Interview with Videographer and Producer Ash Bhardwaj

Age: 29

Occupation: Videographer and Producer

Location: London

1. You are a producer and presenter of travel and adventure programming. How did you get into the field?

It started when I went backpacking at age eighteen, I kept a diary and updated my friends at home via email (a precursor to blogging).  After uni I was planning on taking my father’s ashes to India. A producer suggested this might make a good documentary.  I wrote the treatment and won development funding from BBC Three and it went from there.

I also make videos for the corporate sector taking the storytelling and production that I have learned in broadcast to tell stories about companies to use in their internal or external communications which includes training and events.

2. Advice for anyone wanting to do the same?

Find a good story, and start producing content even if nobody is paying you for it.  Start doing what you want to be paid for now and someone will pay you for it eventually!  Make videos, write blogs, submit ideas to magazines, develop programme ideas with a production company.

3. You are also a Media Guardian One to Watch for the Edinburgh International Television Festival (MGEITF) – What does this mean?

It does three things: it gives you credibility, gives you some extra training, and makes it much easier to make contacts with senior people in the industry.  To get a place on it you have to be seen as one of the 30 ‘leading lights’ in television production – future heads of channel; development, production.  There is a nomination process followed by a series of applications and selection by a panel.  It’s part of a charity programme funded by the Media Guardian at the Edinburgh Television Festival, where you have special sessions with Heads Of Production, Development and even Heads Of Channel, which no-one else at the festival has, plus there are no journalists in these sessions, so the speakers are much more open and honest.

– Will it open any doors for you?

Yes. It enabled me to meet panellists who I would otherwise not be able to meet and I can use it in introductions as a form of credibility.

4. What are you working on at the moment?

Video production of events, including charity events.  I have just finished a piece about the Royal Marines Association.  I am also possibly working on a great series about education for Channel 4.

5. What can we expect from you in the next few years?

More films about wild locations, possibly a big trip through Africa, some films about skiing, a return to New Zealand, something about polo/gaucho and cowboys and more work in mentoring and education.

6. What piece of work are you most proud of?

The five short films that I made about the soldiers from Walking With The Wounded who went to Everest.

7. Have you got to meet anyone interesting through your profession?

Absolutely, and not just soldiers and royalty.  The most interesting and impressive people are not necessarily famous but people with a certain determination and passion.  Kris Hallenga of Coppafeel has created a campaign about early detection of breast cancer after her own battle with the illness.  A phenomenal woman.

8. What are your hobbies?

Rugby, skiing, hiking, clubbing, reading ,travel, film-making, story-telling.  I am in the process of adding a few more to that list though!

9. What have you done personally adventure wise?

I backpacked through India and Nepal when I was 18 which was quite a challenge.  After a ski season in France, I lived in the South Island of New Zealand which is where I really fell in love with the wilderness. There, I started getting into kayaking, tramping, and horse-riding.  Most recently I went to Mount Everest to film an expedition for Walking With The Wounded and Glenfiddich.

10. Who have you worked for or contributed content to?

  • The Sunday Times Travel Magazine
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • City AM
  • Glow
  • Beyond Limits
  • The Mayfair Magazine
  • Jet International
  • Etihad Inflight.

 

11. Why have you chosen to put your work up on Vimeo rather than YouTube?

I actually use both.  Vimeo is more “cinematic” and higher quality, it looks more “professional” and is a better place to host a portfolio.  But YouTube loads quicker and is much more searchable,  it’s also easier to embed content from YouTube.  In commercial production, I tend to create YouTube accounts for clients and host their videos there as it is easier for them to use and get the most value from.

12. Have you found it a difficult industry to break into?

Yes.  It is a fairly traditional industry that looks for direct experience, but if you have great ideas, energy and unique experience, that can be circumvented.  There is a lot of competition so you have to stand out not just by what you do and how you do it, but why you do it.

13. What’s the dream job?

I think I’d rather avoid ever getting a job but run a business that allows me to be creative and travel . It is through writing and video production that are taking me in that direction.  Other than that, acting and presenting.  If there were a way to get that tied together with travel, I’d be a very happy man.

14. Are you en route to getting there?

We’ll see. It’s very much stop and start but I have done more now than I had a year ago.

15. Whose YouTube or video accounts do you follow that produce great work?

Al Humphreys does some great stuff.  Dave Cornthwaite is very accessible.  Tim Ferriss has some great tutorials and insights.  Old Spice produce some of the funniest social video’s out there.  I also use YouTube to listen to music recommended by friends.

16. Also what websites or blogs?

The BBC College Of Production is awesome for video production tips.  Their College Of Production Podcast is a must-listen if you are interested.  William Dalrymple talks about writing in a way that you can learn from.  Tim Ferriss’ blog is always useful.  There are a lot of the digital media agencies that I follow to see new creativity in copyediting and video.

