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May 2015 Issue
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West Coast Discovery

Photo; Smitty

Josh James dreamed of hosting his own TV survival show but he never imagined his face would be broadcast worldwide. Matthew Pike speaks to the Discovery Channel’s next star

Josh James is like a lot of Kiwis: straight talking, down to earth, innovative, loves the backcountry.

Throughout his life he’s pursued his desire for a life in the great outdoors. Moving to ideal outdoor locations has helped, but so has running outdoor adventure company Eco Rafting Adventures and spending winters trapping possums in the West Coast.

Over the years James has picked up plenty of skills often through trial and error from solo trips into the bush. “I’ve always liked the challenge of going into the outdoors and seeing what I can do with limited equipment,” he says. “I like solo hunting because it’s challenging and peaceful.”

His skills, combined with a rugged Kiwi sense of humour, have helped him get noticed by some of the biggest production companies in television. Yet he only began shooting videos to show family and friends what he gets up to for weeks at a time in the bush.

“I started shooting videos to show my lifestyle,” says James, who lives in Ross, West Coast. “I’m lucky to be self employed and have a lifestyle where I get to go hunting and fishing a lot.”

His videos cover everything from possum trapping to fishing, deer hunting and foraging. They’re raw, often amusing and don’t stop rolling when things go wrong. Some feature James on solo missions; others include his kids, mates and his dogs Dog and Oi.

“I’ve been doing website videos since I bought the rafting company in 2004, but didn’t talk in front of the camera at first. It wasn’t until I started talking in front of the camera that I began to get noticed.

“I’ve inspired a lot of people who’ve never even thought about hunting to get out there, provide meat for their families and get involved in the outdoor lifestyle.”

After streams of compliments by family and friends and positive reviews online, James realised he had a flare for the screen and began to imagine a new career in TV.

“My ultimate goal was to start my own hunting and fishing TV show, which will probably still happen. But I’ll have to put New Zealand TV on back burner for now.” This is because eight months ago he was approached by a production company looking to put together a new survival show for the Discovery Channel.

The channel reaches around 400 million households worldwide and has turned the likes of Bear Grylls into global phenomenons.

James can’t reveal much about the series until it airs later in the year, but it involves taking him to unfamiliar territory in the likes of Mexico, Borneo, Bulgaria and Finland.

“It’s extremely challenging,” he says. “I’m using skills I’ve learnt in New Zealand and applying them to other parts of the globe.

“In other places I’m encountering snakes, spiders, jaguars and bears – I don’t know the animals’ habits, so it’s a step outside of my comfort zone. But I like the challenge and find it very rewarding.”

Wherever this opportunity takes him and however well known and busy he becomes, James vows to always make time to enjoy the great outdoors with his family. “I’ve got three kids who love camping and fishing,” he says. “It’s often hard to find time to get out there but you’ve got to make a plan and do it. I put a date on the calendar and we just get out there on that date come rain, hail or shine.”