Being adventurous is just not enough for some people. Take Dave Cornthwaite: he’s set up Expedition1000, a series of 1,000-mile challenges each using non-motorised transport. With world records falling along the way and the media knocking on the door, we thought we’d grab a word with the man (he just paddled the Mississippi on a SUP!)
Best described as ‘creatively adventurous’, Dave is bringing fresh ideas to the world of expeditions and endurance challenges – and a considerable amount to his growing charity pot. Read on and find out what it’s taken to get this far, and where this remarkeable journey is headed.
SUP is fairly new to the UK but increasingly popular, as long distance transport how does it compare to kayaking or canoeing?
In 2009, I kayaked over 1500 miles along the length of Australia’s Murray River, at the time it was easily the most enjoyable journey I’d ever made. Now I can safely say that I will never travel by kayak again. Not only is SUP a much better form of all-round exercise, it’s a more rewarding experience. The vantage point is better, it’s more simple, less impact. People will be travelling long distances by SUP until the end of time, it’s glorious.
How did the locals react to you on the Mississippi? Any really odd moments?
The locals were fantastic! I was welcomed with open arms all the way down the river. I had a funny accent and was standing, so I stood out like a sore thumb. Most Americans wouldn’t consider even taking a motorised trip down the Mississippi so someone paddling in this fashion was a total oddity. I didn’t meet many folks who were straight out of ‘Deliverance’, although a chap in Louisiana who decided to point a gun at me as I paddled by didn’t do my nerves any good.
Your world record-breaking SUP journey was number 4 in a series of 25 adventures. What are you planning next?
I have several adventures in the pipeline: A South American journey on a Whike, a recumbent bicycle with a sail; 1000 miles by wheelchair; cycling across North America; rowing the Indian Ocean; paragliding the Himalayas across Nepal – the next few years promise to be quite enjoyable.
For us, adventure sports take you into the natural realm and foster an awareness of nature not found down your local gym. For you, why is it so important to ‘get out there’?
You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s easier than ever nowadays to be content with artificial pleasures. Humans don’t give themselves thinking time anymore, so by escaping into the great outdoors, travelling and even giving ourselves a challenge that is intrinsically bound with nature, that puts us in touch with who we are.
If we all look after ourselves and prioritise our happiness then we’ll be better people, better partners, better company, we’ll spread smiles. We’ll also look after the environment around us, because happy people make more time to give back.
In some way we all take from nature when we engage with it, do we have a responsibility to give something back?
Absolutely we do. It’s not just if we’re taking an experience from nature, it’s in everyday life. Everything we do has an impact on the environment. Earth is pretty sturdy, ecosystems can be fragile, yes, but there’s acceptable and non-acceptable human impacts.
I don’t consider myself a ‘greeny’, but by spending so much of my time outdoors I feel as if I have a direct investment and responsibility for the areas in which I train, travel and play. It doesn’t take much to pick up an empty plastic bottle or a crisp packet, but how often do we walk along and ignore litter? If we all did more little things, accumulatively we’d make an enormous positive difference to our environment.
All your adventures are using non-motorised means, explain a little.
Although there’s the added benefit of leaving a smaller carbon footprint, I’ve chosen to travel by non-motorised means because they offer a far greater challenge. I do what I do because I want to develop and learn, and because I don’t think there’s anything that can stand in the way of a heathy dose of willpower.
I’ll be explaining my adventures and someone will say, ‘Oh my, I drove across the Nullarbor Plain in Australia, it took two days and it was so hard, the air conditioning broke!’ I skateboarded across it, it took 18 days! Travelling under your own steam for 1000′s of miles across Australia is bloody difficult, but the satisfaction of completing a journey that has taken months, been an emotional roller-coaster, tested you to your limits…wow, it’s unrivalled.
If there was one moment that changed your life and lead you down this path, what was it?
I gave myself some thinking time. I’d grown into an adult just as society wanted me to – school, uni, degree, job – and not for one moment had I considered that I was capable of doing something out of that tunnel. By the time I got to twenty-five I was burned out, settled, partner, cat, mortgage, job. I was so depressed, I needed freedom. I thought about what I really needed from life and decided to pursue it.
The catalyst for change was a long skateboard, but that was just the medium that showed my that doing new things was going to make me happy. I’d lived in Swansea for six years and thought I knew it like the back of my hand, until I saw it from a different angle – from my board. I’ve never felt a passion like it. Here I was in an old place, doing something new. It changed my life.
Dave supports two charities, for which he hopes to raise £1,000,000 throughout his Expedition1000 project CoppaFeel! – raising awareness of our bodies to prevent breast cancer and AV Foundation – providing drinking water systems to schools in sub saharan Africa, with the aim of making education a focus.
Check out highlights of Dave’s Mississippi adventure on Facebook
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