I reckon I have a competitive streak. I’ll argue over a suss ruling in backyard cricket and I’ll never accept defeat in a game of drunken charades. I like to win, but my thirst for victory dissipates pretty quickly in the face of actual mental and physical torture. You’re never going to find me trekking Kokoda. Or tackling Everest. I’m pretty content to live my life within my own limits.
Not so, the ridonculous blokes who sign up for the British Special Forces. The recruitment process for the SAS is among the most brutal in the world - a year of intense physical and psychological conditioning only 5 percent of those who apply make it through. The process is top secret so it’s never been filmed, but if you’ve always wondered if you’ve got what it takes, tuning into SAS: Who Dares Wins is your chance to find out.
The series follows 25 ordinary civilians through a mock recruitment process run by ex-SAS commanders. They’re dumped into the Ecuadorian jungle in an insane test of guts, willpower and stupidity. Many will quit and hand in their armband.
The commanders are looking for “the right kind of misfit” - cuckoo enough to do crazy brave things without actually going crazy in the process. The show makes I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! look like George of the Jungle. Watching it, you can’t help thinking, “How would I cope under those circumstances?”
I reckon I’d just throw up. Constantly.
If a beefy man in tatts told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?
If your answer is “Sir, yes sir!” then you’re braver than me because the first challenge involves casually jumping - sans harness - off a bridge into the damn Amazon river below. Let’s be clear: I wouldn’t be taking the leap in the first place- I’d be at the airport bar knocking back a double scotch and waiting for the first flight home. But if - IF! - I’d managed to rustle up the courage, there’s no way I’d then reach the boat I had to clamber into for safety. No question: I’d be piranha food.
Sweet dreams, baby
If I’d survived the bridge jump with my wits intact and my underwear unsoiled, then lucky me - I’d now get to spend the next few weeks sleeping on a camp bed wondering if tonight’s the night a swarm of zika-carrying insects overrun the flimsy armour of my mosquito net. Or perhaps it’s the night I get ordered awake to rescue a hostage from a burning building only to get told I failed to notice a second hostage who subsequently asphyxiated. Ah well, can’t win 'em all. I’m sure his widow and three small kids will understand! Now, back I go to catch some more z's...
I’m not claustrophobic and I’m not scared of the dark, but that’s possibly because I haven’t yet had a black hood thrown over my face in the dead of night and been bundled off into a tiny room to be interrogated about my messy personal life by two commanders who are narcissistic at best and downright schizo at worst. I am scared of speed dating and I imagine it’s a very similar kind of hell, so I don’t think I’d handle this kind of confrontation well at all.
Abseiling, helicopter style
Figuring bridge jumps are for wusses, the SAS commanders decide to up the stakes about 100 feet and add a helicopter. At least this time they threw in a rope for safety but still, it’s a frickin' helicopter, just hovering away while you hang off the side and your commander keeps bellowing at you to, “Stop panicking, for f***'s sake!”
Yeah, no need to panic, fellas. Don't cha know abseiling out of a chopper is a perfectly normal way to arrive at any given destination?
This is the killer. I can categorically say that even if I’d managed to hurl myself off a bridge or out of a helicopter, this is where I’d be calling it quits. “The Sickener” is basically what happens when your boot camp isn’t just a lunchtime flagellation to break up the 9 to 5, but lasts all damn day.
We’re talking submerging yourself in murky rivers, crawling through mud, climbing ropes, push-ups, star-jumps, barrel rolls and all manner of ridiculous human torture while being screamed at in 35-degree heat hour after hour until you literally spew your guts out and give up. In fact, the tormentors - I mean, commanders - won’t actually stop until at least four recruits voluntarily quit, something they obviously don’t reveal lest you decide to *accidentally* trip someone up and break their leg, thus speeding up the whole process for everyone else.
The bottom line
These people are nuts. But they’re the good kind of nuts. Like Moses, who is desperately trying to turn around a life of crime and become a positive example for his kids. Or Old Man Efrem, who is 44 and looks much happier in his suit jacket than his fatigues, but is determined to honour the memory of his son, a former British soldier killed in the line of duty.
Personally, I haven’t a clue why anyone would put their mind and their body through that much anguish. I can’t even manage the City to Surf. But you gotta admire their bravado, their willpower and their absolute bats**t insanity.
Watch SAS: Who Dares Wins on Mondays at 9:30pm on SBS. Missed the last episode? Watch it on SBS On Demand right here: