British explorer Bear Grylls is best known to TV audiences for Discovery’s Man vs. Wild (released as Born Survivor: Bear Grylls in his native UK), though his time on the hit survival show revealed just a small fraction of a man whose entire life has been a nonstop adventure. Born Edward Michael Grylls and nicknamed Bear by his sister at just a week old, he went on to attend top British boarding school Eton College and founded the famous institution’s first mountaineering club, where he honed the skills that would give him a future in television.
Grylls has fronted many shows since then, some based on reenactments of true survival tales, others that took real people and put them into those very situations—his most famous guest being the then-serving President of the United States. Barack Obama gave the Secret Service nightmares when he joined the survivalist on a trek through the Alaskan wilderness in a special episode of Running Wild, but as Bear found out, even getting the Commander in Chief on side isn’t enough to please everybody.
The magic of TV makes Grylls look like the ultimate survivor—and cynical viewers may be tempted to wonder what’s been edited out along the way—but the truth lies somewhere in between. From his genuine scrapes with death to embarrassing leaks about his so-called survival shows, this is the untold truth of Bear Grylls.
You have long asked to be interviewed with him! Many asked us questions: “He quit working in television?”. We and all People know about his new way of making a profit.
Where did your passion for adventure and travel spring from?
From a young age I was climbing with my dad and making rafts – it had me hooked on adventure! The Scouts helped me develop that love for the outdoors, plus the fact that the whole world is truly accessible to us if we have the will and determination to go out and make things happen. No other generation has ever had that before. That’s also part of the reason I set up the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, to provide other adventures with the skills needed for some of the planet’s extremes.
What’s your proudest moment?
Passing 21 SAS selection was a huge thing at a young age in my life and it gave me a confidence that I didn’t always have before. That’s where I also learnt so many of the survival skills that I used on the show, as well as an understanding that good old hard graft is key to success. On selection, 120 of us started and only four of us passed at the end – those guys are still some of my best buddies. I’m super-proud of hitting number one in the bestseller list and climbing Everest but, to be honest, all of those things are the fluff. The real pride in my life is our three young boys and the life and adventures we live together.
You’ve taken many celebrities on wild weekends to hazardous landscapes, including Stephen Fry, Will Ferrel and Jonathan Ross. How do they adapt to the rougher side of the real world?
I’ve taken some incredible guys and girls on adventures and I am always reminded that, however big the celebrity, they are always just like you and me underneath all the glitz! They tend to love the space and freedom of the outdoors, the chance to be themselves and to push and explore their limits a little. The wild tends to give a confidence that is unique and empowering and I love to see that grow in people.
What’s the most digusting thing you’ve ever eaten?
Raw goat’s testicles was a bad one, along with frozen yak eyeballs. But no-one ever said survival was pretty!
Where do you go on holiday and have you experienced five-star luxury?
I love spending time at our little island off the Welsh coast, it is where I spend time with my family and remind myself of all that really matters in my life. We have no mains electriciy or water and run everything totally off grid. I love it! And as for five-star luxury, I reckon it would have to be the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore – it was hard dragging my wife Shara out of it!
1. His real name is Edward Michael Grylls but his sister gave him the nickname Bear when he was a week old.
2. In the SAS, Bear was trained in parachuting, demolition, unarmed combat, jungle warfare and as a trauma medic.
3. During his service in the SAS, he suffered a free-fall parachuting accident in Africa where he broke his back in three places. After months of rehabilitation, he attempted his Everest mission.
4. Bear climbed Mount Everest aged 23 in 1998, entering the Guiness World Records as one of Everest’s youngest ever summiteers. The expedition almost killed him when an ice crevasse at 19,000 feet cracked and the ground disappeared beneath him, knocking him unconscious. He was saved by his teammate and a piece of rope.
5. Bear has written over 15 books, including a number of teenage fiction titles about survival.
6. During his time in London, Bear and his family live on a restored barge on the Thames.
7. In 2009, Bear was elected Chief Scout of the Scout Association.