He wades into a rushing river and emerges with a live salmon in his grasp. As he crouches by the bank and takes his first bite, Bear discusses his love of fresh sushi. See, this Bear is no animal. He's the daring host of the Discovery Channel's hit show Man vs. Wild.
Soon after Edward Grylls was born in 1974, his family nicknamed him Teddy, which he says eventually evolved into Bear. This adventurous Brit says he was always playing outside as a boy, climbing things and getting caked in mud.
As a young adult, Bear honed his survival skills as a member of the British Special Forces. Then, at age 23, he became the youngest Brit to climb to the summit of Mount Everest and survive.
Bear says no adventure is too extreme, as evidenced by his experiences on Man vs. Wild. In each episode, he's dropped into some of the world's most unforgiving regions with little more than a canteen of water, the clothes on his back and a cameraman. His goal? Fight his way back to civilization.
Quick thinking and years of training have helped him escape quicksand in Utah's Moab Desert, survive a blizzard in the French Alps and scare off a man-eating tiger shark in the South Pacific.
Despite some nail-biting moments, Bear says he keeps coming back for more because adventure is ingrained in him.
"It's the one thing in my life I've always been good at," he says. "It's where I feel I come alive and I thrive."
Bear lives by the motto "Do whatever you need to do to stay alive." To stave off hunger and thirst during his travels, Bear will even sink his teeth into a half-eaten zebra carcass, termites and raw eggs, straight from the nest. In one memorable Man vs. Wild episode, Bear even drank his own urine to quench his thirst. "I have spent a lot of this series eating terrible, terrible things," he says. "But so much of survival is about doing what you need to do. I think, certainly foodwise, I often leave my prejudices behind."
There is one place this 35-year-old father of two says he'll never visit again—Mount Everest. Bear says he'd dreamed of climbing the world's tallest mountain since he was 8 years old, but that adventure was nearly his last.
During Bear's expedition, four fellow climbers died on the mountain. "It shook a lot of my confidence," he says. "I'd always been such a fearless climber. … I knew the statistics of one in six people don't come back from the summit, but I think when you see it close up, and you see stuff go wrong, in many ways, I came back less confident than I think I went."
Bear almost didn't make it back at all. At an altitude of 19,000 feet, he fell 200 feet into an icy crevasse. Luckily, he says his best friend, Mick, pulled him to safety. "I'm definitely not brave enough to go back there again," he says. "I was lucky—lucky to get away from that mountain. I'm a dad now. [It's] no good being a dead hero for two little boys."
While on Mount Everest, Bear says he learned that it's okay to need people sometimes. "Beforehand, I always want[ed] to be strong and independent. Life's not like that. Whether it's my job on Man vs. Wild or doing talks or climbing mountains or just being a husband…"
"It's about cooperation," Oprah says.
Do you have a great survival story? Leave a comment below.
Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, December 13, 2013