Bear Grylls son is a chip off the old block

No father ever wants his children to have boring lives, and adventurer Bear Grylls…surely the most gung-ho man on TV…perhaps wanted his sons to stand out more than most.

He called them Jesse,  Marmaduke and Huckleberry, for starters. Then he decided it would be good for the family to live on a Thames houseboat.

As well as being paid to abseil down ravines or grapple with crocodiles, Bear believes it helpful…nay, essential…for a boy to be able to climb a tree, or fashion a raft out of leaves, pretty much as soon as he can walk.

 So far, he has followed the  survival mantra with his boys, and tells me breezily how he watched them…aged seven, five and four…scale a church steeple the other day. On the outside.

I’m still absorbing this, thinking that it’s possibly time I took the stabilisers off my own son’s bike, when he makes a throwaway reference to Jesse rescuing a little girl from a river.

Whoa! Hold on. He saved a life? At seven? Surely there’s some exaggeration going on here?

‘No, no. They were in a little base in a stream and she fell in,’ he explains.

‘And…I wasn’t there, you know, and the story grows and grows every time he tells me…but he did rescue her and he was proud as punch to have dragged her out.’

While he is chuffed, pride isn’t the only emotion going on here. It turns out that the older his kids get, the more Bear worries that his influence on them isn’t entirely admirable.

‘Their headmaster took me aside and said, “It’s great that they might know how to take the door off a helicopter and deal with a snake bite, but it would be really great if they focused a little more on the mathematics.” I’m kind of feeling that at the moment.

‘For a long time, I never wanted them to be too aware of what I do. I relaxed that when all their friends were talking about me in the playground, and they were the only ones not to have seen the programme.

‘But getting the balance right is hard. Do I want them to grow up to be me? No, actually. I’m unemployable in the real world. I don’t want that for them.’

His wife, Shara, watches his TV exploits, but he confesses she’s more of a Sex And The City person.

‘It’s good for me, actually. I’m the type who thinks every man should know how to ignite a fire without a lighter or matches, or be able to tie a knot in the dark, but sometimes she says, “All that stuff is great, but it’s not particularly relevant to most people in an office.”


‘I guess I’m lucky I don’t work in an office, but all I’ve been able to do in my life is to be able to climb big things.

‘It might not work out like that for my kids. That’s why I’m trying to say to them: “Listen, you don’t want to do my job.” They say, “We do.” And I say: “No, you don’t.” ’

Surely he’s not saying that he’d rather any of his boys be an accountant than an adventurer?

‘I think that might be better all round, actually.’

Bear Grylls’ father was Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls. Bear (real name Edward) went to Eton then joined the Amy, ending up in the SAS

Bear Grylls first came to public attention 17 years ago when, fresh from a life-threatening parachute fall, he became the youngest  person ever to scale Mount Everest.

Since then, he has made more than 70 adventure and survival programmes, been appointed Chief Scout and turned himself into something of an idol for boys everywhere.

When I catch up with him, he has just returned from another gruelling filming trip. I ask  jokingly if, at 36, he isn’t too old for all this, and it turns out his physiotherapist has been asking the same thing.

I ask how many of his nine lives he thinks he has left.

‘I’ve gone beyond the nine, really. It’s not that we are reckless, but we are working with crocodiles and snakes and sharks every day and doing free climbs all the time, so it happens.

‘We’ve had a lot of near-scrapes over the past couple of years. I almost had my head taken off by a falling camera a few months ago. I had to be airlifted off a mountain once. It’s endless. I got bitten by a snake two weeks ago. Luckily, it didn’t inject venom, but I know it’s just a lottery.’

He has, he admits, sorted out practical things, like a will. For a while, he even decided it would be better all round if he stopped leaping off tall things.

Unfortunately, it didn’t prove to be better for him.

‘There was a stage five years ago where we’d gone a bit “survival and bushcrafty”, but it got boring. I really pushed to keep the adventure side going. It’s the part I really love. Skydiving, making rafts, shooting rapids . . .

‘It’s been nine years and I don’t want to stop just because I’m scared. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at in my life and I really enjoy it. I think you need to be cautious and be scared — but keep doing it.’

Eldest son Jesse, though, has come up with his own life motto, which Bear is thinking of adopting for himself: Be prepared, never give up, be determined…and eat chocolate all the time!

‘How can you argue with that one?’ he asks.

by Milo Johnson


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