Local ‘Naked and Afraid’ survivalists bare all
POCATELLO — Even shorts and T-shirt could be used to survive, so these local survivalists opted for the ultimate survival experience by going naked.
Pocatello native Jeff Zausch has spent 121 days nude in the wilderness for Discovery’s “Naked and Afraid.” He spent 21 days in the Madagascar desert, 40 days in Colombia, and in the newest season of “Naked and Afraid XL” — airing June 2 — Zausch attempts to survive 60 days in the Philippines.
“I do it for the thrill, the adventure and the joy that I feel when I make a big kill or when I pull myself out of a very terrible life-or-death situation,” Zausch told EastIdahoNews.com. “That type of joy that I feel, I only feel it doing these types of challenges. That’s why I keep going back. I guess I’m addicted to the thrill and addicted to the feeling of accomplishment.”
Star Torres, a U.S. Marine, and Tony Wheeler, a U.S. Army Green Beret, both of Pocatello, were the first couple ever to go on “Naked and Afraid.” Their episode aired May 5 on Discovery.
“We always work so well together. We wanted to test our relationship in that harsh environment,” Wheeler said.
Torres and Wheeler spent 21 days in the Guyana jungle. At the end, Wheeler proposed to Torres.
“I figured if she could put up with me in that harsh environment, she could put up with me anywhere,” Wheeler said.
Torres explained what went through her mind when she realized Wheeler was proposing.
“I was like, ‘No way, he’s really doing this right now.'” Torres said. “So he goes to propose and I could tell he had a lot of things to say and he was, like, tongue-tied. I’ve never seen him really tongue-tied before.”
The proposal came at the very end as they were waiting for a boat to come and take them back to civilization. Throughout the 21 days before, they endured constant struggles.
Torres said the worst part was constantly being bitten by bugs.
“I scar easily, especially with bug bites,” she said. “You’re getting bit up, it’s nonstop. You put on mud, it doesn’t quite help. Or it doesn’t help with the flies, and it’s constant. You just think, ‘There’s no prize money after this, and I’m just scarring up my body.’ So I was a little disheartened by that.”
Zausch said the 60 days in the Philippines is the hardest experience he’s had on “Naked and Afraid.”
“This series that I just got done filming has by far the most life and death moments. This is the first time ever, in one of these challenges, that I thought that my partner might not live through the night. It’s also … the first challenge I’ve ever done in my life where I questioned whether I would survive to see the next sunrise,” he said.
Even as the first couple ever on “Naked and Afraid,” intimacy wasn’t a priority for Torres and Wheeler.
“You’re too uncomfortable. There are too many bug bites and everything like that. But, you know, you still try to be caring and loving for each other,” Wheeler said. “We were always together and close.”
Zausch, Torres and Wheeler each knew what they wanted first thing when they got home after their ordeals in the wild.
“The first thing is I kiss my girlfriend, I hug my dog then I go eat bacon cheeseburgers,” Zausch said. “That’s something I look forward to from almost day two in the challenge all the way to the very end is that first American meal of fat, grease and meat.”
All Torres and Wheeler wanted to do was get clean.
“At that point in time, we hadn’t had a hot shower at all,” Torres said.
Zousch said he doesn’t know what it is about Pocatello that seems to attract survivalists.
“Contrary to what people believe, not everybody from Pocatello winds up naked. There’s only three of us,” he said.