Jamie Sparks is the world’s youngest double ocean rower, a 6x world record holder and anthropologist.
Jamie set out to row 2,800 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in December 2013. The expedition raised over £315,000 for charity and won the team JUSTGIVING’S 2014 Endurance Fundraiser of the year award.
Just 3 months later Jamie organised and captained a four-man expedition to row the infamous and isolated Indian Ocean, a huge distance of 3,500 miles starting from the desolate West Australian town of Exmouth, 1000 miles north of Perth.
Jamie is keen to tie in the adventure world with anthropology and is currently planning a trek of the world’s 3rd longest river – The Yangtze. With wild and isolated populations, indigenous wild life and 4000 miles of trekking and pack rafting, this expedition has it all.
Having travelled extensively, spending time in Africa, Asia and Australia, Jamie’s love of the wild no doubt stemmed from his Grandfather who worked as a doctor in various countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, the Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He was also the private physician to the dictator and General Idi Amin.
Jamie has a very keen interest in people and helping those less fortunate. In 2010 he conducted charity work in the rural town of Bo, Sierra Leone, where he worked with young street children many of whom were orphans.
Jamie currently lives in London and Bristol where he continues his studies at Bristol University. He is a keen motorcyclist and rides a 1200 BMW BIG boy toy.
In this episode, Jamie talks to me about his experience of being the youngest double-ocean rower to row the Atlantic with his friend Luke Birch in just 54 days, raising over £300k for charity, and his latest endeavours including his appearance in SAS Hell Week’
What this episode has in store for you
‘I’ve never wanted to let fear get the best of me and a lot of people think that because I have done some scary things that I’m fearless – no way. I am just as scared as everyone else, but I would never like the idea of fear taking control of my life and making me not do these things. You just get so much more out of pushing yourself – there is definitely something to be said for doing something active’
‘Since school, I have always been much sportier than I was academic, and as a result have always loved human endeavour – my heroes were people in the expedition world, doing challenging things in dangerous places. I was keen to stand out in a similar way – I didn’t just want to be a ‘normal’ person, and before I was 20, I felt life was very normal – so I remember googling ‘toughest challenges on the planet’ and Ocean Rowing came up. I thought wow, if I can somehow attempt, let alone achieve that then surely I can do anything? So I started planning…and I very quickly realised that it’s a long process to get to the start line – it’s a lot more than thinking ‘That would be awesome’.
‘It was a long year just getting prepped for the start line – this was an environment we were going into where we couldn’t make any stupid mistakes (like we had been doing as 20-year-olds at Uni). In this world, a stupid mistake could mean you die, and people have.’
‘Once we had persuaded ourselves and our families that we were serious about Ocean Rowing, they got on board and supported us and we ended up raising £315k for Breast Cancer Care.’
‘Before the Ocean Row, we had to prepare our bodies – we each gained about 2 stone (12 Kilos) and did a lot of weight training to make sure our legs and bodies were strong, and this was all to prepare the body for the physical stress it goes through for rowing for 12 hours a day. We lost a huge amount of weight during the row.
When we were on the water, we would use our satellite phone in between our two hours rowing stints to tell everyone on social media all of the turmoil, the pain, the blisters, and how starved of mental stimulus – it sort of enabled people to live through it with us.
When you’re out there, there is blue sky, blue sea and you are totally alone with your thoughts – there is nothing to stimulate you so in many ways it was a tougher challenge mentally than it was physically.’