Dave Cornthwaite is becoming well known to us here at Beyond Limits, he has contributed to us, generously written about fellow adventurers and supported us on the Social Networks. In short, we are a little in love with Dave Cornthwaite, and he emodies qualities we admire. Dave had a career, a mortgage, a long-term girlfriend and a road-map of life that would be familiar to many of us. But starting with a single crazy idea, a strong will and hard work, he has created a lifestyle that constantly brings him new opportunities, challenges and adventures. We have come to learn that he does what he sets out to do and he does it with integrity and generousity, he is currently engaged in Expedition1000: a ground-breaking adventure in which he plans to raise £1million for charity by doing 25 journeys, each in excess of 1000 miles, each by a different form of non-motorised transport.
He begins the next leg of this epic endeavour, and we had a conversation with Dave to find out about it.
Indeed, On June 20th 2011 I’ll jump on a Stand Up Paddleboard and leave Lake Itasca in Minnesota, starting a 2400-mile journey along the length of the Mississippi River. If successful, it’ll be the longest Stand Up Paddleboard journey in history and it will be the fourth 1000+ mile journey of my Expedition1000 project, which involves 25 journeys of 1000 miles or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport. Along the way I’m aiming to raise over £1,000,000 for two charities, the AV Foundation and CoppaFeel.
What was the moment that you realised you had to do this?
I have a sickness that means I consider every form of non-motorised transport for a long-distance journey. I first tried Stand Up Paddleboarding in early 2010 and the concept seemed so simple; put kit in a dry bag on top of the board, and paddle. Simple is beautiful, and there’s an added bonus of paddling standing up, the view is better!
What drew you to it?
My favourite journey so far has been along Australia’s Murray River in a kayak, and since that finished in December 2009 I’ve had slight withdrawal symptoms about travelling down a river. This expedition has been a long time in the planning so I can’t wait to stop preparing, and start from the Mississippi’s source. This will also be the fourth journey of my Expedition1000 project, which is doubly exciting!
Did you ever have a point where you wanted to quit any of the journeys, and how did you overcome it?
I guess my approach to expeditions has changed a bit over the years. There’s always a moment of uncertainty on these things, but if it was all clear-cut I’m not sure there would be a point of doing them. You’ve got to believe the end is achievable and most importantly the base reasons for taking on a challenge have to be personal, not career-driven. If you’re struggling mid-expedition and realise you’re only there because it might sound good to talk about, you’re in trouble. I love what I do, the hard bits make it all worthwhile!
Did you feel you had to sacrifice anything to gain this dream to become a professional adventurer?
In a sense. It has taken a few years to make a sustainable living out of adventures, so I’ve survived on very little money since 2005, couch-hopped on a regular basis and lived a pretty distracted life. Friendships and relationships have suffered too, you’ve almost got to be ruthlessly selfish to make a good job out of a creative career. At the same time, there’s not much I’d choose to change, I feel pretty lucky to be in my position now and although it’s taken a lot of hard work I appreciate every moment, so I don’t dwell on any sacrifices.
What was the biggest real world problem you confronted to do any of this?
Probably financial. Since the GFC (Global Finacial Crisis) finding sponsors has been tricky, and there are plenty of expeditions out there that aren’t successful, which also makes potential sponsors cautious. The Mississippi SUP Expedition certainly isn’t the most expensive journey on my list though, it’s refreshing to know that even expeditions that haven’t been undertaken before can be done on a shoestring.
What was your biggest fear that you had to overcome?
Honestly, I haven’t had any big fears about this expedition. There are plenty of obstacles to overcome: lakes to cross, mosquitos, flooding, alligators, but I didn’t choose the Mississippi because it would be smooth sailing.
Do you feel you have failed ever?
Absolutely! You don’t learn much from success, only the tricky bits en route. I had a couple of years of drifting before I took on my second journey and tried to ease myself back into adventure and endurance by taking part in the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race. I left it late, didn’t prepare enough, thought a positive attitude would get me through and then my right arm popped and I had to drop out after two days. I was pretty disappointed in myself, but you have to dust yourself off.
Did you have any mentors?
I didn’t really have any mentors when I was starting out. I had some good friends around who made my first journeys possible, and now I’m close to a few other people who are making a living from adventure and I guess we all learn from each other’s different approach. Sarah Outen, Sebastian Terry, Al Humphreys, Mark Kalch, Tim Moss, Alex Hibbert, a bunch of geniuses!
What have you learnt about yourself through this?
I know I shouldn’t be surprised when I learn something new about myself. I’m a stubborn bugger. I know myself pretty well, and sometimes that means just accepting you’ve got some character faults.
What do you think we could learn from you?
Treat every challenge with respect, and you’ll have a better chance at success.
How have you integrated your personal life with this?
My personal life is totally integrated with my work. My friends joke, quite seriously, that I make a living talking about myself! I’m living my dream and I’m utterly passionate about everything I choose to do, but it ultimately means I’m working or thinking about working every waking second. Luckily, I don’t really see it as working, so it’s all ok!
It doesn’t sound like you need to re-motivate yourself, but there must be times when you do and what do you do then?
I have a good sleep. Amazing how a few extra hours can get your energy levels up. Either that, or read a decent book.
What do you do just for fun?
Spend time with friends, watch football, or go for a paddle.
How has it helped in other areas of your life?
I’m a much happier person now than I used to be. Organising expeditions means I have skills that transfer into different areas so I’m a cheery jack of all trades, without being outstanding at anything. I’m self-sufficient across the board, which is helpful.
How do you make your living?
Public speaking and book sales. And sometimes when they’re not looking I’ll borrow money from old lady’s purses.
Ha ha that’s funny, so can I ask a couple of ridiculous questions, what is your theme tune?
‘Lose Yourself’, Eminem, or ‘In The Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins, but that one’s only when I’m wearing a gorilla suit.
What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Determined. Creative. Ginger.
You can host three people for dinner who would you invite and why?
Barrack Obama, Martin Sheen, and Charlie Sheen! Two utterly articulate men, and one who will give the other two plenty to discuss.
Thank you for your time Dave, we very much look forward to featuring you again soon. One final word, what is your philosophy of life?
We’re all in a position to ensure that we never have to say ‘I wish’ in the future. Horrible combination of words, those two.
Please find more about Dave Cornthwaite’s Stand Up Paddleboard trip here
Dave Twitter’s as: @davecorn
He is on Facebook: Expedition1000
Dave Cornthwaite’s top 5 tips
- Only listen to people who care about you
- Embrace failure but not too much
- Be creative and concentrate on yourself
- And lastly, enjoy it.