Free Riders ~ Q&A with Davey Du Plessis


Roll the Bones is about taking a chance, and going against the grain. Adventurer, surfer, entrepreneur, and family man Davey Du Plessis does just that and much more. RTB had a chat with Davey about his family, passions, the environment, and his own particular brand of life philosophy.

Howzit Davey! Where are you from originally and how did your desire for extreme activities manifest in your formative years?

I grew up in Durban, then moved to Cape Town in 2011, but my past has little to do with adventure.

I was never an adventurous person, rather, I pursued adventure more for the platform it provided in pushing an agenda in a public environment and as a chance to see the more nature-filled parts of Earth, before they are swallowed up by expanding civilisation. Adventure was just the blueprint to go to a ‘relatively’ secluded part of a continent, experience its biodiversity and also campaign an important message tied to the disappearance of global biodiversity.

The age-old flame of adventure is very much alive in you. Lead us through what happens when the idea for a trip takes root and blossoms in your consciousness?

My inspiration mostly begins with an idea and a map. I think of an area that is still relatively ‘wild’ or untouched, a place where I can experience wild species, then plot a route through it, and depending on the terrain, I play around with human-powered modes of transportation to get me from A to B. The logistics is often the most time-consuming as I have no real understanding of what I will experience until I am physically in the location and on the adventure.  Botswana, despite being of the easier adventures had the best highlight, which was being surrounded in bush by herds of elephants, totally wild, unfenced and symbolised how great Africa was when it was still the wild continent.

1000 km's of awareness raising for endangered species. © Davey Du Plessis

I’d imagine that funding and logistics are integral parts of the mission getting off the ground. How do you approach this?

I don’t have any sponsors and decide to self-fund, this is obviously more time-consuming, but it forces you to budget appropriately and do what you want with out ties to business or the agendas they carry. I have met other well-known adventurers and when I have head how much they have spent to do what they do, especially when its dedicated to a cause, I often think it’s a waste of money, because for the amount of money they spend to do an adventure promoting a cause can be more effective if actually donated to a specific cause.

Here’s an example – it costs R5 500.00 rand to fix a childs cleft palate with smile foundation, most big adventurers, such as rowing an ocean, climbing Mt Everest, going to the poles, cost upwards of R800 000.00  (that’s conservative), for the R800 000.00 you could fix 145 cleft palates. Many of the adventures don’t rasie as much as they cost. Of course there are many more components to adventure and charities, but I always assess whether what I am doing is worth more than the impact I intend to have and working with your own budget makes you assess more critically.

Also sponsorship is not that easy to get and it can keep the dream of an adventure, just a dream, because you have to wait until someone else is willing to buy into your adventure.

Run us through your trips consecutively, the intentions behind them, and if you will describe some of the expectations vs realities of a modern-day adventurer.

2011 – Cycled Egypt to South Africa

2012 – Paddled Amazon River (shot during this adventure, couldn’t complete)

2016 – Pedal a boat across the Atlantic ocean (rescued due to partner tearing stomach lining from sea sickness)

2016 – 1000 km run across South Africa

2016 – 1000 km run & cycle across Botswana.

Egypt to Cape Town, on a bicycle. © Davey Du Plessis

My expectations were that I was going to see more wild species than I actually did, this was a disappointment. Botswana was the only adventure that exceeded my expectations.

Despite the advancements in technology for modern adventurers, I think the high risk still exists just in a different sphere of the adventure. Olden-day adventurers were at risk from equipment malfunction, where as now the equipment is far superior but the new risk is hostility from locals. Nearly every adventure I have had a gun pointed at me, be it cycling Africa or paddling the Amazon. The fact that even the most remote people have fire-arms is a concern that passed adventurers never had to worry about. Most adventurers I have met or read about felt most afraid when threatened by hostile locals.

I suppose this has all translated into a lot of life experience, gained under duress. Tell us where you started off as a motivational speaker and the course you have carved out in this profession?

I found speaking came naturally and I thoroughly enjoy it, but speaking is just an avenue to amplify a message. The framework I had in mind for the adventure/speaker path was that adventure would give me content to tell unique stories when public speaking and I could use those stories to bait an audience into listening to an issue that was far more important than the content derived from the adventure. No-one wants to listen to all the crap going on in the world, especially noting that humans are the main cause, we choose to bury our heads in the sand and I wanted to make these agendas, such as 6th mass extinction, public knowledge and almost force people to sit with the problem, with the hopes that more people concerned would lead to quicker action.

