30 wild facts about Bear Grylls, the most intense man in the universe
The most intense man in the universe, Bear Grylls, is known for a lot more than just being the face of the hit television show ‘Man vs. Wild.’ He was a Special Forces operative in the British military and has summited Mount Everest. Those are just two tidbits of many.
Here are 30 wild facts about Bear Grylls that will make you reevaluate your definition of adventure.
Summiting Mount Everest
While there is a lot of controversy surrounding Bear Grylls’ show, Man vs. Wild, there is no doubting that the man is an absolute beast of an outdoorsman. In 1998, Grylls became the youngest Brit to climb Mount Everest. Grylls trained for roughly one year before his daring summit of the world’s highest peak.
What’s more impressive about his ascent is he did it roughly 18 months after recovering from a life-threatening injury he suffered while serving with the British Special Forces (more on that later). In an interview with The Telegraph, Grylls said he should have died multiple times while on Everest. Thankfully, he summited and returned without any major incidents.
Surprise, surprise: Bear is not Bear Grylls’ real name. While it is an extremely rugged and fitting nickname, it’s not the name his parents gave him when he was born. Born Edward Michael Grylls, Bear was given the nickname by his sister, Lara, when he was just a tiny lad growing up in the village of Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, a British island located in the English Channel.
Bear’s father, Sir Michael Grylls, a politician and seasoned outdoorsman himself, taught Bear how to climb and sail at a young age. Little did he know that his boy Edward would become an absolute bear of an adventurer later in life.
British Special Forces
Where, you ask, did Bear learn his survival skills? In a little place called the British Special Air Service, SAS for short. The SAS is universally regarded as one of the most elite special warfare units on planet Earth. It is there where Bear, who served in the SAS for three years, learned desert and winter warfare, combat survival, parachuting, diving, climbing, how to operate explosives, and received extensive medic training.
Grylls served in the 21 SAS Regiment and had two tours of duty to North Africa. It was also his service in the SAS that inadvertently opened up his survival career after a nasty accident forced his honorable discharge from the military.
Karate black belt
One would think that being trained in hand-to-hand combat in the British SAS would be enough. One would think those lethal moves should keep any foe at bay. But for Bear Grylls, nothing is ever enough. As a teenager, prior to his enlistment in the military, Grylls earned his black belt in Shotokan karate.
Shotokan karate is one of karate’s more popular disciplines (it’s actually the most practiced karate style) and originated in Okinawa, Japan. Shotokan is also credited with helping popularize karate globally. For Bear Grylls, that 2nd-dan black belt is just another tool that fits in his absurdly large toolbox.
As we’ve already mentioned, Bear Grylls served in the SAS. An integral part of the SAS training is parachuting, free falling, and HALO jumps. While parachuting and free falling may look very fun from the outside, these are some of the most dangerous maneuvers in military training. There’s an assortment of things that could go wrong, and should they go wrong, they often can become lethal.
While skydiving with the SAS over Zambia, Grylls’ parachute failed to open up at 16,000 feet. Rather than cutting the main parachute and resorting to the reserve, Grylls tried to sort through the mess while rapidly descending toward Earth. That was the wrong move, as Grylls landed on his parachute pack, fracturing three vertebrae in his back. Over the next year, he spent roughly 10 hours per day rehabbing the injury while preparing to climb Everest.
No. 1 show in America
In 2010, Grylls’ show, Man vs. Wild, became the No. 1 non-sports, prime-time cable show among males. And thanks to Man vs. Wild’s strong ratings, the Discovery Channel became the No. 1 non-sports cable network for a brief period of time. Viewers were enthralled with Bear Grylls and the exotic locations and survival techniques he used.
The show saw a further spike in views when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on the show as a special guest. What viewers were not aware of was the behind-the-scenes controversy that followed the television show. The controversy, which we will discuss in-depth later, did not derail the show’s success, but it severely dampened its credibility.
Paraglide over Mount Everest
We already mentioned that Bear Grylls became the youngest Brit in history to summit Mount Everest (an impressive feat that has since been broken). But what we haven’t mentioned is that Bear’s fixation with Everest didn’t end with his on-foot achievement.