17. How did you get from a degree in philosophy to working in journalism and copywriting?

A lot of the skills are transferable. I learned by going through lots of information to find facts and tidbits, then re-writing and analysing  as well as finding more effective ways to say things.  For copywriting you need to have a decent vocabulary and be able to put yourself into the mind of a reader. It’s more targeted and character-driven than journalism.  Like all things, it’s about practice.

18. Are your skills in video and writing self-taught or did you take a course?

Largely self-taught.  I think storytelling is the key element, writing and video are just the media that I work in.  Most editing tools are easy to work with, but there are plenty of free courses and online video tutorials which I use to learn.  I have done two directing and camerawork courses at 3 days each, which have been more than worthwhile.  As for writing , the key is to read a lot.  Submit lots to magazines and listen to your sub-editors!

19. Any advice for pitching ideas on documentary’s etc. to media companies?

Figure out what channels would be interested in your idea.  That is down to your research, but it’s all on channel websites.  Think about the idea from an audience perspective, not just because you are interested in it.  Then take it to a production company with a track record in that area.  But to be taken seriously, you would have to have unique access to a subject, specialist technology or specialist knowledge.

20. How do you come up with ideas for your next project?

  • Reading
  • Talking to everyone I can
  • Thinking of how different ideas and combinations could come together
  • Going to talks, presentations and exhibitions

 

21 .Where is the coolest destination you’ve been to?

New Zealand –  standing on the point looking out over the Matakitaki Valley and Mount Aspiring on the closing day of Treble Cone ski season in 2007.

22. What is the coolest thing you have ever done?

Probably hiking to Everest Base Camp.  I have done 6 ski seasons, but the landscape and immensity of the Himalaya utterly took my breath away.  It was a far more challenging and cultural experience than I anticipated because of the expedition company we went with. We stayed in lodges that had far fewer Western tourists, allowing us to get to know the Sherpa better.   I carried by father’s ashes to scatter them there making it an incredibly spiritual journey.

23. What brand of equipment do you use most often?

None in particular.  We used Helly Hansen for the Walking With The Wounded expedition.  My skis are Dynastar or Volkl.  My computer is a Mac, my boots are Meindl.  Whatever has the best recommendation in that particular field, but I find them all much of a muchness.  Although my new red Rab waterproof is awesome.

24. What make is your camcorder?

Canon.

25. What is the most vital piece of equipment to carry with you while working?

A notebook and pen!  Or an iPhone, the video tool allows you to capture anything anywhere and make short films of everything.

Follow Ash on Twitter @AshBhardwaj

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Interview with Adventurer Dave Cornthwaite

1.Do you have any regrets on the path your life took?

What an opener! I don’t think you can do anything that will result in true regret without being aware of it at the time you made the decision, so if you chose to have regret you chose to live with it. I’m pretty happy with where I am, that’s the main thing.

2.What do you think your best and worst qualities are?
I’m a positive chap and I enjoy spreading the smiles around. Worst qualities? I probably enjoy my life so much that when I talk about how it’s possible it could come across as a bit of preaching. And I’m genetically geared to test the boundaries of everything, everything! I’d imagine that could become annoying sometimes!

3.When it comes to Adventures , do you have a line that you won’t cross (certain things you won’t try)?
I won’t do anything that would have a high chance of fatality. I adventure to live, not to die.

4.Is there a reason why so many of your adventures are based in America lately?
There is. I have a career plan geared around making a living from the stories my journeys generate, either through books or speaking, or perhaps film too. My first two adventures were in Australia, the last few have been in or touched the USA, after my Missouri swim I’ll move on to somewhere else having established relationships, sponsors and a speaking reputation in the States.

5. Did you learn anything in university that has proved useful to you now?
If I did, I can’t remember it!

6.Does it all get a whole lot easier after the first expedition?
It does. And then after the 2nd, and the 3rd. It’s never easy, there’s always a battle, but if you stick to your guns the accumulated experience, contacts, relationships and ability naturally makes the whole process a bit slicker. It’s rewarding for me now looking back at how difficult it was to put my first couple of projects together, that it has become easier is testament to the power of looking after relationships and honouring the promises I made back then.

7.Did you not ever get scared  sleeping in a tent alone in the middle of nowhere?
There was a night on the Mississippi when a racoon really had it in for me and was imitating a very angry bear, but no, I love being in the middle of nowhere by myself, liberating.

8.Rank your exhibitions from easiest to hardest. 1-been the easiest to complete, 10 – been the most difficult.
Wow, cool question, never done this before:
1 – Sail Mexico to Hawaii
2 – SUP Lake Geneva
3 – SUP Bath2London
4 – SUP Wolf River
5 – Kayak Murray River
6 – Tandem Vancouver to Vegas
7 – Skateboard John O’Groats to Lands End
8 – SUP Mississippi River
9 – Skateboard Australia
10 – Bikecar Memphis to Miami

9.Are you losing your accent the more you travel or is it getting stronger?
I’m not sure I ever had an accent. I’m super fickle with my voice, now and then I’ll break into an Aussie twang if I’m feeling tired. Basically, I just accidentally copy everyone I speak to. Wuite embarrasing.