Davey putting on his motivational speaker hat. © Davey Du Plessis

Sum up your 6th extinction project and why you are doing this.

The 3.6-billion-year history of life has experienced 5 known mass extinctions, where life was radically reduced in a very short time. These past extinctions were caused by cataclysmic events, like meteor strikes to earth or super volcanoes, never has a single species been the driving force behind a mass extinction – that is til’ now. We humans are causing the first species driven mass extinction, with extinction rates rivaling that of the dinosaurs. Researchers claim that between 25-100 species go extinct per day, a shocking number! Despite causing the extinction, most people know little of it nor do they care.

I don’t believe my adventures will do much in diminishing extinction numbers, but instead I do it as a service to address the issue. I always use the analogy of slavery – slavery lasted for hundreds of years, meaning no human ever experienced the birth or death of slavery in their lifetime but just because the issue of slavery was multi-generational, doesn’t absolve the responsibility each person had to get rid of such an oppressive regime. I belive humans have a moral duty to abolish any forms of oppression or exploitation on both humans and other species and part of the debt we pay for our past generations mistakes is to amend the issues we cause and are causing in any shape or form within our individual capacity.

You and your partner have a funky business, and, a new-born baby, congrats! What products are you making, why, and how’s the adjustment of balancing child rearing and business management been? Are you still finding time to surf?

We run two business herbivore & bio ultra, which provide organic raw vegan health snacks and sports nutrition. We were also the first snack food company in South Africa to introduce home compostable packaging into all our product lines. In terms of proving a business model that is authentic and maintains its ethics, I have not come across one that maintains our standards. Our product souring is all certified organic, with some products certified through biodynamic and permaculture. Most of our products are also fair trade. We are a highly ethical business that is modeled off the ideals I have in my own life. Our business is my core focus as I see the most potential in it making the changes I wish to see, the businesses reach is far beyond anything I could have done in adventures or public speaking and it provides tangible working models for consumers to adopt.

Noah, our child, comes to work with us and its been a seamless transition from having no baby to having a baby.

I will always find time to surf! Its my greatest pursuit and activity. Haha! I get in the water whenever its good and built my life around never having to feel that I had to sacrifice surfing.

Is there a new adventure planned for the near future? If so what, why, and on which continent? How far along is the planning?

Nothing for the foreseeable future as I wish to spend as much time watching Noah grow up as possible, also our business expansion is rapid and I want to facilitate its growth. Adventure is to time-consuming for now and pulls me away from what I want to do with my family and business.

Davey, baba Noah with mama and business partner, Chanel Grantham. 
Image © Ayeh Khalatbari Photography

There’s a lot of talk and some action on the critical issue of climate change, and how best to address it.  If you could “wipe the slate clean’ and restructure global systems what would your utopian vision be?

I am an anarcho-primitivist at heart and moving towards a more primitive lifestyle, abandoning as much of civilisation as possible. The most destructive system of all time is civilisation as it houses all other micro-systems like politics, economics, democracy etc. Civilisation is based on the consumption of fueling infinite growth with finite resources and no bio-feedback . There is a growing movement called the ‘Anti-Civ’ movement and it goes into far more detail expressing how civilization is the worst, most destructive and exploitative macro-system ever, it needs to be abolished! This would mean we all return to the wild, a mass rewilding of the human species is needed.  It’s a complex and deep issue, but simply put humankind lived in the wild for more than 240 000 years of human existence and only have lived in civilisation for 6000 years and within those years several civilisations have collapsed (Egypt, Mayan, Greek, Roman) all because their civilisation models were basically the same. Technology wont save us either, humans tend to have this ‘faith’ approach to any issue – in the past we prayed to gods to solve the problems, now we pray to the technologists to save us – futulie attempts to address ongoing issues.

Ideally I would rewild humankind and we all lived in nature, with and among other species – this isn’t a utopia, instead it’s a natural environment where all species have limitations to their destruction and it maintains a relative equilibrium among all species.

I am currently writing my second book on this topic – I will send you a copy once its done, cause it’s too big to cover in one question.

Davey rewilding himself. © Davey Du plessis

Thank you for your time and sharing your experiences. All the very best!   

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