HE is the kind of character who makes you feel idle just talking to him.
A force of nature with a zest for life on the wild side, Bear Grylls’ appetite for taking nature’s dangers in hand and the great outdoors to task have won him millions of fans.
But he’s not all action. The over-grown boy scout and former special forces reservist has a wise head on those broad shoulders.
“I feel super lucky to do a job which is essentially what I have done since I was six years old,” he says as his Mud, Sweat & Tears show tours.
“If somebody had said to me at that age I could have a job that involved climbing trees and getting muddy I would have thought ‘heaven’.”
As the star of Born Survivor and Man vs Wild, Grylls is one of the most watched adventurers on the planet. His tour recalls experiences ranging from his journey to the summit of Mount Everest to previously unseen footage from his hit TV shows.
He may have faced deadly beasts and even deadlier mountains, but Bear admits he’s been feeling nerves before going on stage for dates that include arenas.
“I’m as nervous backstage before doing a big live show as I am about to drop out of a helicopter into a jungle. I’m definitely not a fearless person. I feel it lots but life is about facing those fears head on and the rewards for that commitment.
“To do stuff well you need a little bit of that, it’s what gives you the edge and keeps you sharp. In the wild you need your instincts firing and on stage you need a bit of adrenaline to really serve people well. It’s a God-given reaction to make sure you concentrate.
“I say to my kids, ‘life begins out of your comfort zone’. I like to try to do something every day that takes me out of it, whether on stage or climbing or training. It’s a great place to try and live and it’s one of the messages I talk about on these shows: great things happen but you need to step out there.”
Besides his self belief, however, it may come as a surprise to some to hear Bear also has religious faith.
“I’ve definitely learned through a lot of experiences, through the military, through expeditions, that it takes a proud man to say he never needs any help and I’m not that person. I’ve definitely learned my faith can be like a backbone in my life, a quiet strength. It’s a Christian faith, pretty simple.”
That might have been called into question and he might have called a day to his outdoor ways when a parachute jump in 1996 nearly left him paralysed. He recovered and went on to climb Everest.
“My faith was called into question at the time, still is. I’ve lots of struggles and doubts about faith stuff and that recovery time was full of... it was a really stumbling road.
“People say ‘you must be very positive’ but it wasn’t like that. It was a real dark time of not knowing if you were going to be able to walk properly again, let alone climb but you cling to simple things; your family, friends and faith, your aspirations, and I look back now and think sometimes in life it takes a knock to make you realise what you really want to go for.
“It gave me the determination to grab life boldly and make some of these dreams actually happen.”
Presumably some of these friends and family members would rather he take it a little easier now and again, though?
“My dad used to say ‘don’t listen to the dream stealers’. And I think that’s a big message of these live shows: we all have dreams and the bigger the dreams the bigger the obstacles along the way, but if you really want it you’ve got to learn not to listen to the dream stealers’.”
Leave your box of matches at home as the great outdoors comes inside
NO stranger to the Peak District from his military days, Bear Grylls is happy Sheffield figures in his tour.
“We always have great support from the climbing community there so it’ll be fun,” says the action man, who hopes to spur audiences on to having a lively weekend.
“It’s been interesting, the audiences we get. Mums and dads want things that are going to inspire their kids and encourage them to have dreams in their lives.
“The other day we got this kid on stage. I said ‘What’s your dream?’ and he said ‘Well my dream last night was that I was stuck in a bog and you came and rescued me’ – the classic kid’s reaction, rather than tell me his dream of life. I said that’s more of a nightmare.
“But there have been so many amazing stories from people whose lives have been saved by something they’ve seen on the TV show and for me that’s always been encouragement and what these live shows are about.
“Yes, we have loads of fun and I’m teaching survival skills on stage. We’re dealing with snakes and fires, maggots and worms, swinging from the rooftops, but ultimately the message is ‘life is precious, you’ve got to get out there, follow your dreams, fail a little bit and live life boldly’.
“However advanced we think we are there is something primal in us. We want to be able to look after ourselves when times are difficult, to change a tyre or light a fire without matches. You can’t negate thousands of years of instinct in a generation.
“I love technology. I call my family with a satellite phone. But I love those old skills and I get a real kick out of teaching somebody how to light a fire with nothing and seeing their delight, whether it’s a businessman or a kid.”
And as a father of three, Bear knows the value of that.
“All kids want adventure but they don’t always get given it by their parents. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, you don’t have to go abroad for it.
“I was taught to climb by my dad and we’d just go to the local hills. It was an amazingly bonding time for me to feel that connection and subconsciously it’s what I’ve always loved since on expeditions.
“You get very real relationships when your life is on the line.
“For me it was one of the few things I found I was good at at a young age and in life we tend to gravitate towards that.
“You need to use imagination. The lazy option is the PlayStation or the TV, but that’s not how you really inspire kids.”