Tim Emmett, Yorkshire daredevil
PUBLISHED: 23:45 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:16 20 February 2013
Jo Haywood talks to a professional extreme sportsman who wants us all to see Yorkshire as one big adventure playground.
When you interview someone over the phone they are usually sitting in a nondescript hotel room or - and this is about as exciting as it gets - at their own kitchen table with a mug of tea in one hand and a packet of Hobnobs within dunking distance. But Tim Emmett is different.
When I phone him, he sounds like he's standing in the middle of a tornado. 'Hi, sorry about the noise,' he says. 'I'm on Orkney and it's a bit blowy. But I don't care because I've just jumped off the Old Man of Hoy!'
For anyone not familiar with this particular old gentleman, the Old Man of Hoy is a vertiginous 137m high sandstone seastack on the Scottish island of Hoy, the second largest island in the Orkney group. For those of you equally unaware of Tim, he's a professional extreme sports athlete and TV presenter. He once famously challenged Jeremy Clarkson to a race up the Verdon Gorge in France on Top Gear - and won.
Which is even more impressive when you learn that Jezza was in an Audi and Tim was climbing. To say Tim likes a challenge is an understatement. Not only did he climb the Old Man of Hoy, he was the first person to successfully base jump from the top to the craggy rocks below.
'I'm always looking for the next climb, the next jump, the next challenge,' he says, with the wind still whistling loudly in the background.
He started climbing when he was 15, but didn't consider it as a potential career.While studying marine zoology at Bangor University in North Wales he got a part-time job in a climbing shop. This fed his already burgeoning addiction to extreme sports.
'I started climbing all the time,' he says. 'I got coverage in magazines, then covers, then TV, then people started giving me gear and sponsorship money. I couldn't believe people were willing to pay me for doing something I loved. Their generosity gave me free rein.'
Rock climbing is still Tim's first love, but he now also does ice climbing, base jumping, snow boarding, surfing, scuba diving, sky diving (with and without a wing suit), kickboxing, deep water solo diving and para-alpinism (climbing up a sheer cliff face and then jumping off ). But he says one of the best - and most invigorating - parts of his job is visiting schools and motivating children. 'Too many of our children are cotton wool kids,' he says.
'They're not allowed to do this or that and they're definitely not allowed to climb anything. 'We've got to give them more freedom. How can we criticise them for sitting round the house just doing nothing when we don't give them the space and confidence to test themselves?'
Tim spends a lot of time training in Yorkshire. He is a regular surfer in Scarborough and can often be seen dangling off various rocks and cliffs in Ilkley and - his favourite spot - Malham Cove. He would like to see more of us out there too, making better use of what he describes as 'this giant adventure playground on our doorstep'.
'I think people are looking for more adventure in their lives,' he says. 'Gyms are very convenient when you are living a busy modern life, but nothing beats getting out into nature. 'You don't have to throw yourself straight into base jumping, just go for a walk in the hills or explore a cave. Just get out of the house.'
So, what is the one adventurous thing we could all do this weekend? 'Bouldering,' he says. 'You only have to climb up five feet or so and you get a real buzz. And it's great for families because kids love climbing on anything that doesn't move out of their way.
'Buy a small crash mat from a climbing shop - they're dead cheap - have a picnic on it and then put it at the base of a boulder and get climbing. Try it; you'll love it.'
Tim's next project involves flying off the mountains of Europe in a wingsuit - a snazzy outfit that makes him look like one of those flying foxes David Attenborough is always chasing from tree to tree.
So, is there anything he wouldn't do? Is there a sport that's too extreme even for him? 'Cave diving,' he says, with an almost audible shudder.
'There's no way I would do cave diving. It's way too claustrophobic. And if I'm doing something dangerous, I want a really good view while I'm doing it.'