Yes, I have a wild beard. It’s the first thing most people ask me about so I figure I’ll start by telling you the story behind it. When I swam the length of Britain back in 2013 I kept getting stung in the face by jellyfish and after about a week I realised that in the places where I had stubble I wasn’t getting stung as much, so I thought if I grew a beard on the swim it would stop the jellyfish tentacles from touching my face, and it worked.
After that? I just maybe got a bit lazy. I also think that it gives me superpowers, but the main reason I have it? My wife likes it, she’s never seen me without it and I’m worried if I shave it she’ll divorce me!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Long before I was growing beards for jellyfish protection, I had my own photography business and had never so much as entered a 5k. If you’re familiar with those wobbly lines that appear when characters have flashbacks on cheap sitcoms, now would be a good time to picture some!
My 'holy crap' moment
Growing up, I was a keen photographer. I lived photography, dreamt it, and I wanted to be this amazing National Geographic photographer or sports photographer. I moved to London and I could taste the money.
Photography is an interesting industry. It can be super creative or totally uncreative, within the same field. It’s so diverse; you could photograph funerals, for example, or you can photograph someone climbing a wall, it's so varied. I just chose the money stuff.
Then, I hit 30 and had this ‘holy crap’ moment. I’m 30, I thought, why am I not travelling the world? My girlfriend had dumped me too, so all in all life was a bit shit. The first step was to get out of photography because all I was doing was school portraits. That was my bread and butter and when I say bread and butter, it was about 95% of the photography I was doing. My hard drive was just kids against a white background. I needed out.
I sold my share in the company to my business partner, James, for a quid. It was important to make this grand gesture. Moving forward in my life, I’d no longer make big decisions based on financial outcome. Until that point in my life, I hadn’t considered career longevity or creativity. The only driving factor for making decisions had been whether I would end up richer or not. So when I sold the business for a pound that was me putting my foot down and saying I’m not doing stuff for money anymore. That was the big watershed moment in my life. So much so that I refer to everything up to that point as ‘My Old Life’ and everything since as...
My new life
Don’t get me wrong, I loved photography, I breathed it, it was in my soul, but right now this world of adventure I’m in; the world of ultra endurance sport - it's amazing. It does, however, rely on my body performing at its peak and I’m 40 next year. I’m feeling fitter than I’ve ever been and enjoying having a very physical job, but I know that at some point I won’t be able to do the big stuff. When that happens I might get back into photography, but taking pictures of adventures instead of school kids.