Adventurer Dwayne Fields is no stranger to pushing his limits in extreme environments. His journey began in turbulent inner London, but Fields has soared to some of the world’s highest peaks through sheer hard work, grit and determination.
In his newest adventure series titled “7 Toughest days“, set to premier on 19 March on National Geographic, Fields tackles some of the world’s most challenging locations, including Gabon, Oman, and Kyrgyzstan.
With just seven days to guide himself and his camera operator to safety, he must overcome epic physical and psychological challenges. I had the opportunity to speak to the inspiring adventurer about his humble beginnings and the challenges ahead.
In South Africa, we believe that children will often take on the meanings of their names. I don’t know if it’s any different growing up in Jamaica, but your name is Dwayne Fields. You seem to have been destined for the great outdoors.
[Laughs] I was born in a very rural part of Jamaica, so around my house were woodlands and trees. I never thought my name made or impacted me, but now that you brought it up, who knows? I know my early years played a part in what I wanted to do, and I think I was destined to do what I do.
You moved from Jamaica to London at a young age. Which part of London did you grow up in?
So I grew up in North London in a place called Hackney. Most people will know Hackney because of the 2012 Olympics. I know Hackney because, at one stage, it was one of the most violent parts of London. In areas of high deprivation, there was a lot of crime and street violence in their earlier days. It’s a world away from where I grew up in Jamaica.
Can you describe how it was different?
Where I was born in Jamaica, it was a real community sense. The houses weren’t close together. Most places didn’t even have electricity, running water or gas. We still used wood fires and charcoal to cook our food. So it’s an entirely different world, even though they are worlds that moulded me.
During his developmental years, he was wrapped up in the inner London street gang culture. However, following a shooting incident, he resolved to transform his life and flee into the wilderness. He embarked on a series of challenges, beginning with a 400-mile trek to the magnetic North Pole. Dwayne’s accomplishment is noteworthy as he is only the second Black man, after Matthew Henson in 1909, to have reached the Pole. He has challenged the common notion of what a young Black Londoner can achieve and is dedicated to motivating others to pursue similar paths.
The city can often feel isolating, particularly for people like us who came from pastoral regions. Adapting to more chaotic environments can take time. But I think you have a better grasp on that than I do because, from London, you went where few humans ever will. The North Pole. Why?
It made perfect sense to do something as abstract and out there as possible. When I found myself with a gun pointed at my face, I realised I had been pretending to be someone for so long. I needed to go back to who I was. The best way to do that was to throw myself back into the deep end, returning to nature and the outdoors. In doing that, I came across some people planning an expedition to the North Pole and wrote them a passionate letter to join them. This trip would be a challenge of resilience and would show me what I was made of.
How did you mentally prepare yourself to take this significant step and venture into the cold unknown?
My preparation involved dragging a lot of tyres around Hackney. I was laughed at while doing that. I googled how to train for the arctic, and you get all these guys sitting in cold baths and ice buckets. But I saw this guy pulling tyres on a beach. I did not have a beach, so I figured I’d pull a few down Victoria Park in Hackney. I remember walking down the canal, and there was a group of eight or nine boys. They laughed and called me every name under the sun while I was walking past dragging these tyres. That was probably my lowest moment in training.
Despite all the discouragement from his London environment, with people using racial stereotypes to dampen his goals of defining his destiny, he went off to train in Norway. Skiing, walking, running and climbing while wearing weights on his back for 7 to 8 hours daily to strengthen his legs. But what really motivated Dwayne was knowing he longed for a better life than he had previously known. And if he was ever going back, it was to his authentic self.
Your new show with National Geographic is called 7 toughest days. Could you tell us a bit more about it and what to expect?
The show lives up to its name. It’s me dropped into some of the toughest environments on Earth at the toughest time of the year. So in the desert, it’s at the hottest time of the year, in the mountains in the middle of winter. In the rainforest, it’s precisely that. And I have to find my way out using all my experience. And this is not to show my abilities but to take the audience with me on a journey as I navigate the environment, learn what works, and apply things I’ve read or experienced.
Why these three destinations: Gabon, Oman and Kyrgyzstan?
Oman is one of the most forested countries in the entire world. More than 80% of it is a jungle, like a really dark jungle. Kyrgyzstan has the Tian Shan mountains and really cold. The people there still live a nomadic lifestyle for the most part. Oman is one of the hottest places on the planet. Temperatures can soar as high as 50 degrees in the middle of summer. And those are some of the reasons we chose those places.
With all your success, you have no reason to look back, but as a co-founder of the #WeTwo foundation, you seem only to look back to lend a helping hand to people who grew up in challenging circumstances similar to yours.
This foundation is exactly what I would have needed as a teenager. And along with one of my expedition teammates, I created a support system for young people who would’ve never thought to go on expeditions like this. It’s about allowing people to see and experience adventure, which I believe will make them fall in love with nature, the outdoors and their work to protect it.
Excellent, Dwayne; I hope your foundation can reach the sort of kids who laughed at you and expose them to all these new worlds. Thank you for your work and time, and wishing you more success in your adventures
[Laughs] Thank you so much, and do tune in when the show airs this coming March.
7 Toughest days, hosted by Dwayne Fields, premiers on 19 March and ends on 2 April, Sundays at 21:00 on National Geographic (DStv 181).
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