Will survivalist Ed Stafford be the First Man Out in his new series?

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Ed Stafford (right)
Ed Stafford (right)

Britain's favourite survival expert returning with new Discovery show

By David Light

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Published: Tue 18 Aug 2020, 4:08 PM

Last updated: Thu 20 Aug 2020, 11:53 AM

EXPLORER ED STAFFORD was the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River and in First Man Out season one took on the world's best adventurers, survivalists and bushcraft experts in a race to escape sticky situations. In series two, which airs on Discovery Channel (OSN channel 500) from Wednesday August 19, Stafford heads to the wilds of China for the entire season to face off the planet's top survival experts in a real- life race to get out of the country's most hostile environments and reach a pre-determined extraction point. From the huge cliffs and bamboo forests of Bashan to the mountains and waterfalls of Yunnan Province, he may be able to survive almost anywhere or anything, but so can these extraordinary people. With speed as important as survival, who will be the first to escape these lethal landscapes in a country with some of the world's most extreme climates? We spoke to Stafford to find out more.

Your average person is marooned in the middle of nowhere, what is the first thing they should do to survive?
I think it's all about composure, it's all about mindset. The worst thing to do is panic and start running around like a headless chicken and making mistakes. Take your pack off if you are wearing a rucksack and just sit down and breathe, and then it is 80 per cent mindset and 20 per cent actual knowledge about survival techniques. You've got far more time than you think, so composure is everything for me. And the way I achieve that nowadays is actually meditation. I meditate in the morning for five to ten minutes and do the same in the evening. I find it's worth it massively because then you are so much more productive for the time in between.

Given the UAE is home to abundant deserts, would you say they are the harshest environments in which to survive?
It's one of the ones I've got least experience in to be honest. So I would definitely say it's one of the hardest. You end up just going to the edge of the desert in order to survive. Or if you've got knowledge of an oasis - the nomadic guys managed to survive in the desert hopping between little pockets of habitable land. It's about being strategic about it, but my advice would be get to the edge.

How do you feel First Man Out season one went?
It was a brand-new concept really. I'd always done stuff on my own before. And when it was pitched to me that we want to competition, I kind of thought it was a bit of a stunt at first and that I didn't want to be involved. I think I was quite proud of the kind of authentic purist survival shows that we've made on my own and I was a little bit scared of introducing almost a more entertainment element. The way I was convinced to do it was I was told it was about becoming the best version of yourself and pitching yourself against people who are going to challenge you in different ways in order to draw different things out of you. Since the beginning of the first race, I realised I'm still extraordinarily competitive and I didn't want to lose at all.
What made you choose China this time?
I've never been there before. The difficulty in getting permits to film in China always proved too much. Suddenly we were working out of Singapore and the head of the company is a Chinese Singaporean. He got it sorted easily. The broadness of the different environments there is just second to none: bamboo forests and rivers and mountains and high altitude marshes and deserts, I mean it's nuts. It was a privilege to work out there and we managed to finish it just before the coronavirus stuff kicked off.

It's difficult to name names, but is there any one opponent that sticks out in your mind that was particularly tricky?
The ones that are hardest are the ones that are the real deal in terms of that's how they live their lives like Josh James. He grew up in the mountains in New Zealand, so his thighs are like logs. He's always out killing goats and deer and so he's - in terms of physicality and dealing with mountainous very rainy terrain - it is like his backyard. And again, Will Lord: the depth of knowledge in flint knapping, tool making, and bamboo making stuff is stuff that I could never dream of attaining but it drags the standard of the series up.

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