by Connie Wardman

(From Compete Magazine’s June 2012 issue)


Full Metal Jousting - PR - HistoryMove over King Henry the VIII—forsooth, thou hast a jousting rival—Jake Nodar. Perhaps the appropriate question here is, whaaa? According to The History Channel’s description of their latest hit show, “Full Metal Jousting” features full-contact jousts with competitors going head-to-head on horseback in brutal tests of strength, endurance and courage.”

Enter Jake Nodar. A true adventurer at heart, this out athlete has gone from being a horse trainer to a participant in the Discovery Channel’s 2009 “Out of the Wild: the Alaska Experiment” to a cast member on Full Metal Jousting. Then throw in several other less-extreme challenges, like a bicycle trip from Saint Augustine, Fla. to Santa Monica, Calif., and you start to get a picture of this modern-day Indiana Jones.

Some might think Nodar was born in the wrong century. But this transplant to West Hollywood is very comfortable living in the city…as long as he has access to his horses and adventures in the great outdoors. Obsessed with horses and wildlife photography since he was a little boy growing up outside of Baltimore, after high school he volunteered at a horse rescue in exchange for riding lessons. Spending the 1999 year in Colorado at a horse training school, he returned to Maryland to start his own horse training business. But once his bike race ended at the Santa Monica pier, he knew California was his new home and moved his business to the Los Angeles area. He now trains about eight miles away in Griffith Park and also does free-lance riding.

Nodar has never hidden the fact that he is gay but he had a dramatic public coming out on national television during the Alaska show. This show was a very real survival experience! And on episode seven, the producers had him read a personal letter to his remaining team members letting them know that he, the rugged hunter and one of only four members who survived the entire journey, was gay. He made some great friends on the show and some members of the production crew were the ones who let Nodar know about the opportunity to appear on another upcoming extreme reality show, “Full Metal Jousting.”

All applicants for the jousting series were required to have riding experience. Fifty candidates were selected and put through an extensive five-day interview and physical exam, including a CAT scan. Of that number, 30 were flown in three groups of 10 to just outside Jackson, Mississippi where the series was filmed to evaluate how well each person operated under pressure. Of that group, 16 made the final cut.

Mississippi is hot and steamy, even in October. So with temperatures around the 80-degree mark, the 16 latter-day knights stood in suits of armor weighing 85 pounds while the trainers began to hit them with a battering ram, readying them for the experience of a lance impact at full speed. The next step in the process was mounting one of the 14 horses and riding at a gallop while the coach hit them with a lead-filled baseball bat. Then came the addition of the grand guard, the 12×12 inch metal plate bolted to the left shoulder that is the acceptable strike zone for the lance.

Although Nodar had riding experience in both rodeo and jumping, he admits that no amount of physical training or mental preparation can ready you for your first impact—there is simply nothing that compares. Although unhorsed on several occasions before he was eventually eliminated, he says he managed to fall well and wasn’t too badly injured. But for him, the worst part of the experience was the recoil on the right shoulder when he’d hit his opponent at full gallop.

And falling well is important since each of the draft horses weighs approximately 2,000 pounds, a necessity for carrying the weight of a 200-pound man, 85 pounds of armor and another 35 pounds for the saddle and other gear. Obviously, a staff medical doctor and an ambulance were always on the set, ready for those runs to the emergency room. In one freak accident, a lance managed to penetrate the tiny opening in the armor’s groin area on one of the jousters, requiring him to have his scrotum stitched. Nodar quickly added that right after that accident, he packed as much industrial-strength foam as he could fit along those openings in his own suit of armor.

Since he was living with 15 straight alpha males for an extended period, the big question was if his being gay ever came up or was an issue. And the subject did arise. In one of those self-conscious moments when you’re meeting a bunch of people you’ll be living with but don’t know yet, someone tried to break the ice by laughingly asking if anyone was gay. Never one to hide who he is, Nodar acknowledged that he was. Some people mumbled a bit after his answer but he said he never experienced any homophobia on the set. In fact, the one fellow he was most worried about accepting him wound up being his best friend on the show and they recently spent a week together camping in Oregon.

Beyond his beloved horses, the 33-year-old Nodar plays the guitar and yes, he’s single. He loves being outdoors—hiking, camping, snow-boarding and taking wildlife pictures. And his feet are starting to itch for a new adventure, maybe by the fall. The good news is that Compete has his number so those of us who aren’t quite so adventurous can live vicariously through his upcoming travels. Who knows what will come next.


Photos: courtesty of The History Channel

Photo credits: Zach Dilgard


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