About Dean Dunbar, Blind adventurer

Extreme Dreams – the name & brand

Extreme Dreams has been a vision of mine for some time now. There are so many exciting activities going on out there that people are unaware of. Some people believe that because of their personal circumstances, that these sports are out of reach. I want to prove that a lot of the time this is not the case. If you really want to do it, often the only thing holding you back is you! 

When I first came up with the name of “Extreme Dreams”, in early 2002, most people told me that the name was rotten, and that I should look for another one.  However, since then, the name has been used for television programmes, in animated films, and for other projects such as climbing walls, etc.

The Extreme Dreams website was launched in 2002, and has steadily grown to become a recognized and respected name within the world of adventure and extreme sports.  We have built up contacts within many sports and with many athletes around the globe.

We are also very proud to say that we were the people who brought the white water sport of River Bugging to the Northern Hemisphere.

Over the years Extreme Dreams has worked with TV companies, helping to recruit participants, making contacts, and suggesting ideas.  (Some people have even pointed out that at least one of these TV companies we helped must have liked our name so much…..)  We have also helped to promote new extreme sports, and raise awareness for adventure and extreme sports events, as well as taking part.

  

About Dean (Deano) Dunbar – (the site founder) 

I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1969. For the next 9 years, my family moved around the UK, and life was pretty normal.

One morning, at the age of 9, I went to school and couldn’t read the blackboard.  Tests were carried out, and at the end of these, I was registered as “partially sighted”.  The reason for this situation was unknown, but I was advised that my sight was likely to return by the age of 20.  It didn’t.

In 1996, at the age of 27, my sight took a major downturn, and had dropped so suddenly and steeply, that I was now advised to start learning Braille and get myself a guide dog. From then on I was registered as “blind”. The prognosis was that any sight that I had at that time would be gone within a year.  My condition was diagnosed as “Rod & Cone Dystrophy”.  It is a rare condition, and not a lot is known about it.  Therefore, a clear future could not be diagnosed.  The only thing known for certain is that it will continue to get worse.  From this point on my life was set to change.  I had two choices.  I sit at home and moan a lot, or I get out there and do something.  Guess which I chose?

 

Blind and Dangerous 

In 1998 I did my first extreme activity.  It was a tandem skydive.  By the time my feet touched the ground I was an adrenaline junkie!  Since then I have been lucky enough to have a go at activities ranging from helicopter bungee jumping, wing walking, white water sledging (aka hydrospeeding), power boating, etc.

In all of these sports, the organisers or instructors have been informed of my disability, and I am lucky enough to have still been accepted to try their sports. I would like to take this opportunity to thank these open minded and innovative people. These people have risen to the challenge and adapted, where necessary, their sports to enable me to take part. There have been other sports and organisations I have approached who have turned me away as soon as I mention the word “blind”. I understand their concern, but these people have a lot to learn from those who have taken me on.

This website contains pictures of my friends and I taking part in these sports and, wherever possible, the contact names and website links to those who were willing to help me.

In November, 2002, Rhona and I moved back to Scotland.  We now live in Blairgowrie, Perthshire and take full advantage of the surrounding countryside.  Most weekends we can be found out and about, mountain biking, kayaking, hydrospeeding, etc.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Rhona, my fantastic wife, for all her support and encouragement.  Without this, I am sure that I would never have been able to accomplish half of what I have.

 

Records 

During my activities, I have been able to set some records.  They have included the following:

The first registered blind person, in the world, to:         

  • Bungee jump from a helicopter  
  • White water sledge the world’s highest commercially run waterfall   
  • Be thrown by the Dangerous Sports Club’s Human Catapult
  • Participate in the gruelling 5 day Hebridean Challenge adventure race   
  • Set a time record around the Isle of Wight in a Thundercat power boat 
  • To hydrospeed the entire length of the River Tay

The complete and up-to-date list of world firsts can be found on the Home page.

 

My Sight

Lots of people ask me how can I be registered blind and do all of these great sports. This is quite hard to explain, but I’ll give it a go. The photograph on this page also demonstrates roughly what I can see.

Normally when light enters the eye, it passes through the outer surface of the eye then the jelly part. Ultimately it reaches the Retina, which is the light-sensing structure of the eye. The Retina contains two types of cells, called Rods and Cones. Rods handle vision in low light, and Cones handle color vision and detail. The Retina has a central area, called the Macula, that contains a high concentration of Cones. This area is responsible for sharp, detailed vision.

When these cells detect light coming into the eye, they send a message back to the brain, which, in turn, translates the message into what we see.

I have a condition called “Rod and Cone Dystrophy” This means that the Rod and Cone cells have been constantly dying off since I developed the condition aged 9. Because the central part of my vision has now gone, I have to rely on my peripheral vision. Unfortunately this area is unfocussed as well as having debris floating through it.

At the age of nine I was registered as being “Partially Sighted”. At the age of 27 I was registered as “Blind”. Although I have some sight, the little I have is of very little use. Whilst stationary, I can see approximately 1.5metres, fairly clearly. As soon as I start to move, this distance diminishes. At walking pace I can make most things out up to 0.5 metre away, and any faster than walking means I am unlikely to see anything, before I hit it.

This picture gives you a rough idea of what I would see when standing still. (However I am unable to demonstrate the central blindness and debris that floats across my eyes). It is very hard to replicate what I can see, as things change with the amount of light available, etc. Click on the picture to see what it really is.

A lot of my time is spent trying to work out what is in front of me. I would see the 3 blobs, and spend the next few seconds/minutes trying to work out what they are and where they were, in relation to where I was heading. Are they moving or static? If they are moving, are they humans or animals, eg, cows, horses, etc? If they are static, are they trees, rocks, fence posts, gates, holes, etc? Are they going to be in my way, so I need to leave them room or get out of their way, or are they to the side of the path, etc.

SPONSORS

These sponsors have been a tremendous help in supplying kit and support for my challenges.