I’m reaching the surface. For months I’ve been planning and preparing for this next expedition, I was even interviewing potential team members as I pedalled the Bikecar through the South, but now most of the hard work is done.
There are a number of factors that deter people from going on expeditions, but most have no idea about the hardest bit. The making it happen. It’s not until you totally engage in the formative stages of a challenge do you realise that the hard work isn’t out there on the open road, ocean or river. It’s done beforehand. The feeling of reaching the start line with all the preparation complete, that’s the key to making a living from adventure. You earn it.
With only 18 days to go until I jump in the South Dakotan Missouri and start a long swim to St Louis I find myself off the West Coast of the USA with a crowd of truly inspirational scientists, change-makers, adventurers and sportsmen and women. We’re paddling from Trestles to TJ, 70 miles of Southern Californian coastline, to raise awareness of water quality issues and the upcoming Riverview mapping service from Below the Surface
‘I’ll always be that bear,’ said Mum, the corners of her mouth ever so slightly upturned as we hurtled down country lanes towards Banbury, leaving my parent’s house and the closest thing I can call ‘home’ behind. I won’t be back for at least a year.
At the train station we hug before I lug drybags onto shoulders and stroll off to the ticket machine. She waits longer than usual before driving off with a wave and I catch her craning out of the window on the exit-lane, hoping for one final glance of her eldest son. She doesn’t get one, but I see her.
‘Bye again,’ Dad had said back at the house. A small chuckle followed, tinged with sadness. We’re used to these goodbyes but this one feels different. More unknowns await me on this next trip down a big river than ever before, but in contrast to normal my brother is also far away on tour in Afghanistan. If ever my folks have had to deal with extreme worry this is the time. Both of their boys off doing their thing.
Every time I return to my parent’s house a small newspaper clipping and something chocolatey waits on my pillow, usually wrapped in thin red ribbon and accompanied by a small post-it note reading ‘welcome home darling xx’ The clipping this time was a photograph of a polar bear swimming across an Arctic sea, with its cub sat high up on its shoulders out of the water.
‘When you’re swimming just remember that I’m the Mother Bear,’ said Ma, ‘carrying you up there.’ And she, and my Dad, have always done that. Their support, their homeliness, their willingness to be the entity of constancy that my unconventional life denies me elsewhere – no matter where I am or what I’m doing I know I can get on with their quiet support and not one word of discouragement. It would be so easy for them to overprotect, to weigh down my shoulders with doubt and stress rather than hoist me onto theirs.
Sure, they’re put through the mill but I don’t tell them the worst stuff I face until afterwards, if at all. I have little else with which I can return the protection. So we all prepare for another voyage, them on Googlemaps and me in a wetsuit on the Missouri, full of the knowledge that beyond this form of living which comes bound with all sorts of perceived danger is another hello, another piece of chocolate, another enormous cooked breakfast and another goodbye. And smiles, there are always smiles.
After all, Mum’s email to me last week summed it all up: ‘What with your brother going off to war and you swimming down a river with a billion bacteria and plenty of bitey things, I think I’m going to turn to alcohol.’
Thanks Dave, that's incredibly useful! If I may be so bold as to ask a second and final question: how did you discover your unique selling point for sponsorship? All the best with your adventure, I'm very envious!
It took me a while to create my unique selling point and I guess it happened by chance. I stuck to my values, turned away production companies in order to maintain creative control of my projects and get to share my dreams my own way.
I think my sponsors value a good history of successful expeditions, but also that I’m just a normal chap with normal dreams getting out there and doing this extraordinary stuff with no extreme back-up. I don’t have a blank cheque from any sponsor and I’m not on the telly, but a lot of people see my content, folks who are buying my sponsor’s products because they can see how they’re properly used.
Most importantly, if you’re looking for advice, just be you. Success doesn’t happen overnight, be your own person and make choices for the right reasons. Values make a man (or woman) and any sponsor with an eye for a long-term relationship will value your commitment regardless of whether your unique selling point is a reality TV show, or an even-more-real YouTube channel with well-made video episodes edited on the road or riverside.
It’s time to launch Swim1000. We’d like to invite you to a party this Wednesday 18th evening from 7pm. I’ll be announcing the concept of Swim1000, introducing you to the marvellous team who will be paddling the full 1000 miles of the Lower Missouri as I swim.
Also speaking will be Kris Hallenga, founder of CoppaFeel!, the charity for whom Swim1000 aims to raise a mammoth £100,000 both through our antics on the Missouri and through our Swim1000 initiative, which invites members of the public to swim, cycle, run, skate or frankly do anything strenuous for 1000m in return for a bit of sponsorship.
On Wednesday night we’ll also be having a raffle with plenty of cool prizes to kick our fundraising off in style. Oh, and I leave the country for a year the next morning, so it’d be lovely to have a chance to say goodbye.
“Worried about Andy going to Afghanistan on Sunday. Worried about you going into a river infested with billions of bacteria and things with teeth. It might be time to consider taking up alcohol again…”—Mummy Cornthwaite gets to dealing with the things her sons put her through
“1,000 miles is a bloody long way in anyone’s book, so I thought I’d do 25 of them, just to make sure I wasn’t lazy like my Dad said I was”— From an interview with Dave Cornthwaite with GapYearDotCom - read the interview here
An interview with Dave Cornthwaite; Mr Expedition1000
Dave Cornthwaite is a bit of a gapyear.com legend. You’ve probably never heard of him before, but in about 10 minutes you’ll think he’s a bit of a legend too. Why? Well, it’s because he’s a legend, isn’t it!?
Dave is 32-years-old and has a ginger beard. He’s also an adventurer, author, and film-maker, but the thing that interests us most at gapyear.com is Expedition1000. It’s a project like no other - Dave is planning to undertake 25 separate journeys of 1,000 miles, each journey using a different form of non-motorised transport.
I’ve always valued building relationships throughout my career. The majority of companies, small businesses and sometimes even sole-traders you’ll see supporting my expeditions may never have crossed your radar, but each and every one of them has taken the time to offer support and friendship, ultimately making success much more likely down the line.
This Summer’s expedition is a bit different from my usual journey because I have a team on board, literally. No motors allowed on this one, but I have an amazing crew ready to make the fundraising, social media and adventurous aspects of this project a winner, all from the vantage point of one canoe and a bunch of Stand Up Paddleboards. NONE of them have paddled a great distance before, this Summer they’re going 1000 miles.
I do what I can to look after my team and that means making them smile. When I found this brand I had a smile on my face, their message is super simple and fits perfectly with my idea of life.
So, I’d like to announce Weekend Threads as the latest sponsor for Swim1000. Thanks to them my team will be reminded that It’s Always the Weekend every single day of the week. What’s more, if you buy a tee from them and enter swim1000 into the coupon bar, Weekend Threads will donate $5 to CoppaFeel! to help us reach our £100k target.