeky presence to the series. 

Luka Brunton (Below Deck Down Under, Below Deck Mediterranean)

Raglan-born Luka first popped up as lead deckhand in the first season of Below Deck Down Under, and was later promoted to bosun by Captain Sandy in Below Deck Mediterranean S8. “Oh I think that’s fantaaaaaasstic,” Aesha Scott gushed of her former colleague on Late Night With Andy Cohen, “I adoooore Luka.” Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing: Captain Sandy let the cat out of the bag in revealing that he had a girlfriend, right in front of his crew crush Jessika. Troubled waters indeed. 

Below Deck Mediterranean Season 9 is available now on Hayu and airing on Bravo from June 20.

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