Interview: Bear Grylls - Born Survivor
He's climbed Everest, had numerous near-death experiences and has broken a number of world records. Bear Grylls talks to Editor Laura Daniel about his passion for adventure, frozen yak eyeballs and his latest TV series.
Where did your passion for adventure and travel spring from?
From a young age I was climbing with my dad and making rafts - it had me hooked on adventure! The Scouts helped me develop that love for the outdoors, plus the fact that the whole world is truly accessible to us if we have the will and determination to go out and make things happen. No other generation has ever had that before. That's also part of the reason I set up the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, to provide other adventures with the skills needed for some of the planet's extremes.
What's your proudest moment?
Passing 21 SAS selection was a huge thing at a young age in my life and it gave me a confidence that I didn't always have before. That's where I also learnt so many of the survival skills that I used on the show, as well as an understanding that good old hard graft is key to success. On selection, 120 of us started and only four of us passed at the end - those guys are still some of my best buddies.
I'm super-proud of hitting number one in the bestseller list and climbing Everest but, to be honest, all of those things are the fluff. The real pride in my life is our three young boys and the life and adventures we live together.
You've taken many celebrities on wild weekends to hazardous landscapes, including Stephen Fry, Will Ferrel and Jonathan Ross. How do they adapt to the rougher side of the real world?
I've taken some incredible guys and girls on adventures and I am always reminded that, however big the celebrity, they are always just like you and me underneath all the glitz! They tend to love the space and freedom of the outdoors, the chance to be themselves and to push and explore their limits a little. The wild tends to give a confidence that is unique and empowering and I love to see that grow in people.
What's the most digusting thing you've ever eaten?
Raw goat's testicles was a bad one, along with frozen yak eyeballs. But no-one ever said survival was pretty!
Where do you go on holiday and have you experienced five-star luxury?
I love spending time at our little island off the Welsh coast, it is where I spend time with my family and remind myself of all that really matters in my life. We have no mains electriciy or water and run everything totally off grid. I love it! And as for five-star luxury, I reckon it would have to be the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore - it was hard dragging my wife Shara out of it!
We've been hooked to The Island with Bear Grylls. What inspired the show and has it taught you anything new?
If you strip man of everything and you've got nothing, no microwave, bed, hot water, blanket or any of the stuff you take for granted - are the skills, courage and resourcefulness that man has gained over thousands of years just gone in a generation? Have we lost our steel and edge? Or, when we're pushed, are they still somewhere in there? That's the experiment I wanted to delve into with this show. Are men still natural hunters or have we, as a species, been tamed by civilisation?
How do you deal with the criticisms that you're faced with by the media and how do you ensure viewers know the truth?
There is always going to be criticism, no matter what the project, especially if it is successful. We've created an amazing experiment putting these men into a completely natural, wild environment with nothing but the clothes on their back and cameras to film their experiences.
Truth tends to win through, and Channel 4 wouldn't back the project so fully if anything was set-up or not real. People love the show because it is so raw and gritty, as well as being so revealing about the struggles of modern man and how we deal with hardships and hunger, both of which are often at the heart of survival. Simple as that.
1. His real name is Edward Michael Grylls but his sister gave him the nickname Bear when he was a week old.
2. In the SAS, Bear was trained in parachuting, demolition, unarmed combat, jungle warfare and as a trauma medic.
3. During his service in the SAS, he suffered a free-fall parachuting accident in Africa where he broke his back in three places. After months of rehabilitation, he attempted his Everest mission.
4. Bear climbed Mount Everest aged 23 in 1998, entering the Guiness World Records as one of Everest's youngest ever summiteers. The expedition almost killed him when an ice crevasse at 19,000 feet cracked and the ground disappeared beneath him, knocking him unconscious. He was saved by his teammate and a piece of rope.
5. Bear has written over 15 books, including a number of teenage fiction titles about survival.
6. During his time in London, Bear and his family live on a restored barge on the Thames.
7. In 2009, Bear was elected Chief Scout of the Scout Association.