Many will know Matt Pritchard from the prank and stunt TV series, Dirty Sanchez – Britain’s answer to the US’ Jackass.
But before Pritchard appeared on television screens around the UK, he was a professional skateboarder and even designed his own skate shoe.
In 2015, Pritchard became vegan – but it wasn’t his whacky stunts that knocked some sense into him, it was watching the hard-hitting documentary Cowspiracy. The film, combined with the love of his dog companion, Lenny, convinced Pritchard to leave animals off his plate.1Vegan Food & Living. 2020. Meet the star of Dirty Vegan – Matt Pritchard. Available: https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/vegan-lifestyle/interviews/meet-the-star-of-dirty-vegan-matt-pritchard/ [Accessed 2 February 2022].
Two years after becoming vegan, Pritchard decided to share his love of ‘Proper Vegan Cookin’ by launching a YouTube series to show people how easy it is to create cheap, tasty and filling vegan food.2Lupica, D. 2017. Dirty Sanchez Star Launches Vegan Cookery Show On YouTube. Available: https://plantbasednews.org/lifestyle/vegan-personality-matthew-pritchard-launches-pritchards-proper-vegan-cookin/ [Accessed 2 February 2022]. The success of his online cookery show led to Pritchard presenting the first ever vegan cookery programme on the BBC in 2019, titled Dirty Vegan. The show spawned the hugely successful cook book of the same name and its sequel, Dirty Vegan: Another Bite.
Pritchard began endurance training in 2009 as years of taking part in Dirty Sanchez had taken a toll on his body and he wanted to regain some of the fitness he had as a 15-year-old, when he ran his first half marathon.1Vegan Food & Living. 2020. Meet the star of Dirty Vegan – Matt Pritchard. Available: https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/vegan-lifestyle/interviews/meet-the-star-of-dirty-vegan-matt-pritchard/ [Accessed 2 February 2022].
Like many others, he caught the running bug and suddenly marathons were not enough to satisfy him. But now he also had a secret weapon – his plant-based diet. Pritchard told Vegan Food & Living: “I ran the country — 900 miles in 30 days. I did an Ironman, then I did 30 Ironmans in 30 days. All on a vegan diet.”1Vegan Food & Living. 2020. Meet the star of Dirty Vegan – Matt Pritchard. Available: https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/vegan-lifestyle/interviews/meet-the-star-of-dirty-vegan-matt-pritchard/ [Accessed 2 February 2022].
Then, in 2021, as Covid-19 lockdowns swept across the globe, Matt Pritchard decided that instead of waiting it out at home, he’d spend that time rowing across the Atlantic with three teammates to raise awareness for mental health issues.3McCarthy, J. 2021. Dirty Vegan star Matt Pritchard rows the Atlantic. Available: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-56921357 [Accessed 2 February 2022].
“Four years ago, I got a dog – Lenny the springer spaniel. He’s my best mate and I started to think ‘I wouldn’t eat my dog, why am I eating all these other animals?’. Then I watched Cowspiracy, and that was it. The next morning I went vegan. I guess I just woke up. Cow’s milk is for calves!”1Vegan Food & Living. 2020. Meet the star of Dirty Vegan – Matt Pritchard. Available: https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/vegan-lifestyle/interviews/meet-the-star-of-dirty-vegan-matt-pritchard/ [Accessed 2 February 2022].
Matt Pritchard: From Wild Man to Vegan Ironman
By Faye Lewis
Matt Pritchard has achieved a lot in his 48 years He shot to fame as a professional skateboarder and stuntman for MTV’s hugely successful programme Dirty Sanchez, before reinventing himself as a celebrity chef in 2019 – hosting the first vegan cookery TV show, Dirty Vegan, on BBC . He’s also released two vegan cookbooks: Dirty Vegan and Dirty Vegan: Another Bite.
In recent years though, it’s his transformation into an ultra-fit Ironman that has been his main focus and preoccupation.
Viva!’s Faye Lewis caught up with the “wild man-turned-Ironman” and chatted vegan stereotypes, having an addictive personality, and, of course, his love of food and journey to veganism.
Matt Pritchard was – on more than one occasion – famously referred to as a “wild man”. It’s an epithet that suited him perfectly in his 20s, where, as the co-creator and co-star of MTV’s Dirty Sanchez (the British equivalent of Jackass), he was basically paid to do stupid (and dangerous) stunts while drunk and/or high. To be very clear, these stunts were extremely dangerous. He was whipped with barbed wire, voluntarily bitten by attack dogs and actually shot by a gun expert with a shotgun. Matt pushed his body beyond all comprehensible human limitation.
“It was a different level of crazy,” he laughs, from his home in Cardiff when we catch up via Zoom. “At the time, I didn’t think about the injuries. I had a one-track mind and just thought, where’s the next party? Where’s the next buzz?” he says.
It was 2001 when Matt began filming the first series of Dirty Sanchez, which quickly snowballed to become MTV’s highest rating show – making overnight stars of Matt and his friends Dan Joyce, Lee Dainton, and Mike Locke. Series two and three quickly followed, and even Dirty Sanchez: The Movie, and Balls of Steel for Channel 4.
