Andy Torbet is no ordinary man. Actually, he is extraordinary. Out of the ordinary, out of each possible mental box. He is the incarnation of every man’s, and ever woman’s I guess, fantasy. Think James Bond mixed with Action Man, Mission Impossible, and Spider Man, shaken, not stirred, of course, and you have this almost super human figure who is comfortable in the depths of the seas and in the clouds, in claustrophobic caves and in maritime counter terrorist missions, so as not to lack excitement, part of the underwater bomb disposal team but also TV personality, writer, and stuntman. Cherry on the pie, he gets to play with amazing experimental technology and technological gadgets like rocket boots or hardsuits.
Andy Torbet, born in Scotland in 1975, a degree in Zoology and a master in Archaeology, member of MENSA, since he was 9 years old he wanted to be a soldier, a frogman, an astronaut and an explorer. Common dreams, right? But unlike most, he stuck to them and turned them into reality. “I just never gave up. People only see my successes, but I have experienced rejections and no earnings. Maybe just 1% of my projects become reality. Bad moments are positive, no epiphany comes from happy moments. I just have always kept working, chipping away day after day, improving in tiny bits. I would have never wanted to be the one who gave up the day before the big break. Just like my wife has done with her passion, jazz singing and saxophone playing, she never gave up”.
Born in Scotland and raised in Aberdeenshire near the Wye river, he has spent ten years in the British Armed Forces. “I will be forever an ex-soldier. In those years I learned mental and physical resilience, discipline, and endurance. Serving in places like Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan you acquire a whole new perspective on both your life and other people’s life”.
Expert scuba diver, cave diver, but also rock and ice climber, and skydiver many of his endeavors appear death defying. “I have always recognized what is impossible and what is difficult. It is a matter of manic preparation of each endeavor. I run through the whole routine, step by step, movement by movement. I review each detail, each step, and as I review I check that all is in place. One cannot think in terms of being rescued by others, one must do self-rescue by preparing each smallest detail in advance”.
Fear is a tool. The difference between being reckless and conscious. Fear is what saves you. That is why I believe in the power of negative thinking. Thinking about future obstacles helps you begin planning strategies to overcome them. You must think of solutions before the problem appears; imagine a worst case scenario, always have a plan B and a plan C so that you are not caught off guard. I don’t believe in luck but in experience and preparation. I am not an adrenaline junkie, I am probably one of the most cautious people you are likely to meet. I will be as paranoid as possible before I get in the water, so when I enter the water I don’t have to be.
Mental strength is accompanied by physical fitness.
Physical fitness is not something you build overnight, it takes years. But then it is a tool you carry with you just like I always carry a knife, or three when I am diving. If you get tangled, a knife is what saves you, both underwater and in the air. And fitness too. Pure strength may save your life and stop injuries from being worse.
What is your favorite body of water?
Hard to say… The sea is so different… I have dived among icebergs and among coral reefs, each body of water has its own amazing color from the deep blue of the Artic to the whisky color of a Scottish lake to the emerald of a river. Also the animal life is amazing and rich and contributes to the diversity of each environment.
Close encounters with amazing animals?
When a pack of polar came closing in towards me in the Artic was a very humbling experience when you realize you are just a prey. In Japan, I dived in deep blue waters and all of a sudden, out of a balloon myst, a huge scallop hammerhead shark swam just by me. It was such an intimidating moment. But the most fascinating animal, a real alien, is the cuttlefish. A mollusk of the same specie as octopus and squids, the cuttlefish can be defined the king of camouflage and it is amazing seeing it turn itself into a stone or a seaweed and all of a sudden see it attack a passerby fish.
Andy Torbet has recently turned into stuntman in none other than the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die. I look at Andy as I talk with him on Skype and his resemblance to Daniel Craig is striking. “For almost 8 months I’ve worked as a Stuntman on the new James Bond film. We visited Norway, Jamaica, Italy, Scotland and of course Pinewood Studios in England. I had an absolute ball. The stunt team were genuinely the most professional, positive, super-motivated, friendly and welcoming group of people I’ve met. One day I was on the veranda of the villa that was built for the movie in Jamaica and I thought: I must have done something very good to deserve all this”.
His gratitude towards life is what really strikes me in Torbet, as our conversation veers to the Coronavirus lockdown. “Lockdown is not about me, it is about others, about our “tribe”, referring to the Sebastian Junger book, Tribes - whose theory is that we have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding. This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival. Man is built to help and be helped and if it is true there are events we have to endure, we still have a choice about our reaction to them. The Coronavirus crisis has put into evidence the hundreds of volunteers helping others and, on the other hand, is showing how many are just whining and complaining. I can’t understand it. We have food, we are healthy, we live in a beautiful country where many of us are lucky to have a garden, we have wi-fi and Netflix, what is there to complain? Again, it is not about the individual, it is about the group in which we live and that allows us to cope with stress and anxiety”.
His attention for society and the environment has brought him to work with Fully Charged, a clean energy and electric vehicle YouTube channel hosted by Robert Llewellyn. “We owe it to future generations to use all the advances in technology to make the world a better place. This channel has the goal to educate, encourage and explain to its viewers that a very high percentage of the energy that the global population demands can and should, come from ‘clean’ sources, like solar, wind and energy storage”.
Testing new technology is another one of the perks that come with being Andy Torbet. Deep diving and cave diving take him to some of the most hostile environments, situations that equal the world of extreme diving to space, with cave diving similar to a spacewalk. So he is the most apt in testing new technology like, for example, the Oceanworks Hardsuit and prototype electric turbine engine. The first is a wearable submarine that allows you to go to 600m depth (61 times atmospheric pressure) while remaining at 1 atmosphere, the same as on land at sea level. “I wanted to be an astronaut, but for the desire to explore going underwater is exploring a totally alien world. The latter were strapped to his legs for extra thrust in a jump out of a plane. Most recently Andy has become involved with elements of the UK Space community assisting in the design and testing of space exploration equipment and in creating STEM and Outreach media content.
What is the adventure you are working at?
I have heard there is a cave full of water on Mars…