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

 

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