In 2007, Grylls decided he needed to fly a powered paraglider higher than any human ever had before. With specialized equipment and extensive training, Bear Grylls and a partner flew 460 feet higher than the peak of Mt. Everest, which stands at 29,035 feet. While Grylls didn’t directly fly over the peak — he did not want to violate Chinese airspace restrictions and was at risk of doing so — the insane height (and views) which he reached are not to be matched any time soon.
Youngest Chief Scout ever
The Scout Association is the United Kingdom’s largest Scouting organization. In essence, The Scout Association is the United Kingdom equivalent of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts organizations in the United States. The Scouts prepare children and teens with survival skills and other life skills that often go untaught in normal school settings.
In 2009, Bear Grylls was named the Chief Scout, becoming the youngest Chief Scout in the organization’s illustrious history. He replaced Peter Duncan, the former presenter of the British television show Blue Peter. Grylls announced that he will keep his position as Chief Scout until 2020, when someone (probably less crazy) will take over the post.
Summited Ama Dablam
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to have reached the summit of the daunting Mount Everest. The feat happened in 1953 and shattered the prior belief that climbing Everest was impossible, a mission only suited for the gods.
Needless to say, Sir Edmund Hillary was a daring man. And what was one mountain that even he said was too tough to climb? Mt. Ama Dablam, located in the Nepalese Himalayas. Well, that didn’t exactly stop Bear Grylls from summiting this beast, often referred to as the “Matterhorn of the Himalayas.” In September 1997, Grylls became the youngest Brit to summit Mt. Ama Dablam.
It wouldn’t be crazy to assume that someone like Bear Grylls would have a hard time settling down and having kids. Even if he wanted to, convincing someone to marry him would be a tall task in and of itself. What kind of partner would be able to sleep at night knowing their husband and the father of their children is paragliding over Everest or eating snakes in the middle of the African brush? Not many.
Thankfully, Bear found just the right gal for his adventurous lifestyle. In 2000, Grylls married Shara Cannings Knight. Together, the couple has three children. In case you were wondering, the children are extremely adept at survival and skilled in the outdoors.
Jet skiing in the UK
For most people, jet skiing is a fun side hobby limited to warm vacations in the tropics. For Bear Grylls, it is something completely different. See, for him, jet skiing was a challenge — Grylls decided to prove that jet skiing had more merits to exist other than just entertainment purposes.
With a team of other adventuring enthusiasts, Bear Grylls, on standard Jet Skis, circumnavigated the rough and rocky British Isles in roughly 30 days. Now, we understand this may not sound like the craziest thing Bear Grylls has ever done, and that’s because it’s not. But it still is impressive and, presumably, was not a journey without a fair amount of danger involved.
Arctic Circle crossing
In 2003, Grylls decided to risk his life to raise some money for The Prince’s Trust. In true Bear Grylls fashion, he and a small crew of three others departed the shores of northeastern Canada in a small rigid inflatable boat (RIB). The boat, custom-built for the journey, was roughly 12 yards long and was essential for their survival.
While off the coast of Greenland, the crew encountered gale force winds and massive waves that could have capsized the boat on a moment’s notice. To boot, the water was ice cold and was an iceberg minefield (Titanic, anyone?). The journey safely concluded roughly two weeks after the crew set sail.
The last continent to usually be named, Antarctica is not a place for the weary or weak. It’s a frozen tundra with no full-time population, save for the penguins and seals. It’s also home to some incredibly rugged and unclimbed peaks that shoot up over the surrounding barren ice-land below.
Well, if there’s an unnamed and uncharted peak, you bet Bear Grylls is going to try to conquer it, and in 2008, that’s exactly what he tried to do. While attempting to summit a 9,000-foot peak, Grylls, who was traveling the land on wind-powered kite skis, took a severe tumble. The fall broke his shoulder and forced the trip to prematurely end. What’s worse is Bear had to wait multiple days to evacuate to South Africa because the winds were too strong for aircraft to land.
Longest indoor free fall
Indoor skydiving records? If there are some to be had, put your money on Bear Grylls for breaking them. In 2008, Bear Grylls attempted to break the obscure record of longest indoor skydive. And guess what? He did. Grylls, an expert skydiver thanks to his Special Forces training, fell for 97 continuous minutes.
For reference, each minute of indoor skydiving is the equivalent of one outdoor skydive, and 97 minutes is the same as dropping an astonishing 242 miles. After the feat, Grylls said, “I’ve never had to concentrate so much in my whole life.” He continued, “It required digging a lot deeper than I expected and has been one of the most intense records I have ever broken.”