10. What stays the same in your backpack for all your expeditions?
MacBook Pro. Powergorilla. Passport.

11.Do you ever get recognised/ approached in the street (like a celebrity). What’s that like?
Very, very rarely. When I was doing the BoardFree project I had a very recognisable skateboard, but people would come up and say ‘there’s a guy skating across Australia on one of those.’ I was just like, ‘really? How cool!’

12.How long did it take to plan your first ever expedition?
13 months, between stepping onto a skateboard for the first time and setting off on John O’Groats to Lands End. It didn’t need to take that long, but I was planning for Australia during that time as well and at the beginning it can take a bit of time to get your head around crossing over into a non-comfort zone.

-On average how long does it take you to plan one now?
About 3-6 weeks.

13.How important are the sponsors to the success of an expedition?
Massively. I’ve never had anyone write me a big cheque to do a journey so I rely on new and old sponsors to support me with gear, which is always the most costly part of an exped. Without their support I’d be paddling, skating and swimming naked, which wouldn’t be fair on anyone. Big lesson here though: look after your sponsors, always!

14. What time do you go to bed at and what time do you get up at?
I sleep around 1am and am up between 7 and 8 each morning when I’m out of expedition. During a journey I live with the sun.

15.How do you come up with your ideas for expeditions?
They tend to just appear. I won’t do a journey for the sake of exposure or ticking another item off my list, I need to feel it. These things just fit into place.

16.How important is social media in your line  of work?
Most important part of it. I’m in love with the creative storytelling side of adventure. New things happen everyday so there’s unlimited material, and with so many mediums and ways to share these stories I’m in heaven.

17.Have you ever had to deal with uncomfortable/potentially dangerous situations?
Yes. But I’m careful, I prepare well and am relatively cautious so I don’t stare death in the face everyday (unless I’m riding a Bikecar across America)

18. How do you personally, market yourself to a potential sponsor and the outside world?
I’m just me. It’s important to be honest and open, and human. Some people think these endurance events are only achievable if you’re a true athlete but I’m not, I just love life, appreciate keeping fit and I just happen to have a stubborn streak that takes over when my body is angry with me. We’re all unique so if we be ourselves instead of worrying about what people think of us then we have a unique brand, if we want.

19.How are the book sales going?
Well, thanks!

20.What’s next on the cards after the Missouri swim?
I’m tired! I’ve done four expeditions in the last 13 months, so after the Missouri I’m going to take 6 months off and write a few books. Stories bursting to come out.

21.Do you ever get tired of repeating yourself/ answering the same questions for all the different media interviews?
Nope, if this is as bad as it gets then I’m perfectly happy!

22.Is there a downside to your lifestyle?
It depends how you look at it. It’s taken about 5 years to get to the point where I stop dreaming about all the things we think we’re supposed to have, like a house and a car and a bunch of stuff and a big TV. For me I need to do what I love and I can’t do that by living your average, stable lifestyle with a steady job and income. I’d be miserable doing that, I was! I need to be on the move, so compromise everything I grew up thinking I needed. For a few years there that was unsettling, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

23.Do you ever doubt yourself?
Rarely. I’m still a little self conscious sometimes, as a hark back to a fairly unhappy time at school, but I know who I am and what I’m capable of and nothing will stop me giving life a damn good crack.

24. How do you keep the spirits high during an expedition?
I think everything is ridiculous. I’m ridiculous. The way we choose to live is ridiculous. My line of work is utterly ridiculous. It keeps me laughing.

Bikecar Expedition:

1.Any funny stories from the bikecar expedition?
The day after I got hit by a speeding car I was pedalling into 35mph headwinds and then all of a sudden my seat fell off. It just fell off, and I was on it. It was an office chair that had been bolted onto the Bikecar chassis. I replaced it was a $12 beach chair from Walgreens. Check out the video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdp30_12vUg

2.What was swimming with the Manatees like?
I loved it. Gorgeous, friendly, huggy creatures. Imagine crossing a mermaid with an elephant then snorkelling with it. Glorious.

3.How many kms/miles did you cover a day?
On average 45.5 miles. Shortest day 17.2miles. Longest 59.2 miles. On a Bikecar weighing in at a ¼ tonne.

4.Where did you sleep every night?
I camped most nights in my hammock. Now and then I was taken in by a friendly stranger.

5.How long did it take your legs to adjust? (considering you didn’t do much training for it)
I didn’t do ANY training for it, I’d been sat on a sailboat for three weeks beforehand and hadn’t pedalled anything for a year leading up to the journey. The first days were tough over the hills of Mississippi and Alabama, but after 5 or 6 days I was nice and conditioned, just in time for Florida, one of the flattest places in the world!

6.What did you do to keep things interesting while en route?
I didn’t really need to try hard. This is America. I love it. If they weren’t trying to run me over I was biking through cities that are effectively theme parks. Shopping miles have giant sharks with their mouths as the doorway. You can rent golf buggies to drive next door. Their cars are bigger than our houses. It was always interesting!

