By Bear Grylls with Heather Mundt
Note: I?ll admit I was uneasy last summer when my husband, Michael, and I signed up for the Bear Grylls Survival Academy 24-hour course at the only location in Colorado, Snow Mountain Ranch – YMCA of the Rockies, in Granby.
Based on survival techniques from the former British Special Forces soldier and arguably television?s most recognizable face of survival, the Academy?s promise that ?It May Hurt a Little? had me questioning myself: ?What. Have. I. Done??
But we survived it all: rappelling, foraging, hiking, navigating via compass, lighting fires, building and sleeping in a self-made shelter, and (gasp!) grub eating. Yep, this picky eater tossed it down the hatch without chewing, just so I didn?t have to put in writing that I chickened out.
And guess what else I found out? Kids ages 9-17 can also participate in the 24-hour family courses (accompanied by an adult), a similar version offered this summer in the Catskill Mountains and at Snow Mountain Ranch. (Click here for more information.)
Here, the ?Man vs. Wild? star and father of three young boys discusses how children can benefit from learning survival skills at his Academies, even if it does hurt a little.
- Why did you decide to offer your survival courses?
The Academies came to be because so many people kept writing to us suggesting it that we started one! So many people are keen to learn the type of primal life and dynamic survival skills they maybe see from TV, which is always fun knowledge to share.
But for me it is even more about people being empowered personally. I hope in some small way that the TV shows I?ve worked on have encouraged a sense of adventure in people, and the Academy is a great way to be able to share those skills, attitudes and techniques.
- What type of life lessons can kids learn from participating in the 24-hour course? What about kids/parents together?
The courses vary from half a day in length up to five days, and all of them build to an end challenge that will really stretch and empower participants in a totally new way. People learn everything from rappelling to self-defense, non-GPS navigation to river crossings and fire-lighting. It?s a real variety that equips participants for any situations they may face.
The 24-hour courses?are a fantastic mini-break and an amazing bonding experience for parents and their children. Designed to inspire fathers and sons, mothers and daughters alike, the 24-hour family survival courses teach survival techniques that I?ve learned over the years: how to build and light a fire, how to navigate at night, foraging for grubs and rodents, water purification, building a shelter, extreme weather survival and river crossings, and the best ways to use a knife for survival. Then we put those newfound skills to the test on a survival challenge. It?s an opportunity to bring family members together through a truly memorable and fun adventure.
- How do parents know their kids are ready to participate in something this challenging and how do you recommend parents prepare kids (mentally, mostly) for the Academy??
Our team of hand-picked instructors are not only very knowledgeable, but they are highly skilled in encouraging participants to learn, explore and bravely test their comfort zones while being sensitive to and never forcing parents or children into activities that make them uncomfortable. The goal of the course is ultimately to have fun while enjoying a great adventure together outdoors.
- How do you suggest parents discuss some of the more difficult tasks they’ll experience, like eating bugs or skinning a rabbit??
Eating bugs/insects forms part of the ?Gross Eat? challenge on the courses, and it is amazing how?people end up loving?a little bit of the weird and wonderful!
The Bear Grylls Survival Academy teaches people the skills needed to survive in hugely challenging situations. But, above all, they are great for building the sort of quiet confidence that comes from knowing you are able to look after yourself or your family in an emergency.
I think it?s important for both parent and child to take part in the course with an open mind, preparing to challenge themselves and try something new. That is how as humans and as adventurers we all grow.
- How would you encourage the parent who says, “There’s no way I can do something like that?” Or even, “There’s no way I’d allow my child to do that!”
The courses are designed for everyone to be able to do, but they are also tough for the most determined adventurer as well.??Anyone who wants to learn a bit more about themselves and what they are capable of, or who are seeking a challenging new adventure, will love it.
We offer a huge range of courses for people of varying ages and abilities in locations all across the U.K. and the world. We have children?s courses, parent-child courses, more extreme adult courses in the U.K., U.S. and Africa, as well as team-building and leadership courses. So there really is something out there for everyone.
Finding true adventure that is safe, empowering and exciting is a careful but potent combo (sic), and I am so proud of the courses our teams deliver.
- What feedback have you received from families who participate in the Academy?
Participants have the opportunity?to experience the great outdoors in a totally new and exciting way,?whether that?s on an extreme course or one of our family ones.
The beauty of the courses are that they are ultimately designed for everyone, and I think that?s one of the reasons the Survival Academy is seeing such rapid growth. The longing for adventure in people hasn?t changed; it is only that opportunities are harder to find.
The results of the Ultimate course have been incredibly positive, and the feedback from people is that it?s been a great way to encourage leaders and develop team players in an environment that is dynamic, fun and exciting. The kids who come to do the courses?always finish full of pride, smiles and often a bit of mud!
I am a strong advocate for the power of the outdoors and how it brings people together. Time and time again, we receive letters from clients thanking us for a once-in-a-lifetime weekend with the people they love most. We have had so many parents who have taken their children on the course to bond, having previously known a bit of a disconnect, and that is powerful to watch heal. When parents and kids emerge from the course having seen each other in a new light, and are closer for having experienced something so different with each other, it is very moving.
Bear?Grylls?has become known around the world as one of the most recognized faces of survival and outdoor adventure. His journey to this acclaim started in the UK, where his late father taught him to climb and sail.
Trained from a young age in martial arts, Bear went on to spend three years as a soldier in the British Special Forces, serving with 21 SAS. It was here that he perfected many of the skills that his fans all over the world enjoy watching him pit against?Mother Nature.
His Emmy-nominated TV show ?Man Vs. Wild? (aka ?Born Survivor?) became one of the most watched programs on the planet, with an estimated audience of 1.2 billion, and ran for seven high-octane seasons. His most recent show “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” features the survivalist sharing adventures with celebrities, including President Barack Obama (Alaska). He has authored 18 books, including international number-one-bestselling autobiography ?Mud, Sweat & Tears.?
Heather Mundt is contributing editor for Outdoor Families Magazine and authors her blog, Momfari. She lives in Colorado.?