Meet Ed Stafford – British explorer, adventurer and friend of Beaufort & Blake. We’d struggle to do justice to Ed’s achievements in one paragraph but here’s a little bit about him. In 2010, Ed Stafford became the first man ever to walk the length of the Amazon River from the source to the sea - walking for 860 days!
That’s not all – Ed has also filmed two series with the Discovery Channel: ‘Marooned’ & ‘Naked and Marooned’ where he was dropped off in remote and inhospitable parts of the planet (as you can guess by the title - often naked) with literally nothing to help him survive.
For our 2017 summer collection, we’ve worked with Ed to create a small number of limited edition Beaufort & Blake linen shirts - perfect for sun, sea and summer adventures. In between his current filming schedule, we caught up with Ed on a sunny Norfolk morning to talk about what he’s currently up to and how he balances life as an adventurer and a future family man:
It’s been tricky to pin you down Ed, what’s been filling up your diary?
“I’ve just come back from Laos where I was filming a new series for Discovery Channel which is yet to be announced – I can’t reveal the name of it yet, it’s under wraps! I’ve got three more episodes to film before June and then the baby is on its way.”
Tell us about your last series: ‘Marooned’, how difficult was it surviving with just a medical kit, satellite phone and a camera?
“Well, I think I made a rod for my own back by trying to be as authentic as possible on my expeditions. When I moved into doing TV I always wanted them to be real and sometimes I curse myself for that decision. You know, when I’m lying out on the dirt in the middle of the jungle, I could be sleeping in a hotel but I’m not.
“It’s tough to create good entertaining watching - you have to truly live it and go through some hard situations. Some episodes I’ve lost eight or nine kilos in 10 days! I’ve faced constant starvation and difficult conditions – the uncomfortable surroundings mean it really does take its toll. I wouldn’t trade it for the world though, it’s an amazing opportunity and it’s a dream job to be able to say you’ve got your own series on the Discovery Channel as an adventurer. It’s a fantastic job – but it’s certainly not easy.”
Talking of ‘Marooned’, we’ve seen a pretty disgusting video of you eating tadpoles in Patagonia, was that the worst thing you experienced?
“If I’m truly honest – the thing I enjoy the least about filming Marooned is actually being on my own. I really like company and chatting to people - I thrive in social situations. It was one of those things I deliberately set myself the challenge to do because it’s a real test of your own ability if you can survive on your own. If there’s no one else around to help you then you know you can really stand on your own two feet. That’s why I initially needed to be so fiercely independent and prove that I could do it on my own - and yet it has become one of those things that you crave the most when marooned, to have a chat with somebody.
“When I come home, it’s amazing to be with my wife and my mates and do normal stuff because surviving in the middle of nowhere with nothing (not even a knife), no food – isn’t normal! It’s always a great challenge, it’s important to put yourself through challenges and it’s good to be humbled regularly, learn stuff constantly – but equally it’s nice to head down the pub!”
Whilst you can’t reveal what you’re filming at the moment, can you at least give us a clue of where you’re heading in the world?
“Well, I’ve just come back from the Atacama Desert, Darien Gap and Laos and then I’m off to Madagascar, Mongolia and the final episode is going to be in Iceland. A real spread of amazing locations, most of which I’ve not been to before so it will all be fresh challenges, fresh countries and should make amazing television.”
This is actually a year of firsts for you then…first time in new countries, first child, first year of marriage, first year in your new house?
“Ha, yeah that’s true actually! My life has actually all come good in the last couple of years. You know, I’ve been doing these programmes for six years or so but I think to go and adventure is nothing if you don’t have a base to come back to. I used to have a place in Battersea, around the corner from you guys, and I would be doing these incredible programmes but would be coming back to an empty flat. It kind of made me question the point of these expeditions, what was it all for?
“The family side of things is more important, not just as important, and now that side of my life has come good I’m actually enjoying the filming even more. There’s now something wholesome to come back to you. The very fact that we have a child coming in June is a dream come true for me, I didn’t think it was going to happen, I thought I had missed the boat!.”
So what would we catch you doing on the weekend at home, would we be right in thinking that you’ve recently got back into rugby?
“Yeah, I’ve played six games this season - up until I started filming in January I played the whole first half of the season and I love it. It’s not even for the veterans, it’s actually for the first team – which doesn’t say much for our club (sorry guys) that I can get in the first team having not played for three years. As a result, England Rugby picked up on it and I’m now part of their return to rugby campaign.
“I personally think it’s a part of life that’s really important, for me it’s a reset button – you put your boots on, gum guard in, and suddenly you’ve got a massive grin on your face. When you come off the pitch – regardless of whether you’ve won or not – you’ve got a smile on your face. Putting your body on the line with mates from old and is a wholesome part of life – I don’t think I would want to give that up.”
We’re sat here chatting here in your brand new, yet very dirty, Range Rover. Are you brave enough to admit what your driving albums are?
“[Chuckles] It’s got to be Robbie Williams, I’m a bit of a Robbie fan! I still view Robbie Williams as current but my wife is a quite a bit younger than me and she sees it as ‘golden oldies music’. I guess that shows how old I am?”
You know what they say Ed, you’re only as old as you dress! What does style mean to you, are you function over form man?
“That’s a hard one, I’m very much different styles for different reasons. I need functional clothes to do my work – you know, trousers that don’t rip at the crotch and with pockets in the right place. But, whilst I would like to convey the image of being completely and utterly none caring about style and clothing – when I’m off duty, I’ll be the first to admit that I like to look good. I’m not into ‘flashy’ clothes, but classic items made from good quality materials are comfortable to wear. It’s something I kid myself that I don’t care about but I actually really do!”
There are a couple of books with your name to them, are you a book worm yourself? Do you ever get a chance to sit down and read?
“To be honest – I don’t have a huge amount of time but when I do find some I tend towards books on nutrition or exercise – I’m actually quite geeky. Spending long periods of time on my own means I’ve really got into psychology. I use meditation every day and read quite a bit about it. If you’re in the middle of nowhere with no tools, just nothing, the one thing that you have got that can either let you down or can help you survive is your mind.
“Meditation is a way for me to not fight different mental urges but instead step back and be aware – give myself more space and it makes everything a lot more peaceful. Through meditation I have a lot more balance going into difficult situations.”
Talking of difficult situations, what are your top three tips on how to survive on a desert island?
“Hmmm, how to survive on a desert island. Well, if they’re around, coconuts can be a good get out of jail free card. They’ve got everything really - you can drink the water, you can eat the flesh and you can make a basic shelter out of the coconut leaves. If you look along the beach and see coconuts – you’ll be fine for the first couple of nights.”
What advice would you give to any other budding explorers or adventurers out there?
“I’m quite authentic and I like to ensure that everything I do is real but I don’t think you should ignore the fact that you need to be very aware of how you present your adventure. Things like social media and photography might seem very peripheral things but my first break came from a professional photographer joining me out in the Amazon. It elevates your expedition from a couple of mates going on a jolly to almost film-esque photos. That’s when people really start to take you seriously, when they can visualize what you’re doing. You can go do the most hardcore expeditions in the world but unless you can present that in a format that’s palatable to the public then nobody is going to hear about you! No one is going to sit up and pay attention.”