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Spokane Teacher Stars as Adventure Cable TV Host

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

This winter, while we curse and/or embrace the cold and snow, we can watch Spokane resident Hazen Audel travel the world, experiencing TV-created adventures.

Today and throughout the last few weeks, the National Geographic channel has aired repeats of Audel’s current program, "Primal Survivor". It takes him to exotic places, both warm and cold, putting him in situations where he has to rely on what he’s learned as an adventurer and wilderness guide.

In this episode, Audel has gone to a remote South Pacific island to live with the Tao people and learn to fish as they have for hundreds of years.

(clip from his TV show) “What I have here is a very common Tao fishing tool. It’s got this curved shaft so I can really get into holes and rocks and coral, all those nooks and crannies down there. And I’m looking for any variety of creatures that are down there. There’s octopus, eels, sleeping fish, lobsters, crabs, the list goes on and on. By free diving down to the reef, I can actively hunt food.”

We see Audel dive 30 feet and wrestle an octopus out of its shelter, then surface and triumphantly deposit his prey in his wooden boat.

Hazen Audel grew up wanting to go to places like this. He had a curiosity for creepy crawlies. Out of high school, he left for a summer adventure in South America and stayed much longer than he’d expected. He enjoyed learning how indigenous people live. Through his travels, he developed a set of survival skills that eventually drew the attention of an adventure TV company in England. That led to his first TV series, Survive the Tribe, about his experiences living with natives around the world.

Audel does his globetrotting mostly during his summer vacation as he works around his day job.

“My background has always been teaching natural history, being a tour guide, talking about things that I love. And then formally as a teacher, I was working at Ferris High School for 10 years and I currently work for West Valley, teaching science and so I love teaching, I love being in the classroom,” he said.

For the last four years, through National Geographic, Audel has extended his classroom to the rest of the world. His program is seen in many nations.

During a break between trips, in the quiet of his living room, he expresses ambivalence about TV’s role in his life.

“The benefits are it’s all paid for and all of the stress of organizing, that’s somebody else’s job. I get to show up and they just see if they can kill me or not and then, if I roll with the punches right, I make it out alive,” Audel says with a laugh.

But there downsides too. Audel’s first series, "Survive the Tribe", was about his experiences living with   indigenous people.

“And that was my favorite one because it was mostly about the people. Then the way TV works, they kind of changed it and they made it more like everything else that’s on TV," Audel said. "They tried to make it more of a rugged survival show and make it more about me, unfortunately, and less about the people, which I’m constantly struggling with.

"As this show becomes more popular, hopefully I have a little bit more leverage to make the kind of quality show that I really want and more about the people and more about the cultures and more about these magic moments and less about seeing about how many times I can bleed and break myself and stuff like that," he said.

How long he continues to do TV depends on several things. Will his program stay popular? Can he still do the physical work around which the program revolves? For now, there’s no problem with that, he says. And how long does he continue to be interested in doing it?

“I’ve been adventuring my whole life and it’s great and I’m equipped with a lot of life skills," Audel said. "But now I want to apply them to my own tribe in Spokane and I’d love to have a family. I want to be the dad that my dad was to me.”

Audel’s heritage is Native American, Kootenai and Salish. His family, including three older sisters, live in Spokane. His father taught him the skills that allow him to have a broad variety of interests.

“I think one thing that my dad taught me was to always diversify. He grew being a sign painter. Then he grew up being a hot rod builder and a pinstriper and an artist, being self-employed. And he’s taught me how to work with my hands," Audel said.

Audel has had his own metal art business, off and on, for the last 20 years.

“If I really stuck with it, it could be a wonderful career too, but how hard do I want to work? We’ll see. It’s been neat," Audel said.

"I’ve been able to do a couple things here in Spokane. There’s the Steelhead Bar and Grill. All that metal work in there and the design in there. There’s a big collaborative project I did with Land Expressions and a big sculpture behind the Arena, the veterans memorial. It’s a pretty good sized sculpture, 30 feet high and about 70 feet long. There’s the Montvale. There’s the awning and a big rotating sign and entrance way," he said. "I think that was back in the day when I was always turbo charged and I never slept at all. And now I think I could be pretty selective and maybe do about one or two big projects a year.”

So, he has his TV career, he has his teaching, he has his art, he has his family.

“I think I have a wonderful life. I’m building a house and I have this house here. I’m fortunate that I have good health and I like doing that. I don’t like wanting to need to be a movie star or anything," Audel said. "I love the opportunities, for my own agenda, I love traveling and I love exploring and I love the access to these amazing people.”

But he’s also growing to appreciate that home can bring him things he needs just as much as the adventures in foreign lands.

“I’m here in Spokane because I have three older sisters and they all have families and my mom and dad live here and that’s my own tribe to help me raise my own kids someday too. That’s how my sisters did it. It’s really neat to see when an entire village raising children. That’s probably one of my biggest take aways,” Audel said.
You can see Hazen Audel’s programs and excerpts at the National Geographic TV website.


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