If you’re a fan of Bear Grylls’ TV shows, you’re probably already familiar with our lead instructor, Scott Heffield. He’s never far from Bear’s side when it comes to his on-screen and off screen adventures.
Scott is part of Bear’s safety team and is tasked with making sure everyone stays safe during the filming process, whether that be in the mountains, desert, jungle or an arctic region. He assists Bear to scout and recce new locations, both for TV shoots and for the Academy’s courses and is part of the team that tests the journeys and the extreme activities seen on Bear’s shows. On filming days, Scott looks after the crew and keeps them safe while filming over difficult terrain and in some cases dangerous and extreme locations. After all, the film crew do almost everything Bear does! It’s safe to say, when it comes to working safely in extreme environments, Scott really knows his stuff!
Scott’s been with Bear Grylls Survival Academy since day one and, as our lead instructor, is responsible for designing the courses, training our other instructors and making sure everyone who attends an experience has an amazing time. He has worked at every location and on every course offered by the Academy and continues to assist with the recce and scouting out of new locations, corporate events and new BGSA projects.
A former Royal Marine Commando, Scott is tough as nails! A mountaineer, diver, climber, canoeist, paraglider pilot and all round adventurer, he’s run expeditions all over the world and in some of the most hostile environments on the planet. From the jungles of Sumatra to the icy wastes of Antarctica, he has done it all. He’s a true survival expert!
We asked Scott all about his past experience and just what it is about Bear Grylls Survival Academy that he loves so much.
I first met Bear on the set of Born Survivor about 10 years ago. He’s a great guy: fit, strong, knowledgeable and passionate about exploring and survival – and he’s done so much to bring it to the masses. I’ve worked with Bear ever since then, visiting some amazing countries and working in some really challenging and extreme environments. When he launched the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, he asked me to be involved and I jumped at the chance. His brief was simple: get children and families off the sofa, away from iPhones and computer games and back outdoors to have some adventures.
The Academy teaches people survival skills, but in Bear Grylls’ style, which means it’s fast, dynamic and fun. We teach skills and techniques that have been passed down for thousands of years, but that have gradually being forgotten. That’s a great thing to do, but what I really love about the Academy is the way it brings people together. It’s the same with the Armed Forces – you need your comrades to help you through tough times and, for a lot of people, being lost on a moor in the dark with no food or shelter is about as tough as it gets! By pulling together, the groups on our courses always find humour and a sense of bonding and team work with other members on the course.
As lead instructor, it’s my job to make sure the courses people book onto deliver everything we promise they will – and more! I’m involved at every step, from deciding on the locations and designing the courses, to writing the risk assessments and training all our instructors to make sure they’re at the highest possible standard. The locations are amazing and the course content is exciting, but it’s our instructors that really make it. These guys and girls have had their fair share of adventures, so are experienced, knowledgeable and qualified, and are always great characters to be around. Our instructors ethos is simple; determination, humility, humour, courage and kindness.
Over my 32-year career, I’ve been to some pretty amazing places. I’ve climbed and worked in Russia, the USA, Europe, China, South America, Indonesia, Africa, Norway, Nepal, Tibet and Canada, and I also spent a year working and living in Antarctica.
I’ve been all over the world, but the places that really stand out are the Himalayas, which are just breath-taking, rugged and dangerous, and the Nevada desert, which is so incredibly hostile it’s a wonder anything survives. But the pinnacle for me was my year spent in Antarctica. I dived, climbed and went on dozens of expeditions in both Antarctica and South Georgia. One expedition followed part of the route made by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his epic 1914 expedition. It’s just amazing to think that he and his men survived in that environment for three years with such limited and old-fashioned equipment. He’s a real hero of mine.
For me, it’s the part it plays in getting people to have an adventure. Those are the memories that last a lifetime – no-one looks back and fondly recalls weekends spent in front of the TV, but the time you were up to see the sunrise over a mountain range will stick with you forever.
I’m really passionate about getting families to experience things together as a unit, which is why I’m so pleased to be able to offer our 24-hour family courses. Modern life has its challenges, but I’m a firm believer that getting outdoors solves a lot of problems. You take kids out into the woods, take their phones off them and they’re lost – for about 10 minutes. Then you give them a bug, ask them to eat it and suddenly they’re engaged; they get it. Learning to build a fire, build a shelter, traverse a gorge and so on – it beats playing a computer game any day of the week.
Think you could give Scott a run for his money on one of our courses?
We have a few spaces left on our 24Hr Adult Course on 22 September if you're up to the challenge!