Think of adventure and Bear Grylls springs to mind. Always pushing boundaries and born to explore, we ask Bear (alumnus of Ludgrove and Eton) about his inspirations, conquests and how his youth shaped his future
Where did your adventurous spirit come from?
Adventure has been the driving force of my life ever since I can remember – from growing up climbing with my dad, to being a Scout and then through my job with the British Special Forces as a combat survival specialist, climber and skydiver. Adventure has been the one constant through so much and it is always rooted in endeavour, friendships, risk and resilience.
Who inspired you the most?
My Dad. My earliest adventure memories are of climbing with my dad on the sea cliffs around the Isle of Wight. It is where my dad first taught me the fundamentals of adventure – respect the mountain, respect each other, and never give up.
Did your school days influence your love of the outdoors and future career?
I was shy as a kid but loved to climb with my Dad. That was a very bonding thing for me. I dreamt of climbing Everest aged eight when my dad had given me a picture of the mountain, and to have achieved it whilst he was still alive meant so much. I always wanted to be a climber and soldier, and I’m so proud to have done both to the best of my ability.
How can we persuade our children to ditch the screens and explore the big outdoors? Get outdoors! Even a walk in the park or cycle ride can show children that there’s so much more to life than computers and TV screens. I think it’s so important to instil in them from an early age that adventure can be for everyone and that you don’t need to tackle Everest to find great fun outdoors.
How can schools encourage our kids to get outside?
By educating individuals to be able to take responsibility for their own health, fitness and food choices, on a daily basis. It’s about instilling the idea that YOU are the only person who can look after your body, fuel it correctly and get it moving.
What advice can you give to the next generation to inspire them to live life to the full? The best thing we can do for our children is to get outside and have an adventure with them as it brings us close to our children in a way that computer games and TV can’t. The outdoors and an adventure shared, gives kids a confidence and pride that money cannot buy. Children who get to spend their afternoons running about and playing games sleep better, concentrate harder and work better with each other. So it’s about leading by example.
As the youngest Chief Scout what did this prestigious role enable you to do?
Being named Chief Scout was one of the greatest honours ever in my life and it’s the most unbelievable privilege to be part of such an inspiring worldwide force for good. My
main goal is to encourage those who might not normally get the chance, to get out there, go wild and build their own adventures! The Scouts does that like no other youth organisation and it inspires great life values and life-long friendships.
What was the hardest lesson you have learnt from being in the SAS?
When I was serving with the SAS I fractured T8, T10 & T12 vertebrae in a freefall parachuting accident in Southern Africa. The chute opened but ripped and I smashed in very hard. I was so lucky not to be paralysed and a year in and out of military rehabilitation saved me. I will never forget the love and support I got every day from so many.
What drives you on and what challenges and mountains are there still to climb?
To champion young people and as Chief Scout my goal is to bring adventure and life skills to those who might never normally get to experience the wild. I have a huge bucket list of challenges and mountains, it seems to keep on growing! I would still love to do some of the unclimbed peaks in Greenland – there are such huge expanses of genuine wilderness, totally unexplored and a sense of awe there that is hard to describe. I’ve also always promised I would take my family to Everest basecamp one day to show them the mountain. To share that with them would be very special.
What have your many incredible feats taught you about the power of nature?
So much, especially crossing the North Atlantic Arctic Ocean in a small open rigid inflatable boat. It was 3,000 miles and we had a couple of intense and very frightening gale force 10 storms. With waves as big as houses, icebergs and the relentless cold, wet and exposure, it became epic. This trip particularly stands out because it taught me the power of nature, the power of friendships and the importance of humility in the wild.
Does Religion play a role in helping you to understand the wonders of the natural world? Yes. My faith is the guiding force and light in my life – leading me home, helping me to live an empowered life and creating ripples of love, light, fun and adventure all around the world.
What is the most scared you have ever been?
I have felt truly terrified more times than I can remember. However, I have learnt, through experience, to do my upmost to hold my nerve and to stay calm in these situations. You have to face your fears head on and understand that fear is there to sharpen us. And the best way over our fears is right through the middle. Never run from them or they will only grow.
As you get older do you find the desire to explore diminishes?
I think as humans we are at our best when we have a goal and I have always tried to have clear goals and things to aim for. I have failed so many times but that’s OK. It’s about that relentless pursuit and that spirit of endeavour and never giving up. Those things have become habits for me nowadays, but it is the friendships along the way that help and motivate me the most. I never take those for granted.
Does having children make it harder to take risks?
There has been a fair amount of risk involved with my work which has resulted in a few sticky situations! As a father but also for the safety of our team, I try to be more considered in how we approach risk as you only get it wrong once!
What is the most rewarding challenge/project you’ve undertaken and why?
I became the youngest Chief Scout when I was aged 34, and this has been one of the greatest honours in my life. From the stories of courage in Syrian refugee camps to the inner-city workings of volunteers, the commitment and values that the Scouts stand for is amazing.
Do you have a motto for life?
My motto is ‘Courage and kindness and never give up’!
What will be your legacy?
I’d love to be remembered as positive, resourceful, courageous in the right moments, enthusiastic, determined and above all a good dad to my three boys and a loyal husband. Got to be ambitious eh?!
Bear Grylls Adventure at Birmingham NEC
“We have opened the Bear Grylls Adventure park at the NEC, Birmingham UK as a permanent feature in 2019. I’m excited to be bringing the wild indoors and giving people an opportunity to experience the sorts of hands-on challenges I’ve faced during my many adventures. It is going to be amazing! Skydiving, diving with sharks, the highest high ropes in Europe, escape rooms, shooting, you name it!”