One of the most prolific comedy actors of the 2000s, Will Ferrell doesn’t come across as an outdoorsman. He’s many things, but a rugged, rough, and gritty outdoorsman just isn’t one of them. In 2009, Ferrell set out to change that perception.
While promoting his new film Land of the Lost, Ferrell traveled to Sweden to meet up with Bear Grylls and get a taste of old-fashioned adventure. In Sweden, the two trudged around on makeshift snowshoes (crafted out of tree branches), ate frozen reindeer (the eyeball, to be specific), and slept in a snow cave. Although Ferrell was cold and out of place, he was never in any real danger.
Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn
Man vs. Wild fans, shut your eyes for this one. You do not want to read what lies ahead. From the outside, Bear Grylls looks like a man hell-bent on finding and escaping near-death experiences. That, in essence, is what his show is all about and sets up some cool scenes where Bear can show off his survival skills.
But all of that credibility kind of went down the drain in 2007 when it was discovered that those long, arduous nights spent in the woods weren’t actually spent in the woods. According to a BBC report, Grylls and his team would (occasionally) finish shooting, pack up their gear, and head to a local hotel/motel for a nice, calm night away from the elements.
OK, so we’ve already addressed the controversy surrounding Bear Grylls and the motel. Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about some highlights regarding the show. Bear Grylls really does immerse himself in the wild in some remote places, often some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
He really does do some crazy you-know-what. And he really does have an impressive skill set that most people can’t even begin to understand. In 2010, the hard work that was put into the show was recognized when it was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the “Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program” category. The show ultimately lost to Survivor.
Bear Grylls gear
Outdoor companies must salivate at the opportunity to endorse Bear Grylls. Look at it from their point of view: The man is always outside, is viewed by millions and millions of people, and actually uses the fancy, expensive gear he brings with him, unlike the modern glampers of today.
Out of all the outdoor brands in the congested race to sponsor Bear Grylls, it was Portland, Oregon-based knife manufacturing company Gerber who ended up with the coveted endorsement. The company boasts a full line of survival knives and hatchets emblazoned with Bear Grylls’ logo and color scheme, survival orange and charcoal gray.
Bear Grylls Survival Academy
What a shame it would be if Bear Grylls kept all his insanely useful and somewhat-obscure survival tips and tricks to himself! Thankfully, Bear is more than generous when it comes to sharing his wealth of knowledge. In 2012, Bear Grylls launched the aptly named Bear Grylls Survival Academy in the United Kingdom.
Two years later, the course became available in the United States, with its flagship location in upstate New York. One course offered is a 24-hour event that costs a not-so-cheap $579. Aside from the 24-hour full immersion course, Bear offers 5-day courses strategically located around the United States in beautiful areas like Yosemite National Park.
While most people recognize Bear Grylls for his work on television, he’s actually an accomplished author too. Seriously, is there anything he can’t do? In fact, Grylls has published numerous fiction books, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.
For someone like Bear, writing an autobiography would be easier than starting a fire with dry tinder. On the fiction side of things, Grylls has written the Mission Survival series, an eight-part kids’ book series about adventure and, wait for it — survival — in exotic locations. Grylls also has a few other fiction kids’ series, like Bear Grylls Adventures, A Beck Granger Adventure, and New Jungle Book Adventures.
When in the wild, you eat what is available. Beggars, so to speak, can’t be choosers. Picky eaters don’t stand a chance. If you want to survive, you put aside your fear of eating raw snake and chomp right into it. At least that’s what Bear Grylls has done on numerous occasions.
While filming Man vs. Wild (viewer discretion advised for those scenes), Bear captures a variety of snakes depending on his locations (some from the waters in the jungle, others from the desert) and gruesomely kills them. In one foul scene, he captured a snake and bit its head right off.
Jesse Grylls, lifesaver
As we stated before, Bear Grylls has three kids, all of whom are bound to grow up and be experts in the wild, skilled in the art of survival, and fearless to no end. From the moment they exited the womb, Bear’s kids have been training for one scenario or another.
By 7 years old, Bear Grylls’ eldest son, Jesse, had already saved a life. No, we’re not exaggerating. When Jesse was 7, he and some friends were playing by a creek when a little girl fell in. Jesse, being the prepared young chap that he is, didn’t panic. Instead, he dragged his friend out of the water and onto shore before anything got too serious.