7.Did you learn anything new about America or Americans?
I despaired everyday at the driving. It was hard to take. 700 roadside memorials in 1000 miles tells the story. Heartbreaking, bad, lethal habits.

8.Did you become a self taught bike mechanic?
Ha. I make no secret of the fact that I’m mechanically retarded. Unbelievably in 2400 miles on a tandem and a Bikecar, I’ve not had a puncture, only one chain has fallen off, and the hardest thing I’ve had to do was affix a beach chair to the Bikecar with a couple of bolts. I think they’re called bolts, at least…

9.What did you eat day to day and where did you get it from?
The beauty of travelling 1000 miles on a Bikecar that weighs more than twenty bicycles is that whatever you eat you’ll burn off. I snacked incessantly, feasted on Bugers and Waffle House breakfasts and gas station hotdogs. Problem with endurance pedalling is that while there’s no shortage of places to buy food, it’s usually greasy, unhealthy and comes with slight risk of disease.

10.Did you get to meet many new people?
Oh my goodness, yes! I didn’t pass a person without them questioning the contraption I seemed to be having fun on. Hundreds of new friends, I love travelling!

11.Tell me about getting hit by the car?
4 hours out of Memphis at the start of the journey, I was pedalling with my friend Rod Wellington, the Canadian Adventurer. My friend Dale decided to shadow us in his van for the day because Memphis traffic is notorious. We’d covered about 18.5 miles when there was this almightly screeching of brakes and tyres. Sounded like someone mourning death. I held the wheel tight, braced myself and expected an impact, which came. I would have thought our support van was struck from behind which them subsequently hit us, but actually the woman driving had missed the van and trailer, texting is silly when driving, swerved, lost control, hit the van on the side, spun and hit the Bikecar and my seat when going backwards. We were bounced down a verge and into a corn field. So lucky, so so lucky.

12. What’s the longest you went without a shower?
5 days. Rank.

 

SUP Wolf River Descent

  1. Spill the beans on that….
    On my way down the Mississippi River last year I met an amazing crew of people in Memphis. This April some of them decided to descend the Wolf River, which runs 105 miles through swamp and back-country before dropping into the Mississippi River in Memphis. Nobody have ever gone the full length in one go, certainly not by Stand Up Paddleboard, mainly because of the swamps and copious amounts of lethal snakes.

It was just a cool challenge. It was an obstacle course. Trees across the river every few metres, beaver dams, cypress knees, snakes everywhere. Good people. Camping on the banks. Loved it. Check the video out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUoseDa9NuI

 

Missouri Swim

1. How do you plot distance and direction while swimming in a river?
Direction is easy, you just go downstream. There are river charts for most navigable waterways which indicates distances, I’ll be swimming pretty much dead on 1000 miles from Chamberlain, South Dakota to St Louis, Missouri.

2.Who is a part of your team?
I wanted to make some noise with this one so opened up applications to anyone who wanted an adventure. I got a great crew of 6 down from over 50 applicants. Everyone has a role to play, whether it’s social media or blogging, organising camp, fundraising, photographing, filming, physio, medic.

3.Are there any potential consequences of swimming in a river that polluted?
Illness, death, the usual. I’ll make sure I’ve covered, all jabs done etc. Main lesson is don’t swallow the water!

4.What training have you done?
Not much swimming, to be fair, I don’t have time! It’s a busy business organising an expedition but I’m about to head to Cornwall for 9 days of training in the sea, and as with all expeditions I’ll take it nice and easy at the beginning until I’m properly conditioned.

5.When do you depart?
The swim begins on 10th August and should run for 50 days.

6.Any plans for stops along the way?
We’ll stop at every town en route and organise clean-ups and fundraising parties.

7.How good a swimmer are you?
I do a fine doggy paddle.

8.How are you going to video this one?
As with all of my trips, there will be GoPros and a nice raw feeling representing the expedition through YouTube episodes.

9.Target finish time?
1st October.

10. What wetsuit do you have?
An Orca 3.8, the same suit worn by Martin Strel on the Amazon and David Walliams down the Thames. In fact, I’ll have four suits, decreasing in size as I lose weight down the river!

11. Are you excited?
Like never before.

Follow the trip via @DaveCorn and www.facebook.com/expedition1000

 

The Traditional Life

I currently sit at a crossroads. Sitting as opposed to standing because I have a pretty big decision to make. One which requires a seat. You have all been there. Two options at my feet. To follow the road my parents and countless others took before me;  university, job, house, marriage, kids or the latter, to forge my own way with no plan except to get out and explore the world, figuring out the direction as I go. But something which I cannot pinpoint has stopped me choosing thus far. However, If I continue to ignore this feeling that is pushing me to claw my way out of my comfort zone I fear I will never be happy knowing that I folded?

