Steve Backshall says nearly drowning gave him greater appreciation of fatherhood

Steve Backshall, arrives at the British Academy Children's Awards, at the Roundhouse, Camden, north London.
Steve Backshall, arrives at the British Academy Children's Awards, at the Roundhouse, Camden, north London.

Steve Backshall has recalled the terrifying experience of almost drowning during a kayaking accident and said the near-miss gave him a greater appreciation of being a father.

The Deadly 60 presenter was filming one of his TV shows in Bhutan and was kayaking in ice-cold rapids in the Himalayas.

Backshall, who has three children with Olympic rower Helen Glover, was plunged into the freezing water when his boat capsized and he was trapped for nearly five minutes.

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Steve Backshall married Helen Glover in 2016 and the couple have three children (Ian West/PA)

His life was saved when a member of his team used a safety line to drag him out.

During an appearance on Desert Island Discs, Backshall said the experience, while filming a 2019 episode of his Expedition series, made him realise how lucky he was to be a father.

He said: “I had a much greater appreciation of what I had and what I had to lose and what was really important. And increasingly that is fatherhood, that is having the opportunity to see my babies grow up.

“And I think I always, up until that moment, had been a bit of a searcher, looking for, trying to figure out what life is all about and what life is for.

“And I had thundered around the planet desperately doing all these crazy things in attempt to find out what I was put here for. And then found it in something as simple as becoming a dad. And it was such an emotional moment.”

Backshall said “there’s something very liberating about getting a sense of being close to death,” adding: “I will always see that as being one of those big turning points in my life when everything has changed.”

Backshall, 47, married Glover, 34, a month after she won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. They tied the knot on a cliff in her home county of Cornwall.

The couple – already parents to two-year-old son Logan – welcomed twins in January. Backshall said he has had a “wild, wailing lockdown”.

He said: “So many of my friends have been talking about the fact that during lockdown they’ve read all these books, written their magnum opus, whereas I’ve basically been changing nappies.”

The broadcaster, whose Desert Island Discs included songs from Cat Stevens, Kings Of Leon and Radiohead, also spoke of his hope that the lockdown would lead to a greater appreciation of the natural world.

Listen to Backshall’s Desert Island Discs episode on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 11am.


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