The Eye-xtreme Sports Addict
Interviewed by Abirami Durai, Faces Magazine, (Malaysia) – October, 2012.
How one man’s blindness did nothing to hinder his adventurous spirit!
Dean Dunbar is not the sort of man to settle for an ordinary life. Deano as he is popularly known, began losing his sight at the age of 9, through a rare condition called Rod & Cone Dystrophy. By the age of 27, the Scotsman was legally blind. In his own words, he says, “I had two choices. I sit at home and moan a lot, or I get out there and do something. Guess which I chose?” Since 1998, when he did his first tandem skydive, Deano has been an active, fervent extreme sports junkie, participating in all sorts of adventures around the world. In this exclusive interview, Deano talks about milestones set during his extreme sports endeavours and what else he’s got planned on the extreme roster.
What has been the highlight of your many years as an extreme sports buff?
I have participated in almost 60 adventure and extreme sports challenges over the years, so picking just one highlight is almost impossible. I have set several world firsts, including being the first person to abseil the UK’s highest waterfall and my wife, Rhona and I, were the first people to hydrospeed the entire length of Scotland’s longest river, the River Tay. I’ve also set “blind firsts” including power boating, helicopter bungee jumping, human catapult, etc. However, my most recent high was that on the 4th of August this year I became the first person in the world to swim the full freezing cold length of the UK’s highest lake Loch Etchachan in Scotland.
Do you normally participate in extreme sports by yourself or with a companion?
I always do my activities with at least one other person. A lot of the time, my companion/guide has been my wife. Although some of the more adventurous or dangerous activities have required that I need a professional in that discipline to join me, e.g. aquaseiling the UK’s highest waterfall needed 2 professional canyoneers to accompany me, and for swimming the mighty Corryvreckan Gulf I needed a full water-borne support team to ensure I was out of the water before the whirlpool kicked off.
What are the challenges you face as a blind extreme sports enthusiast?
Depending on the activity I am taking on, the challenges will vary. The most common one is direction. I have recently been doing a lot of open water swimming. Without Rhona being alongside in a boat, I could swim in circles for hours without getting anywhere. A couple of years ago I was mountain biking with Rhona. I had been following her along a very straight path for a couple of miles, when we stopped for a break. I asked Rhona if I could lead the next short bit, as it had been so straight I would be fine. Within 20 metres of leading the way, the path took a sharp turn left. I didn’t see this, and rode straight off the path, crashing into a ditch and breaking my nose. Fortunately Rhona is very good with her first aid kit!
How do you overcome these challenges?
Very hard concentration on what I am doing. I can be so focussed trying to find my path when mountain biking, that I get headaches from the stress. But hey, I’d rather have the headaches than not get outdoors!
Where’s the furthest you’ve traveled for an extreme sports challenge?
I am very lucky to have travelled around the world in search of an adrenaline rush. Apart from what I have done in Europe, I have white water rafted in Nepal and Thailand, abseiled waterfalls in Ecuador, sandboarded in Australia, and done a myriad of activities in New Zealand. I have been very lucky, and hope this luck will continue.
What are some of the extreme sports that are still on your wish list?
The sport at the top of my “Wish List” is a tandem BASE jump. For years this wasn’t possible, but now there is a company in America who have offered me a chance to do this from a bridge for free. Now I just have to convince my wife, and then find the money to get out there!