Documentary film producer, author, environmental advocate and musician Les Stroud, created and stars in the Survivorman television series, which is seen in more than 120 countries. "An evening with Les Stroud," featuring his songs and stories, takes place at the Mod Club in Toronto on Nov. 30.
Did you play sports as a kid?
Well, I still play sports. I try to keep sports in my life. I was not an athlete at all. I was not a jock, but I did love sports. The main thing for me as a kid was hockey. As I got older, I got pretty heavy into tennis, but nowadays the two sports that occupy my life in a very big way are adventure racing and paintball.
What is adventure racing?
Adventure racing [involves] teams of four, often, or solos or trios. It might be a one-day race or a 10-day race, or anything in between. Very hardcore. You're given a set of points you have to navigate to using your compasses, often over very rough terrain. There is paddling, there's climbing, there is bush hiking. Not swimming, usually. It is just go, go, go. It's very intense.
As a boy, were you left to choose a sport or was one chosen for you?
My Dad watched [hockey] games on TV and I watched them with him. Everyone I knew, all the peers, certainly, played hockey. In those days it was not a parental thing. I didn't play anything else. Well, fishing, if you want to call angling a sport. It was basically fishing and hockey. When you were raised in Mimico, Ont., in the '70s, there wasn't much else going on.
I always liked sports very much and I love them more now. I love the team concept. I'm a musician, so I love being in a band. I love team sports; anything where you have a group of people banding together. Adventure racing is definitely like that. Paintball is like that.
When you play sports, does being good matter to you?
It matters only that you get out and do it, but yes, it does matter to me to get good. I would do things to help me to get better. I'm still playing old-timers hockey. I still want to improve. I want to be one of the better players on the ice. I'm a strong paintball player and I want to know that I'm a strong paintball player.
Do you have kids? Are they involved in sport?
Absolutely. My son is very much like me. He's involved in hockey and paintball and soon he will be playing speedball, which is a form of paintball not out in the bush. It's in an arena setting, much more fast-paced. He plays soccer in the summer. And my daughter is very much an athlete. She plays a ton of sports. Raylan, she ski races, she runs with the school running team, lifeguards, swims, she plays soccer very well.
How did they arrive at those sports; parental example, guided or pushed?
I would say guided. Never pushed. Logan, for example, hedged on going to play rep hockey. I certainly guided him, but I never pushed; said "Ya gotta do it. Ya gotta do it!" They have never been pushed, just guided in the right direction.
What if they chose not to do sports, but to play chess, paint or collect stamps? Would that be a problem for you?
It wouldn't be a problem for me at all, as long as they maintained a fitness level. If they want to be a mathematician and live a different lifestyle than I do that is totally fine with me, but I would definitely guide them; say, "Don't lose your fitness level. Don't lose your body."
Is the old axiom about sports helping to instill life skills still apt?
Absolutely. I had a big argument with some people over the sport of paintball. They see the camouflage gear, they see the paintball markers which look a lot like guns and they think it is this other thing, whereas in reality it requires sportsmanship, strategy, team-building, leadership, athleticism. Sports definitely build life skills. I think sometimes they can be a little skewed and a little off. People are so into sports and obsessive about it – "I've got make the NHL!" – then the pendulum swings a little bit too far and the life skills become a bit skewed.
Are darts and poker sports? They are covered on sports networks
No. And neither is golf.
Oh. I disagree about golf! I play golf.
Most people do, that's why I love to say it. There are recreational activities. Golf is an elite recreational activity. It's great and it's nice to get out. But, for me, sports is something that requires a particular athleticism. Golf requires co-ordination and a skill set derived from that co-ordination, but athleticism, no. You can be incredibly out of shape and play golf. Poker, darts those are recreational activities.
And by the way, I do play golf.