Benjamin “Coach” Wade’s lies: kayak record, other claims disputed

After last week’s spectacular blindside, I fear/rejoice that Benjamin “Coach” Wade’s time on Survivor Tocantins may be over soon, perhaps as early as Thursday. Love him or loathe him or love to loathe him, he’s been the gift that keeps on giving–er, slaying–this season.

CBS knows what they have in him. The network has gathered videos of “some of his best moments” on its web site, and the description even mocks him (“Whether he’s The Dragon Slayer, the man who overcame an Amazon Pygamy attack, or the only person in America to be taught an obscure Chinese Martial Arts, no one can argue that Coach is one of a kind”). If the real Coach isn’t enough, there’s also this fantastic Twitter parody of Coach that’s hysterical until you realize it’s barely satire. (Recent tweet: “For most its difficult to adjust to the game. Luckily for me, being followed by cameras, eating bugs and being idolized are all commonplace.”)

Coach may be best known for his tall tales and exaggerations–and, you know, lies, which have led people to attempt to investigate and debunk Coach’s various claims. But sometimes they don’t need investigating; heck, he bragged to me about lying to his soccer team, pretending he was getting cancer tests instead of competing on the show. My theory about his tall tales is that there’s truth behind a lot of what he says, but that he’s told and embellished the stories so many times they’ve become fictions.

But he also seems to lie with abandon and for no reason except to make himself look more amazing. For example, before he told his tribe about his impossible to confirm and impossible to believable action movie story about being nearly killed by Amazonian pygmies before escaping in his kayak, Coach said that only “three people in the world” knew the story. But Jeff Probst wrote in EW.com that “that is a total lie. Coach told all of us producers this same story during casting.” How dumb and unnecessary is that kind of lie?

Sometimes Coach is also just wrong, which isn’t necessarily lying, because we all make mistakes, but it’s still fun to mock him about because he’s so arrogant. For example, the merged tribe’s name is “Forza,” but a reality blurred reader points out that Coach’s insistence that the word meant “strength” is inaccurate, writing that “the Portuguese word for strength is NOT ‘forza.’ It is ‘força.’ The spelling was not the only thing wrong. It is NOT pronounced ‘for-zah’ but rather ‘for-sah.’” Google translate and Yahoo’s Babel Fish both confirm that.

Perhaps Ben Wade’s most infamous claim is that he has a world record for a solo kayak trip. His official CBS bio–which is mostly drawn from the contestant’s application–says that Ben Wade “[set] the world record for the longest solo kayak expedition on the ocean (an amazing 6,132 miles).” Strangely, that’s been documented, sort of, in a new self-published book A Voyage Beyond Reason: An Epic of Survival Based on the Original Journals of Benjamin Wade, which is fictional and written (badly; there’s poor grammar in the first sentence) by Tom Gauthier. The title page says “is based on the personal, handwritten journals of Benjamin Wade” although “some people have been partially fictionalized” the “events from the journal are true.”

Anyway, while Coach may have kayaked that distance, he does not hold a record. Canoe & Kayak Magazine editor Jeff Moag told Film.com’s Susan Young, “I can’t confirm whether he paddled 6,000 miles solo or even if there are small cannibalistic people in Peru, although I doubt it. I can tell you that Paul Caffyn kayaked more than 9,000 miles in 1980 and 1981. So, no record.”

Is Survivor’s Coach Ben Wade For Real? [Film.com]

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.