Ted Baird’s deep love of the wilderness started from a young age, having spent much of his time at his family’s cabin in the bush. Over the years, he’s honed his skills in fishing, hunting, trapping, and survival. But it wasn’t until undertaking his first whitewater canoe expedition as a teenager that he was awed by a sense of freedom and adventure unlike any other he had experienced. Alongside his brother Jim, Ted has logged thousands of miles canoeing some of the most challenging and remote waterways in the world, including a 400-mile expedition across Canada’s Quebec and Labrador via four wild and untamed rivers. These expeditions inspired him to become an adventure photographer and videographer, and a damn good survivalist.
Interview: Ben Osborne
Welcome to the show. What will you be speaking about at Multiplicity?
My talk will be primarily about my experience on the show ALONE. Of course, I did it with my brother, so that was a big part of it. So I will touch on that, our relationship, the benefits and the challenges of that, and a bit of the mental side of where I’m coming from with that experience. I’ll give a synopsis of what the show is, what the rules are, what we had to do and then I’ll head into what the driving factor was for me in participating. I’ve got a a lot of survival skills, but primarily my skill set has come from being an adventurer and a wilderness expeditionist. A lot of our skillset comes from being prepared because we put ourselves in dangerous, remote situations. Really, ALONE was kind of the next adventure for me. I know your audience has lots of adventure athletes—that’s my background as well. I’m not usually out doing the “survival” thing all the time—usually I do adventures. So I will talk about my experience using those skills and how that segway played over. Ill also get into the actual experience of being on the ALONE show, how we overcame challenges, and more.
Where did your thirst for adventure start?
We grew up with parents who had a cottage up in the crown land area of Southern Ontario. We grew up free, exploring that area. We learned to love the outdoors and hard work, and everything that came with being in the wild. We developed our skills practicing with simple things like the ability to swing an axe, saw wood—the basics we learned when we were really young and we developed a passion for it. We would play games where we pretended to live off the land; we built a tree for in the woods and would live in there for a couple weeks, living off the land and eating fish, coming and going as we pleased. When we got a bit older, we started exploring a bit further, developing fishing and hunting skills, trapping skills, and getting more interested in that. We were always athletic, and our first big trip we went and paddled Wild River in the Northwest Territory. I had never paddled a rapid before and I thought, “This is freakin’ awesome.” Looking back, it seems like this amazing trip, but where we have come from there to now is amazing.
“We cut across a stretch of 200-foot cliffs that towered straight down into the ocean, hit some bad weather and were pushing for time. We made the choice to go for it—and it was a bad choice.”
Your skills gained from recreating as a kid prepared you for these epic adventures. Name a time when you thought to yourself, “Holy crap, I’m close to death.”
Oh yeah—there have been a few. There is one in particular I can remember: It was just my brother and I and we were paddling off Victoria island in the Northwest Territories. We were 350 miles above the Arctic circle. We paddled these wild, awesome rivers—and we had decided to paddle an ocean section back to town. We cut across a stretch of 200-foot cliffs that towered straight down into the ocean, hit some bad weather and were pushing for time. We made the choice to go for it—and it was a bad choice. We were in the middle of freakin’ nowhere. We were trying to make this cove 3 kilometres away and we realized we couldn’t make it. The surf was threatening to dump our canoe. We had to make an emergency takeout on the side of the cliffs and we managed to pull out, but we ripped the skin and broke the ribs of the boat. Pinned down to the cliff with our boat, we had to call our emergency contact with our SAT phone. We got a hold of the RCMP, but they basically told us nobody was coming to rescue us due to the severity of the storm. We had to pump our water through a puddle of goose poop. The water is so cold, we weren’t gonna last long if we tried to swim. We made the wrong decision there. We got lucky and the weather eventually broke, and we b-lined it—we paddled 103 kilometres in 36 hours back to safety.
Tell us about going on these trips with your brother
I would never trade my brother for anybody else. We have so much experience together, we are so close. We are an awesome team. He is a hardcore guy and has done some unbelievable things beyond what I have accomplished. He walked across the northern tip of the Ungava Peninsula with his dog—he was the first to ever do that by himself. There’s nobody else I would go out with. Even though we argue and we fight, because were brothers, we get over that and we don’t bottle that up. If you’re close friends, you might feel like “Oh, I can’t say this because it’s rude”. We get over things and work together—so I wouldn’t choose anyone else.
“All our gear is in a boat, if we hit a boulder, we could be totally screwed. On the show, it’s pure survival. We picked 10 items from a list—and you can’t choose a machine gun.”
What were the differences between the show ALONE, and your own adventures?
Well, on our own adventures, we bring food with us. One trip we did across Quebec and Labrador, in order to not have a food drop, we had to get about a third of our food from fishing, hunting, stuff like that. But, we also had modern gear. We had lures, fishing rods, and a shotgun. Those trips can be more dangerous in a lot of ways (than the show)—there’s not this huge survival team of experts like on the show to fly in on a helicopter and get you if you need. When we are out on our own adventures, we are a lot further from help. For example—all our gear is in a boat, if we hit a boulder, we could be totally screwed. On the show, it’s pure survival. We picked 10 items from a list—and you can’t choose a machine gun. You don’t get any food. I had been hungry—but I didn’t know how that would play out. We also had to film the entire thing ourselves. So, on top of an incredibly challenging task, we had more than a full time job of filming ourselves. It was hard. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
“We pulled off some amazing things, but they didn’t lead to putting food on the table. We definitely hit a low point when we realized unless some miracle happens, our time was limited.”
Describe your lowest point on the show.
The lowest point for me was when we started to think maybe we didn’t have what it took to pull it off. We knew it would be hard, but we still hoped that some things would lead to success. We pulled off some amazing things, but they didn’t lead to putting food on the table. We definitely hit a low point when we realized unless some miracle happens, our time was limited (on the show). We only had the energy to do the bare essentials, and the way it was going, we didn’t have enough sustenance to live long term. Some of the things that might have put us over the hump had failed, and it was kind of a waiting game at that point. That was pretty demoralizing. In a way, while it might have been enough to win the show, I still felt like I failed because you know if nobody came, you would die. We won, but did we fail? So, that was kind of it. We won, but did we fail? We failed to know that we could have lived there for long term. They put you there at a difficult time of year, but there were a few things that could have set us up well that failed. So, that was probably the lowest point for me.
What’s next? Any big plans?
My brother and I have been doing adventures and self documenting them for a while now. We have been pushing for a TV series and we are still chomping at the bit for that. We are hoping our TV experience was a segway into that.
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Imagine sitting around a campfire telling stories, then take that experience and multiply it. That’s MULTIPLICITY at the 2018 Ski and Snowboard Festival. The annual event, presented by Mountain Life Media, captures human beings’ rich tradition of storytelling, then elevates it, adding in visual elements of photography, slideshows and video. The result is best compared to a TEDTalk® on adrenalin, with stories brought to you by explorers, athletes, outdoor thought-leaders, and passionate personalities from the mountain world.
Hosted by Mountain Life editor and emcee extraordinaire Feet Banks, MULTIPLICITY is a must-see celebration of true-mountain and adventure culture, and one hell of a good ride. Plus, the event is a special flagship fundraiser for the Spearhead Huts Project.
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