I cannot fairly place one person on a podium when the audience is filled with similarly achieved individuals. But in my life, one guy stood on his own and changed the path that I was hurtling down. You may have already heard of him, his name is Dave Cornthwaite. He gave me the option of a crossroads, the one which I now sit. Usually people don’t stop to think about the line they are following, they just go with it. I have stopped and I am questioning it. At first I wrote about incredible people like Dave to fill a void- so as I could phase out the fact that I am not out there doing these things myself  but from here on in I will walk or run or kayak the path I have been preaching my whole life.

Sailer, Kayaker, Skateboarder, Stand up Paddleboarder, bikecar cyclist, sleeps 6 hours a night Adventurer extraordinare Dave Cornthwaite set me free with the lines; “It’s taken about 5 years to get to the point where I stop dreaming about all the things we think we’re supposed to have like a house and a car and a bunch of stuff and a big TV. For me I need to do what I love and I can’t do that by living your average, stable lifestyle with a steady job and income. I’d be miserable doing that, I was! I need to be on the move, so compromise everything I grew up thinking I needed. For a few years there that was unsettling, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

For the next generation of Adventurers climbing up the ranks aiming to build on what past explorers have achieved. Those who want to beat their records and explore what they have not yet discovered. This is the How to Guide built around what Dave Cornthwaite has taught me:

  • The first is a welcome fact; it all becomes a whole lot easier after the first expedition -“It’s never easy, there’s always a battle but if you stick to your guns the accumulated experience, contacts, relationships and ability naturally makes the whole process a bit slicker.”The first ever expeditions he went on (Longboard Australia) took 13 months to plan. Rather reassuringly it now takes Dave about 3-6 weeks to whip one up.
  • His essential items to pack –  MacBook Pro, Powergorilla and Passport.
  • A note on sponsors; they play a huge role –  “I’ve never had anyone write me a big cheque to do a journey so I rely on new and old sponsors to support me with gear, which is always the most costly part of an expedition. Without their support I’d be paddling, skating and swimming naked, which wouldn’t be fair on anyone. Big lesson here though: look after your sponsors, always!”
  • Social media is the most important part of it – “I’m in love with the creative storytelling side of adventure. New things happen every day so there’s unlimited material, and with so many mediums and ways to share these stories I’m in heaven.”
  • You will need to market yourself to a potential sponsor and the outside world –  “I’m just me. It’s important to be honest and open, and human. Some people think these endurance events are only achievable if you’re a true athlete but I’m not, I just love life, appreciate keeping fit and I just happen to have a stubborn streak that takes over when my body is angry with me. We’re all unique so if we be ourselves instead of worrying about what people think of us then we have a unique brand, if we want.”

Everything stated above form’s the backbone of an expedition but the real pull lies in the raw tales of his conquests.

Dave recently travelled via bikecar from Memphis to Miami. He covered on average 45.5 miles per day on a vehicle that weighed more than twenty bikes, slept on his hammock by night, swam with Manatees, got knocked off the road by an oncoming vehicle, ate fried food, didn’t shower for 5 days at one stage, ate more fried food and met hundreds of new people with their own stories to tell.

In the days just before the bikecar expedition, Dave descended the Wolf River in Memphis on a Stand Up Paddleboard. The river runs 105 miles through swamp and back-country before dropping into the Mississippi River in Memphis.” Nobody have ever gone the full length in one because of the swamps and copious amounts of lethal snakes .It was just a cool challenge. It was an obstacle course. Trees across the river every few metres, beaver dams, cypress knees, snakes everywhere. Good people. Camping on the banks. Loved it.”

And now, come August 10th he will pull on his Orca 3.8 wetsuit and swim 1000miles of the Missouri River from Chamberlain, South Dakota to St Louis, Missouri. The crew of 6 will voyage for 50 days. Dave himself has, as always practically zero training done, referring to his swimming abilities as; “a fine doggy paddle”

Final question Dave; are you excited? His response; “Like never before.”

Me = Sold.

Decision made.

 

Follow the trip via @DaveCorn and www.facebook.com/expedition1000

Follow @orlaomuiri

Arriving in Memphis – Dave Cornthwaite’s Mississippi Paddle

First published in Sidetracked online adventure magazine 19 January 2012

“Board. Paddle. Bag’s on top. That’s it.” What a simple way to travel. 1,600 miles already stashed away under his belt and only the growing muscles in his arms revealed hints of the incredible adventure in process. The expression on his face was not to be expected for the man who undertook the challenge to paddle the entire reach of the Mississippi river. His face showed no sign of the weariness that must have existed in the monotony of the routine he had been following for the past 58 days. Instead, his mouth was etched in a crazy grin. He was on a high, but I guess no one in Memphis was surprised, it was Dave Cornthwaite after all, he was always on a high.

The start of his great Stand Up Paddle of the Mississippi had been a constant test of stubbornness. The first sixty miles involved battling through undergrowth, shallow waters, mild rapids, and narrow river’s. The weeks to come would see him pushing through Baton Rouge to the Gulf exhausted as he endured big storms and attempted to weave through the onslaught of traffic.