“You don’t give a shit. Everything is exciting because you’re young and loving it. In that way, we totally beat the system,” Matt recalls. “We got paid to have a laugh and get drunk and were doing what we wanted, so we didn’t think about the downsides.”
Off the back of this, Matt became a global celebrity and with it, of course, enjoyed all the hedonistic trappings of the cliché rock’n’roll lifestyle.
“Because I was a professional skateboarder before Dirty Sanchez happened, I had experienced a little bit of fame in the skateboarding world, but it was nothing to the extent of Dirty Sanchez. That was a completely different beast.”
With the highs, however, came the inevitable lows; and with the partying, booze and drugs, came the downward spiral that nearly ended his career, and his life. The turning point for Matt came when he saw himself in the mirror, and realised he didn’t recognise the man staring back at him.
“Dirty Sanchez came along and It was the craziest, best of times. But it takes its toll. You get to the other side and think ‘wow’,” he shakes his head, soberly.
“I addressed it by saying I am going to do a half-marathon, because that is what I did as a 15-year-old and I knew the training would mean I would start looking after myself again. And it did, it took me back to square one, and slowly but surely I really fell in love with fitness.”
This was in 2007 and from that point, Matt set his sights on becoming an ultra-endurance athlete – albeit one who once ran a marathon in a mankini!
“I am one of those people constantly looking for the next buzz. I have an addictive personality and if I like something, I dive in head first,” he laughs.
Following on from the success of his half-marathon, Matt worked his way through marathons and ultra-marathons, progressing to triple-Ironman events. This involves 54 hours of continuous, intense exercise! Ever since, Matt has continued to train and complete wide-ranging and intensive endurance events including triathlons.
While the rest of us binged on Netflix during lockdown, Matt and a four-man crew rowed crossed the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness about mental ill-health – in case you weren’t already feeling sedentary enough!
To understand where Matt’s dedication and ability to persevere comes from, you only have to talk to him for five minutes to realise it’s hardwired within.
“You have to want to do it,” he considers. “If you have that attitude then you can do anything. But if you can’t be arsed, you only do a half-arsed job. I just love that there’s a competition between my mind and body and I am too stubborn to give up,” he laughs.
The conversation turns to food and ultimately his journey to veganism. It was in 2015, after watching the award-winning documentary Cowspiracy that the turning point came.
“I was pescatarian, but I was looking into veganism, because there are a lot of vegan endurance athletes and I wanted to know why that was. But then I saw Cowspiracy and I realised there was so much more to it than not eating dairy and meat. That was it for me.”
Matt explains this also came at a time when he was more conscious of the world and of what others were doing.
“We are told life begins at 40 and for me it was true. I started seeing so much more and waking up to the lies we have all been told,” he says. “For example, we are told milk is good for us when we’re younger, but it isn’t. Milk is for baby calves, not humans. I love animals, I wouldn’t kill one so I don’t see why I would eat it.”
“I had a debate with a farmer’s daughter and I asked her outright: ‘What is cow’s milk for?’ She said ‘humans’, and I said ‘no, it’s for their calves.’ But she was adamant; ‘No, it’s for humans.’ It was infuriating. It was like she knows it’s not; she can’t be that daft, but I just couldn’t believe she was pushing it. I understand it’s her business, and livelihood, I am sympathetic to that, but I still don’t agree with it and it’s not right.”
“I will prove to you being vegan and competing is better for me! and I have done that countless times. This helps other people; they see me rowing across the Atlantic and competing in Ironman events and it makes people think ‘if he can do it, so can I!’”
In 2017, Matt launched a YouTube-based cookery series called Proper Vegan Cookin’,
“I’ve always loved cooking and find it therapeutic. Even with a hangover, I’d much rather cook in a kitchen than order a takeaway. I make one pot stuff, curries – my cooking isn’t Michelin Star but it’s honest, simple, home-cooked food.”
Given Matt’s reputation for being a bit of a party animal, what was the reaction from his friends and family when he first went vegan?
“Your mates always take the piss out of you, so that I was ready for. But I don’t know what people think vegans look like. They seem to think we are going to be dressed like hippies and smell like patchouli oil!” he laughs.
“Being in my position, when you tell people you’re vegan, you get a lot of abuse online,” he shrugs. “Lots of people said don’t do it because you won’t get enough protein, which you need when you’re doing the endurance training. That was the point most people made, and so, obviously, I wanted to prove a counterpoint,” he laughs. “I will prove to you being vegan and competing is better for me! and I have done that countless times. This helps other people; they see me rowing across the Atlantic and competing in Ironman events and it makes people think ‘if he can do it, so can I!’”
In terms of redemption tales, Matt’s is certainly one of positivity, hard work and determination. But what of the future, what do people think of Matt? We let him conclude.
“Everything I’ve done, I have enjoyed and wanted to do it – but there is still a lot more for me to achieve! I have lots of events planned, which means all the lead up work that goes into the events. I am going to keep pushing myself, and this keeps me mentally focused, fit, and healthy. That’s what I enjoy doing.”