Adventurer Dave Cornthwaite is one hell of a guy. With numerous unbelievable records already to his name, Dave is 4 challenges into his life-time ambition of completing 25 separate journeys of at least 1000 miles using different non-motorised transport for each one. Along the way he’s hoping to raise £1 million for charity and ‘encourage people to look after their own little corner of the planet by thinking big, staying healthy and smiling as much as possible.’ Here on Into the Wild, we’ve been lucky enough to catch up with Dave to find out about what he’s been up to, his most challenging trips and his thoughts on the future. Inspirational stuff!
Into the Wild: Where do you think your passion for exploring, travelling and going on these amazing expeditions comes from? Did you always like exploring as a child?
Dave: On the contrary, bar a few caravan holidays to France and Scotland I was a fairly sedate child when it came to adventure. At school I always felt like I should keep my mouth shut because I didn't have enough experience to contribute anything sensible, so as soon as I got my A-Levels I flew to Uganda and spent 6 months teaching in a rural school. That definitely opened me up, but it wasn't until I decided to skate across Australia that my expeditions began.
Into the Wild: In your Expedition1000 project you plan to complete 25 journeys at least 1000 miles in length, each one using a different method of non-motorised transport. With four challenges done, which would you say has been your favourite form of human-powered transport so far?
Dave: Each different way of travelling teaches you different things, and tests you in different ways. To date I'd have to choose stand up paddleboarding: it's low impact, superb for core fitness and is such a simple way of travelling. Hard to beat.
Into the Wild: Your expeditions are very physically demanding. Have you ever had any serious injuries during any of your trips?
Dave: I always prepare well and have a good idea before I start of where potential problems could arise from, but I've been pretty lucky not to have any serious injuries or illnesses. Severe blisters were a problem when skateboarding, and I had a pretty bad fall on the approach to Brisbane. But the worst injury I had was during a photo shoot after a day on the skateboard. My team and I jumped up next to a signpost and I landed on a spike, went through my heel. Quite painful.
Into the Wild: Of all the trips you’ve completed, which has been your most challenging?
Dave: Every journey has had its moments! The most physically exhausting was skating the length of Britain. 1400 miles in 14 days on a tandem bicycle was a real struggle at times, but a heavy snowstorm in the upper section of the Murray River caught me out and nearly finished me off. Took some resolve and thoughts about loved ones to get me through.
Into the Wild: You seem very determined, have you ever not completed a trip you set out to do?
Dave: I'm a stubborn bugger! But a good combination of planning, caution and belief is the recipe for success. I haven't failed to complete a big expedition yet, the only goal I've not managed to complete was the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race, although I think taking up kayaking 2 weeks before the start may have contributed to my failure!
Into the Wild: You took a Gap Year before University to do a teaching project in Uganda, what do you think was the most important thing you gained from the experience?
Dave: I realised that in just an 8 hour flight my world could change completely. It expanded my horizons and imagination, but most importantly I started writing. Up until then I'd always felt like I had a creative talent, but those early African experiences gave me something to be creative with. After that, I always wanted to be an author.
Into the Wild: You’ve travelled extensively – Which has been your favourite country/region and why?
Dave: I'll always have a soft spot for Uganda because it was my first remote experience. The Bunda cliffs off the South Australian coastline are quite spectacular, and paddleboarding into Memphis with a crowd of locals will always keep me fond of that city.
Into the Wild: Do you have any advice for any budding adventurers out there who are looking to get into exploration and adventuring?
Dave: There are so many reasons that you SHOULDN'T go out and try your hand at adventure, but if you truly want to, then they're all nonsense. By pushing ourselves, doing new things and waking up in a different place every morning, we learn more than we ever could about ourselves and the planet had we stayed at home. Just imagine how you'd feel completing a long, tough expedition. Even in the imagination that's a powerful feeling, turning it into reality is unbeatable.
Into the Wild: In 2012 you plan to sail from Cabo in Mexico to Honolulu in Hawaii, swim the Missouri River and whike (a wind bike) from Vancouver to New York. Which of these expeditions do you think is going to be the most challenging and which one are you most excited about?
Dave: The sail is more of a social experiment. The boat is effectively a small self-sustained planet for 17 days in the middle of the ocean. I'm fascinated about that environment and how people react individually and collectively without the pressures of everyday life. Still three berths available on board, too! (Find out more about joining Dave on this trip) The swim will undoubtedly be a psychological journey. To be right at the surface with very little perspective of distance travelled and speed. 1000 miles dragging my own gear will make Dave a patient fella! And then, across Canada on a whike in winter will be physically demanding. You have to think a lot more when travelling in the cold, it's less comfortable but that sharpens the mind. I'll be a new bloke by the end of 2012, with all of these challenges.
Into the Wild: Can you ever see yourself hanging up your boots as an adventurer?
Dave: Don't even start! There's an adventure right outside our front door if we want it. Doesn't have to be geographical, so even when my body is too tired to do much I'll still be adventurous. My new book, DATE, is about trying to find a girlfriend by attempting to date 100 women in 100 days, and I tell you, that was the toughest adventure of the lot. Bring on the next one!
Into the Wild: Which Frontier project would you most like to go on?
Dave: Marine or Beach Conservation off the coast of Africa or Madagascar, or maybe Fiji. I'm in my element near or in the water, and anything I could do to spread education about the importance of our oceans would be worthwhile. Yes, put me in the water, please.
To hear more about Dave’s amazing experiences check him out speaking at 3pm on Sunday 29th January at the Telegraph Adventure Travel Show, at Olympia – this is definitely one not to be missed. If you’re looking for a good, humorous and insightful read you absolutely have to get yourself a copy of Dave’s new book DATE which is available now through www.thebookofdate.co.uk – get your copy quick. With several up coming exciting expeditions for Dave in 2012 be sure to keep up to date with his escapades at www.davecornthwaite.com and on twitter @DaveCorn or head to facebook: www.thebookofdate.co.uk – watch this space.
Interview by Hannah Jones