But this day was different to all the previous that had run their course and all that would follow. In an 82 day expedition this was the day that would swirl into focus whenever he reminisced on his great Stand up Paddle of the Mississippi. On the fourteenth of August 2011, he is floating twenty miles upstream of Memphis when an incredible sight materialises before him; a host of canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, recreational motorboats and a news helicopter devour his line of sight. Each vessel is brimming with smiling people prepped to lead him in procession into their home town. These people are strangers there to play a small part in Dave’s epic tale, encouraging him to continue his voyage downstream with their smiles and their nods of admiration. But these strangers have also come for themselves because ironically it took a foreigner, an English man to show these locals what they had on their doorstep all along.

However, let us not be over sentimental, it was after all a party on water. An adrenaline filled kick up the behind to get Dave through the next leg of his journey. Hanging over the sides of the motor boats were the hung-over heads of the youth who had passed him the night before fresh faced and eager for a night on the beer. Beside them, lounging in the water were the grown ups, sober and alight with anticipation of the historic day ahead. The crowd that had assembled was a curious mix, one only found in the adventure world. It ranged from the 77 year old self employed businessman to the 14 year old child whose new hero is officially Dave Cornthwaite, bunking Batman off the top spot. A movement was bubbling, and Dave could feel it. The atmosphere was pumping, the excitement was tangible because no one knows how to have a good time quite like a 77 year old businessman. More importantly, It was the company after a long stint of isolation that made this moment worth celebrating.

The mighty river was bulging by this point, its rapid twists had morphed into thick winding strips, each loop stretching for up to five miles. Sand bars rose like private beaches on the inside banks, fitting for a day of 30 – 40 degree heat and just beyond the river sat a backdrop of cotton fields, dry farmland and miles of flat plains. This was the moment, the one that all adventures stubbornly chase. The hit that knocks them breathless and leaves them craving more. Dave knew it and he was revelling in it.

Every day he paddled between six to fifteen hours, then poured tirelessly over his videos, diaries, media engagements and lectures. It was not all lush pastures but a great deal of hard work. Days like this particular one were his reward, that extra chocolate digestive biscuit that your mother gives you when you prove yourself. The huge weaving path which the Mississippi river follows was a new part of the world for Dave to explore; “It would not be quite as fun if I knew where I was going, psychologically knowing that there are brand new scenes, people and experiences around every bend keeps up the incentive to paddle on.” In short, It was the grown-up version of a treasure hunt.

Dave Cornthwaite created this adventure on a sheet of paper that for a long time remained blank. Then one un-extraordinary day he sat down and faced it. He scribbled and sketched an idea on it and then on his own initiative he brought his creation to life. He built the expedition with his bare hands, then took a step back to watch the crowds flock towards it and watch as he lived out his dream. Credit has to be giving to the four organisations who worked together to make this day happen; the Wolf River Conservancy, Memphis Stand up Paddle Board Rentals, Ghost River Rentals and Outdoors Inc who since that day have continued to work together to improve the waterways in and around Memphis.

This fleeting moment in the life of Dave Cornthwaite made four organisations combine their efforts and rid a waterway of pollution, it made a crowd of locals realise their land and river’s potential and it made Dave Cornthwaite smile. Moments like these are the reason why adventurers do the amazing things that they do and why we, the ordinary folk read their stories in the hope that one day we will follow in their giant footsteps and embark on our own journey, even if it is only as far as our own backyard.

Interview with adventurer Dave Cornthwaite

Dave Cornthwaite is somewhat of a legend in the adventure world. On his maiden exhibition in 2006 he longboarded 896miles from John O’ Groats to Land’s end, making him the first person ever to skate the length of Britain. Following that, he burst his limitations bubble and concluded that there was no such thing as limits.

Courtesy of Dave Corn

Since then, he has skated the length of Australia, tandem cycled from Vancouver to Vegas, kayaked Australia’s Murray River and broken a world record with his Stand up Paddle journey spanning the entire reach of the mighty Mississippi River.

Nowadays, Dave is forging an epic new challenge christened Expedition1000, a series of twenty-five journeys each consisting of 1000 miles. The clutch; only non motorized forms of transport can be used.

“I understand how they might appear daunting, but dealing with the distance is just a state of mind. However slow you go, if you keep going you’ll make it to the end if you want to and that is the key.”

A dominant characteristic of Dave’s personality is his own self-reliance. He never looks to others for help but simply takes initiative; “I taught myself new skills as quickly as I could, everything is based on common sense. It wasn’t simple and took some hard work, but I made it happen pretty quickly. Anyone could do it!” It has proved an essential skill in his line of work by cutting costs in half while adding a certain personality to his outputs.

