• STV
  • MySTV

Blind man to paddleboard across seven lochs in seven days

Dean Dunbar has set out on the challenge with his dog Commander Stumpy and two friends.

Adventurer: Dean Dunbar will paddle 154 miles.
Adventurer: Dean Dunbar will paddle 154 miles. Dean Dunbar

One morning, at the age of nine, Dean Dunbar went to school and couldn't read the blackboard.

It was going to be OK though, doctors said. Although things seemed blurry then, no doubt his sight would likely return by the time he turned 20.

It didn't. In 1996, at the age of 27, Dean's sight dropped so suddenly and steeply, he was advised to start learning Braille and get a guide dog.

From then on Dean was registered blind.

"I had two choices," he says. "I could sit at home and moan a lot, or I could get out there and do something."

Dean gamely chose the second option and his compulsion to try anything and everything took over.

Since then, he has bungee jumped out of a helicopter, been thrown from a human catapult, taken a sledge over a waterfall and driven a tank.

"I couldn't see where I was going but that didn't matter," says Dean. "For me it is always about the challenge."

Now, the adventurer is at it again, this time with a bid to become the first blind man to paddle board across Scotland's seven largest freshwater lochs.

"We've nicknamed them the 'Magnificent Seven'," says Dean. "It was my mate Ian who suggested it and we were just stupid enough to say yes."

Travelling 154 miles, Dean and his two friends Ian Cormack and Allistair Swinsco, will traverse seven lochs in seven days starting on Monday.

The Three Amigos plan to hit Loch Lomond on Monday morning.
The Three Amigos plan to hit Loch Lomond on Monday morning. Dean Dunbar

The trio, who are sponsored by Red Paddle Corefer and refer to themselves as The Three Amigos, plan to hit Loch Lomond on Monday morning and end up at Loch Tay on Sunday.

"It's just for us for a bit of fun," says the 47-year-old daredevil.

"I've done probably about 100 activities over the last few years but I've become hooked on paddle boarding."

Despite describing Loch Awe as a "bit of a beast", Dean remains remarkably impervious to the freezing temperatures of the water.

"My wife Rhona actually calls me a warm tattie because I never get cold," he laughs.

Dean, who lives in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, has become something of a common sight on Scottish waters, paddling his way across lochs with his dog Stumpy at the helm.

"We call her Commander Stumpy, when she comes SUPing with us," he says.

"I don't see the swans or mountains, for me it's a challenge to get from one end to the other."

Dean with his dog Stumpy at the helm.
Dean with his dog Stumpy at the helm. Dean Dunbar

Facing challenges is something Dean has become rather good at.

Eventually diagnosed with a degenerative condition called "Rod and Cone Dystrophy" which has left him with the use of his peripheral vision alone, his sight remains unfocused with debris floating through it.

There have been several sports and organisations he has approached over the years who have turned him away as soon as he mentions the word 'blind'.

"Up until the age of nine I was convinced I was going into the military like my grandfather," he says.

"I still tried to get in actually, even when my sight went."

Dean made it as far as the sight test in the application process before he was sent away.

"I got past the first two lines on the alphabet chart and then started to make it up," he laughs.

He then told the flabbergasted armed forces personnel that he was in fact blind.

"They asked me what I'd do if I accidentally shot someone and I said I'd apologise profusely," he says.

This picture gives you a rough idea of what Dean would see when standing still.
This picture gives you a rough idea of what Dean would see when standing still. Dean Dunbar

Dean has also faced difficulties at sporting events he has qualified for.

During one particular training session ahead of the Sydney games, someone parked a car in the wrong space where Dean was running.

"I sprinted straight into the back of it," he says.

Despite the knock-backs, Dean has refused to let the word 'no' stop him, especially when it comes to water sports.

Without any visual reference, Dean's paddling skills are intensely challenging, especially when the waters are rough.

The sheer rush of adrenaline though, the ability to feel with his entire body what he cannot see with eyes, keeps him coming back for more.

"My life is now about getting that next fix," he says.

Dean has refused to let the word no stop him.
Dean has refused to let the word no stop him. Dean Dunbar

There is a deeper drive too for Dean, who knows firsthand of others with sight problems who were unable to find an outlet like he did.

"When I was at the blind school, the kids there were kind of institutionalised," he says.

"They were brought there from the age of three or four until they're 16, then there was a college built onto it that they could go to after that.

"Then when they left that, they went from the sheltered life into the big bad world.

"Some of the lads didn't make it. They took their own lives."

Facing challenges is something Dean has become rather good at.
Facing challenges is something Dean has become rather good at. Dean Dunbar

Partly for them and partly to show absolutely everyone that living life means trying new things, Dean has combined his challenges into an online adventure page called Extreme Dreams to inspire others.

The website was launched in 2002 and has steadily grown to become a recognized and respected name within the world of adventure and extreme sports in contact with athletes around the globe.

"There are so many exciting activities going on out there that people are unaware of," says Dean.

"Some people believe that because of their personal circumstances, that these sports are out of reach.

"I want to prove that a lot of the time this is not the case. If you really want to do it, often the only thing holding you back is you."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.