Surviving with the stars
Man vs. Wild was the television show that helped spread the man, myth, and legend that is Bear Grylls to new heights. It was responsible for promulgating his fame beyond his wildest dreams — and we imagine his dreams are pretty wild.
His next major foray into television was Running Wild with Bear Grylls. Much like Man vs. Wild, Running Wild is a survival-based reality television show. Only this time, it features celebrities, musicians, movie stars, and the like paired with Bear Grylls on an adventure. Some guests include Zac Efron, Channing Tatum, Ben Stiller, and Barack Obama. To date, the show is entering its fifth season.
London’s River Thames, pronounced “Tems,” is a river that is often tamable, unless you’re in a bathtub. Then again, why would you be in a bathtub? If you’re Bear Grylls, you’d be in a bathtub for a few reasons. One, because you can.
Two, because you’d be raising money for your friend’s prosthetic leg by rowing said bathtub for 22 arduous miles. Today, thanks to the internet and crowdfunding, there are a million ways to raise money for noble causes. But years ago, raising money took a bit more creativity and effort. For Bear Grylls, that effort manifested itself as a bathtub row down the River Thames.
A career is born
While television shows have been the bread and butter of Bear Grylls’ career, that wasn’t always the case. After climbing Mount Everest, Bear knew he wanted to get into television; the question was, how would he break in? The answer: deodorant.
That’s right, Sure Deodorant (Degree in America, for our stateside readers) chose Bear to be the lead guy in their television campaign for extreme (and extremely good) deodorant. The commercial featured Grylls’ daunting Everest story and was awarded the campaign of the year in the United Kingdom. Since that big break, Bear has, needless to say, endorsed a litany of other products, ranging from boots to knives.
Behind the scenes
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone, but it needs to be stated nonetheless. Man vs. Wild, and this is the part where Bear Grylls superfans need to take a deep breath, had behind-the-scenes experts advising and helping the star of the show.
On the one hand, this is totally reasonable. Bear Grylls is still putting himself in extreme places under extreme conditions, conditions that would kill the average viewer. So a little extra help is no big deal. On the other hand, it does seem a bit fraudulent to have extra help when the show is explicitly about Bear Grylls and his solo survival skills.
Bear’s private island
The remote Welsh islands called the Saint Tudwal’s Islands aren’t home to many people. In fact, the western islands didn’t have a permanent resident until Bear Grylls purchased the land in 2001 for a cool $123,000. The private getaway is located five miles off the mainland and is 20 acres (small) big.
The family compound has no running water or electricity. It’s truly an isolated place where Bear and the family can escape the chaos that he intentionally brings into his life. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Grylls described the island as his favorite place on Earth. To reach the island, Bear and co. use a custom-built RIB watercraft.
While the celebrities on Running Wild with Bear Grylls are totally immersed in foreign settings doing completely foreign activities to them, Bear and his camera crew aren’t doing anything too far from the norm. Actually, Bear and his trusted advisers scout locations prior to filming and map out the show before it even begins.
That’s totally fair, but knowing that does take away the element of authenticity and plausibility with some of the stunts and moves Bear makes. Then again, what A-list celebrity would sign up for a show that had an actual, unscripted risk of bodily harm and career endangerment?
Afraid of heights
You wouldn’t guess that Bear Grylls’ greatest fear would be jumping out of planes — you know, being a skydiver from the British Special Forces would probably eliminate one’s fear of jumping from planes and high places. Then again, if said skydiver had a near-lethal fall out of a plane thanks to a parachute issue, a fear of heights might be more reasonable.
In an interview with the BBC, Grylls stated that cocktail parties and jumping out of planes are his two biggest fears, and the best way to tackle them is head-on. Full immersion. No stopping. Now, how he’s not afraid of eating insects and snakes is beyond us.
Ah, back to the minor issues that decay the credibility of Man vs. Wild. The show, as we have mentioned, is not without controversy. One of the main controversies, outside of Bear Grylls not really sleeping outside, is the use of props and other aids to help the show go smoothly.
One instance was a Polynesian-style raft that Bear supposedly constructed using only materials that he had immediate access to, like bamboo and leaves. However, in reality, Grylls used a team of builders to assemble the fully-functional raft. Other examples include using trained horses for lasso stunts and a smoke machine to create more intense fog.