Post image for Dave Cornthwaite: A Modern Renaissance Man

Dave Cornthwaite: A Modern Renaissance Man

by Melanie Gow

Dave Cornthwaite is a romantic. I don’t mean the sort of guy who turns up on Valentine’s Day with a bunch of garage forecourt flowers and a table booked, I mean an early 16th Century man imbued with idealism, passion, chivalry, and a desire for adventure.

Back in the day they would have written epic poems about men like him, today Dave writes his own story. Literally.

A glimpse at the coverage of Dave

Dave is a record-breaking English adventurer, writer and filmmaker. Look him up, because it’s all out there: he’s on Wikipedia, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Flickr, LinkedIn, he has his own website, well two actually, a book site and a blog. He is a motivational speaker and ambassador for The Blue Project, runs a consultancy and actively raises money for two charities, The AV Foundation and CoppaFeel.

He wasn’t always all these things, at the age of 25 Dave found himself disillusioned with life as a graphic designer, and irritated that he had bought into the expectations of career, live-in girlfriend, house ownership and the big, flat-screen TV. That’s not to say he didn’t like Pro Evolution Soccer, he loves football, it just meant that living for that pay check at the end of a month was lacking in inspiration, for him.

Dave Cornthwaite at the start of his record-breaking skateboard across Australia

His story is public knowledge, he says he was “looking for something”, anything, when he went on a snowboarding holiday. He loved it so much he decided he would be the best he could be at it when he next went, and bought a longboard to practice on. He gives a “talk” on how this changed his life; you should catch one when you get an opportunity, it’s well worth hearing.

Two weeks later he quit his job, “I took those 50 hours a week away from somebody else and gave them back to myself.”

At no point during our conversation does he suggest that everyone should quit their day job, he just lives what he preaches; find what you love and pursue it with a passion that knows no embarrassment. As Gawain said; “In destinies sad or merry, True men can but try.”

He has since skateboarded the length of Britain and width of Australia and came up with the concept of Expedition1000: 25 separate journeys of 1000 miles or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport, of which he has completed 4 already at the time of this article.

Dave Cornthwaite paddling the Murray River

In true Renaissance style, Dave has developed the skills in all areas of knowledge, physical development, social accomplishments and the arts essential for this life he has created. By necessity, every time he has required a skill, from film editing to sponsorship, he has learnt it rather than outsource the task.

I can’t get away from the similarity between Dave and the description by Castiglione of the ideal courtier: “to transform himself into a beautiful spectacle for others to contemplate.” Valour, nonchalance and skill in the field were held in high regard at that time, but a true man was expected to be equally as adept with the pen.

Dave writes prolifically, on his blog and contributing to magazines, but he also has two books published and a third on the way.

His first, BoardFree: The Story of an Incredible Skateboard Journey Across Australia, published by Portico, has sold over 10,000 copies worldwide and is used as teaching reference material in some schools.

His second, Date, he decided to self-publish. Again, he decided to take that 50% of royalties and give it back to himself.

Date by Dave Cornthwaite, with Fearne Cotton and Dermot O'Leary at the Million Pound Drop for CoppaFeel.

Date sets out to catalogue 100 Dates with 100 women in 100 Days. To be fair, it fits into the non-motorized transport adventure remit as he did this surfing the internet. It is also an adventure, a sociological adventure. You’ll have to read the book to see how that turned out, read the Amazon reviews if you are not sure, you probably will be persuaded by the sheer honesty of it. You’ll like him. I asked him whether it was a good decision or not.

He stated categorically “It is the best thing I have done.”

Self Publish, not date 100 women in 100 days, he is completely happy with his decision to bypass the traditional publishing route. He hasn’t even bothered to buy an ISBN for it so complete is his circumvention. He is one of that 25% of the successful sales that are self-published, and again he inspires others to try.

I found it is the same mind that decides to self-publish a book as sets off across 3618 miles of Australia on a record-breaking distance from Perth to Brisbane. The same determination, the same drive for self-actualization.

To be fair he has already built his personal readership base, he is pretty sure of selling a book or two, but, once again he treads his own path. His easy conviction, his composure defines him. He is insouciant with who he is, he doesn’t think he has learnt all there is to learn and he doesn’t know what any adventure may throw at him, but he doesn’t expect to. I like that he knows, whatever happens, he has the resources to deal with it. In fact he says, ”Isn’t that the point to get yourself out of any trouble you find yourself in?”

Dave Cornthwaite, TedX talk

He speaks with the openness of a man used to living his life publically, his speech is composed as if it comes from nature and truth rather than from study and art, but the reality is there are so many questions he is used to being asked. He has become accustomed to articulating his lifestyle for the questions, he has the answers.

That is not to suggest he is jaded, in fact he is so engaged in the process, this process called life, that he has fewer boundaries than usual. He seems to slip through the smallest gap, relish the tempests, and sees opportunity as a given. This is what makes him an old-fashioned romantic, his belief in life, and love, and the quest.

He is cut out for it. His eyes are bluer than you think, clear blue, he’s funny, back in the Italy of the mid 1500’s he would have been described as “tempered by a calm face and with a play of the eyes that shall give an effect of grace.”

Dave Cornthwaite doing a challenge set by a member of the public on his SUP of the length of the Mississippi

I could tell you stories about him, reiterate tales of ‘thrill’ and ‘mirth’ in equal measure, however they all exist out there already. You can read about him, watch him, hear him talk, so I can only tell you about the man I sat opposite through two huge plates of eat-as-much-as-you like Chinese buffet and a couple of cans of soda.

He is good company, he is generous about people, he is easy. We had arranged to met somewhere that is no longer there, my phone battery was flat making it impossible to formluate a plan B, I was late and it was raining. Non of this fazed him. I don’t like eating with people I don’t know and I happily ploughed through those noodles without thinking about it. If I slurped he made no comment.

In fact the only time he gets rankled is by the disappointment that he feels that no one in a position of authority, no teacher, spotted his talents and encouraged him or guided him when he was young.

But, the truth is probably that nobody could have foreseen this world, the world he is part of, nobody would have been able to guide him – it didn’t exist.

 It is possible he could not be the man he is at any other time in history.

He has grabbed this millennium by the scruff of its neck and honed his muscles for The Truman Show-esque life he has built, to initiate and express all he is capable of. He is making his own luck. I suspect he hasn’t even begun to do everything he is going to do.

Men of yore who played their parts in the legendary or historical events provided entertainment and education for their cultures, but most of all they played their part in the formation of these societies. A goodly knight for our modern age should do all this, and I think Dave is doing just that – probably.


Find out more about Dave on his website:

Buy his book, Date, here:

Dave is on Twitter: @DaveCorn

The featured picture for this article, at the top, was taken by taken by Evan Walton, just south of Quincy, Illionois.


Find more about his charities The AV Foundation here and CoppaFeel here

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