Mr. Corn’s career is one which is undertaken by only an elite few. For a life so extraordinary and so rewarding, it is difficult to grasp why so little pursue it. Dave pitted me the crux of the answer; “People love comfort but comfort kills ambition.” He proceeded to add; “what frustrates me most is people who have potential and don’t take advantage of it. Anyone I meet who moans about their job, I’m at them trying to work out how they’ve let it get to the stage why the one thing that takes up the majority of their waking hours isn’t pleasing. We’ve only got so much time, why would anyone choose to waste it!”

 So what drives a person to renounce ‘everything’ and lead the life of a travelling vagabond? Dave did not sugar-coat the response, instead he spilled out the words in exasperation; “I was bored! I’d followed everything that’s expected of all of us. Schools, Uni, Degree, Job, Mortgage, Partner, Pet. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I realised I was unhappy. I ditched everything and started afresh. I’d been depressed, living the same life every day, I needed a change.”

However in a world so wrought with violence and corruption the question on the public’s lips was, is this unconventional career a life that overlooks the essential problems of the world? Should one follow the path that leads to change or the path which they are passionate about? His answer will hopefully silence the pessimists; “If we are passionate about something we can enact change. There’s nothing like passion to inspire. Adventurer’s can inspire in so many ways! Forget the doubters, what do they know? Is the funny kid at school ever encouraged to be a stand up comedian? No, because it doesn’t fit in the typical box. Trust your gut, if it’s what you want, go for it. You’ll never regret a decision like that.”

 Dave is currently at a standstill for a few minutes at least, as he scrawls down his latest book, “Stand up Huck” which relive his Mississippi paddle. Then he resumes the next leg of his Expedition1000 mission. Dog sled, stilts, and paragliding are all on the agenda for the next great escapade.

Interview with Dave Cornthwaite

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Cornthwaite is a British adventurer, author and motivational speaker.

1.Does the job of an adventurer/author and motivational speaker go hand in hand? Was this your childhood dream job?

It definitely wasn’t something I considered doing when I was younger, I just didn’t know it was possible. I don’t really see it as a job because I’m passionate about everything I do and it’s too much fun to be work! The speaking is a part of any professional adventurer’s life, especially if like me you’re not regularly on TV. All of this stems from my love of writing, it’s so nice to have stories to turn into books these days.

2. What was your very first adventure?

In April 2006 I skateboarded 896 miles from John O’Groats to Lands End, I was the first person to skate the length of Britain but that was just a warm-up for Australia!

3. The sheer scale of your adventures seem daunting, are they daunting to you or just the rest of us?

I understand how they might appear daunting, but having done a few I now realise that dealing with the distance is just a state of mind. However slow you go, if you keep going you’ll make it to the end if you want to – and that’s the key, I’ll only do these journeys if I really really want to, otherwise when it gets hard I’d give up.

4. I see you travelled while at university, how did you balance both lives, not just work but friends and a part time job?

I think travel is the best education we can get. We can’t understand our place in the world without seeing it from the outside, so I made the most of my time at uni, worked hard and travelled in my holidays. Good friends don’t mind if you go away, they’ll be waiting when you come back!

5.When you have to stay put for a set period of time, how do you satisfy the travelling bug or the urge to keep going?

The hardest bit about what I do is in between adventures. It’s easy to be motivated when I’m on a journey, I’m focussed on reaching my goal and also sharing my trip. But in between I need to write books, do a lot of talks and earn some money for the next trip and it takes a lot of dedication. Usually I need a while to let my body recuperate after a big trip so it’s a natural process leading up to the next one.

6. You make it all sound so easy; you graduated, founded your own newspaper and became a graphic designer. They are three different jobs that people study their whole lives to become, yet you seem to have managed to excel at all three. Props to you but how?

Simply, I just did it. I had the idea and rather than talk about it I just put the wheels into action. I taught myself new skills as quickly as I could – everything is based on common sense so I listed the things I needed to do to achieve my goals and then started ticking them off until I’d done it. It wasn’t simple and took some hard work, but I made it happen pretty quickly. Anyone could do it!

7. When you decided to commit fully to adventuring as a career, was there a fear of failure, of giving up an easy life? Or do you even believe in fear?

I believe that we’re fearful of change and difference, and the reason we’re so scared of it is because deep down we’re considering that change, and it’s a good thing, but for a while it might not be easy. People love comfort but comfort kills ambition, so I keep generating new ideas everyday to avoid getting in a rut. All I ever wanted to do was make a living from something I’m truly passionate about, I didn’t have a specific aim or goal but I knew it was possible if I worked hard. I’m still learning and figuring things out, but I’ve not considered dropping adventure. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, that’s the key to finding your true vocation.

8.Your a long boarder right, what is it like having one leg permanently more muscley than the other?

Haha, I don’t skate much anymore but after my journeys my right calf was huge! It was my party trick!

9.Why did you start it all, were you just bored?

I was boring! I’d followed everything that’s expected of all of us. Schools, Uni, Degree, Job, Mortgage, Partner, Pet. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I realised I was unhappy. I ditched everything and started afresh. I’d been depressed, living the same life everyday, I needed change.

