Jon, 38, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and photographer and runs his own ethical communications agency. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and has filmed in some of the remotest locations all over the world. His work focuses on raising awareness of important global and human issues, as well as helping to raise money for important causes. Jon is a mental-health and wellbeing ambassador and is always challenging his own abilities with extreme adventures around the world. A self-proclaimed ‘Regular Joe’, Jon wants to inspire others to believe, that with the right mindset and self-belief, anything is possible.
Why do you want to row an ocean?
For the last decade I’ve been working on adventurous projects. I’ve seen the enormous impact that they can have in terms of raising awareness of serious global issues and also raising large sums of money for charities and legacy projects. I’ve also seen how impactful these experiences are for the people involved.
Mental health in any way, shape or form is something so close to my heart and something that I’m really passionate about, and being a part of a project that can help improve the lives of others was enough to make me want to sign up immediately. I’ve attended lots and lots of talks from adventurers and ambassadors and can see how their stories can inspire others and influence change.
In the past I’ve always been telling other people’s stories and helping their campaigns to create maximum impact, but now I want to help create an impact from the inside. I’m a global advocate and I’m passionate about making a difference in the world – I want to be in a position where I can show other people how amazing this planet is and how incredible people are; and I want to be a part of something that creates real positive change. I want to be a part of an amazing team and to push myself to do something truly incredible. I want to know that I’ve pushed myself further than I ever thought possible, whilst being part of something so much bigger than myself.
Have you taken part in a big adventure before?
I’ve taken part in quite a lot of challenges. As a filmmaker who specialises in adventure and expeditions, I’ve had to jump into a huge amount of new challenges with little-or-no experience or training.
My first challenge was a three week hike in the Norwegian mountains followed by a ten day crossing of the North Sea back to the UK sailing a tall-ship,with a group of disadvantaged young people. I then walked across the Sinai Desert in the height of summer (54ºC heat), I walked across the central region of Iceland, learned to fly paramotors and flew up the Rift Valley in Kenya with a group of wounded ex-serviceman.
I’ve also attempted a challenge on Everest in 2015 where I was caught in the Nepal earthquake whilst at 6000m. I’ve co-led an expedition from Juba (South Sudan) to Lake Victoria (Uganda) only twelve months after South Sudanese independence. I worked on an orphanage construction project in Uganda with a team of young people from the most deprived area of the UK. I spent a month hiking in the remote regions of Nepal with The Gurkha Welfare Trust, a month traveling around central India with the Discovery Channel, I climbed the highest mountain in Europe (Mount Elbrus, Russia) and almost perished in a nasty blizzard, I travelled across China and Tibet on the world’s highest train line and most recently spent a month in Nepal with Doug Scott, hiking into the most remote regions of the Himalaya to create a film project about his charity, Community Action Nepal.
Each of these projects took me to some quite serious extremes – heights, temperatures, tiredness, hunger, sleeplessness, stress, fear and danger. I’m not from a typical adventure background (I’m a working-class boy from the midlands who went to art school) so these have all been an enormous challenge. In a few of these challenges, we’ve been held at gunpoint, come face to face with terrorist groups, traveled through war-torn regions and been up-close-and-personal with the biggest earthquake to ever hit the highest mountain on the planet.
I also do ridiculous things like ride a penny farthing around London dressed as a Victorian to raise money for charity.
What are you most looking forward to about rowing?
I’m looking forward to the vastness of it. Adventure is always a humbling experience for me; I think we sometimes get caught up in the craziness of our own lives that we forget just how small we are, and how huge this planet really is. I’m looking forward to being part of a crew – not just the four people on the boat, but part of the whole collection of people who are coming together to achieve something so important. I love to push myself, to see what I can achieve – and this is pretty much the biggest thing I could ever think of achieving. Mostly, I’m looking forward to knowing that we’ve contributed to mental health research and helped others during our endeavours.
What do you think the biggest challenges will be?
I think it’ll be a battle between physical and mental exhaustion. Rowing for twelve hours a day, every day, for about a hundred days. Living in cramped conditions, trying to stay healthy, dealing with the salt burns and blisters, coping with eight metre waves smashing the boat, being eaten by sharks, kidnapped by pirates – and then trying to use the toilet-bucket in a storm. This is probably the hardest part.
What 3 strengths do you think you will bring to the crew?
My unwaveringly terrible sense of humour; which is good for morale. Honestly, it is. My unhindered levels of banter. And my absolute commitment and determination to succeed. I’m a big softie, but when times are tough, I can step it up and drag people home, kicking and screaming if needs be.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Anyone and everyone who suffers against the odds with physical or mental health issues, and still gets up, shows up and does their thing every morning. Some people row their own personal oceans every day. Also, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 🙂
What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?
Ignore the bullies, hold your head up and be proud. Also, buy shares in Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. Although, if I could tell my ten year old self what I’m up to now, he wouldn’t believe anything I said.
Aside from friends and family, what do you think you will miss most while you’re at sea?
Land. Good coffee. Running in Richmond Park. And sleep.
If you could only listen to one album for the whole crossing, what would it be?
Foo Fighters – Skin & Bone. That album has got me through so many times in my life!! If we could row to shore whilst playing Everlong, I think my life would be complete.
What would you sing at a karaoke night?
Anything by The Beatles.
What will you bring as your luxury item?
My double bed. Is that okay? Probably something coffee related…
What is the most annoying habit other people have?
My only real frustration with other people is when they don’t believe in themselves enough. Wasted potential should be a crime. Also, people who walk really slowly in London.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Closely followed by Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Tell us an interesting thing about you people should know…
I can juggle a crystal ball like David Bowie in Labyrinth and I ride a penny farthing.