10. How do you think of new adventures?

If I try something new that’s fun I’ll instantly start think about travel. Each method of transport I use exercises me somehow, add that healthy activity to travel and suddenly Im going to see a new part of the world and get fit at the same time. It’s a beautiful process.

11. Is a life of exploration not a lonely one?

I rarely feel lonely on my adventures. I meet a lot of people on my way, although it’s hard saying goodbye to new friends constantly. Honestly, I find it lonelier coming home. Sure, I see my friends and family, but nobody truly understands what you’ve been through, no matter how much you talk about it.

 

12.When in all this chaos did you have time to write a book?

It takes dedication. I need to give myself time and rid myself of all distractions. Not easy when the book-writing time is also money-making time. I’ve taught myself to believe that one day my books will be my income, my pension even. That way I survive on very little in order to finish a book.

13. What is your all time favourite book?

I don’t have one. Depending on my mood I’ll flit from one style to another. I love writers like Bill Bryson for their humour and wit. Reading Hemingway makes me want to write. I just love books, they’re a sign of hard work and dedication, nothing like walking into a bookshop and thinking about everything that went into the books – so many stories, just brilliant. It’s inspiring. If they can do it, I can! You can!

14.You found a purpose pretty early in life compared to most people, I bet that feels nice?

Sure it feels nice. It saddens me when people go their whole lives without finding a purpose, we’ve all got talents, every one of us. Sometimes we’re not lucky enough to have someone else to nurture our talent so we have to be prepared to nurture ourselves.

15. This question may seem rude but that is not my intention. It is just a challenge I am constantly facing and am wondering if you too have ever struggled with it? I am twenty years old and want to get into adventure sports journalism, but I am constantly confronted with people’s scepticism that this is a career that cannot bring about change. That as a smart girl, I should go into politics or war reporting. Change the world. Subsequently I am left feeling guilty about doing something I love? Any thoughts?

Here’s the crux of my answer: If we are passionate about something we can enact change. There’s nothing like passion to inspire. If I was a chicken farmer and LOVED it, found beauty in the science and biology and the life and the eggs and the EVERYTHING, then my articulation of that would inspire people. I’m not, obviously, but adventure sports journalism can inspire in so many ways! Forget the doubters, what do they know? Is the funny kid at school ever encouraged to be a stand up comedian? No, because it doesn’t fit in the typical box. Trust your gut, if it’s what you want, go for it. You’ll never regret a decision like that.

16. Do you ever worry about money ?

Rarely. I’ve survived on very little – incredibly little – for five years and everything I earn is ploughed back into my adventures. Wealth isn’t finance, it’s experience and the ability to use your time well. I’m pretty wealthy right now, without having a penny 😉

17.Do you ever worry about settling down?

It’s probably my only concern at the moment. I’ve chosen a lifestyle that isn’t typical, it sends me away and fulfils me but doesn’t make it easy for me to find a long-time partner. I’m not sure I’m the type of person to ever settle down, but a more settled base would probably complete the missing link in my life. That’s okay though, it’ll come, in time.

18. Do you ever get frustrated with people and the world?

Endlessly. Realistically though we can only do our best in everything. We have political and environmental problems that are juggernaughts, I can’t stop them so I won’t dedicate my life to a lost cause. BUT, what frustrates me most is people who have potential and don’t take advantage of it. Such a waste. Anyone I meet who moans about their job, I’m at them immediately, trying to work out how they’ve let it get to the stage where the one thing that takes up the majority of their waking hours isn’t pleasing. It’s a waste! We’ve only got so much time, why would anyone choose to waste it!

19.Was there a defining moment that made you leave a world of comfort behind?

I’d been aware that I needed a change for a few weeks but there was one catalyst that kicked everything into gear: my first ride downhill on a longboard. Riding a hill that I thought I knew gave me a whole new perspective. I was bursting with passion and joy. It was incredible, to be struck with the realisation that something so normal and ordinary to me could be shown in a new light. Two weeks later I quit my job.

20. How do you entertain yourself while on route?

Usually my surroundings are more than entertaining. But I’ll listen to an ipod, practice a brand new talk out loud – shouting and singing into the wilderness sometimes! – think of new journeys and projects. I can’t remember the last time I was bored!

21.What is your favourite sport and why?

My first passion was football, it’s a true international language – you can go anywhere in the world and make friends with a football.

22. Which has been your favourite adventure and why?

My latest one, Stand Up Paddling the Mississippi. SUP is a beautiful way to travel, it’s great for fitness and you can see so much standing on a board. It’s such a simple way to travel, too. Board. Paddle. Bags on top. And that’s it.

23.Whats next?

I’m writing my next book, it’s called Stand Up Huck, about the Mississippi paddle. In a few weeks, when I’m nearing the end of the book, I’ll settle on my next adventure. It might be a swim down a river, a sail journey, a unicycle…who knows?!

 

For information on Dave, here’s his website http://www.davecornthwaite.com/ , take a luck, trust me, the man is a legend.