James Matthew Stuart Walker – you ever heard about this guy? Chances are you don’t even know you have. That’s because, for the last 11 years in Phuket, he’s been known by most and loved by many as Jay Leshark. So how did James become Jay Leshark? Here’s that story in his own words.
Who is Jay Leshark?
Jay Leshark is this happy-go-lucky, fun-loving character who always looks on the positive side of life and has a joke to tell. I guess Jay Leshark is James Walker turned up to ten. Jay Walker was on my business card, but on Facebook, on the radio and in my mind, I was Jay Leshark, that’s who I wanted to be.
Were you him when you arrived in Phuket?
When I came to Phuket, I was Jay Leshark, but I did go by Jay Walker for work. But my nickname, Sharky, has been around for much longer. I’ve been called that since I was 17 years old; in the UK if you’re going out “sharking” or you’re “a shark” it means you’re on a hunt, and I used to love to go out and “try” to pull the ladies – come on! I’m an Essex boy! And so, the name Sharky stuck. The Leshark thing came a bit later when I was setting my first ever email account up, in 2000. I thought I would throw a bit of French, a bit of za za zoo in there. Why? Why not! And so Leshark was born.
And what did Leshark do before he arrived in Phuket?
I was teaching watersports for 15 years – sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, waterskiing etc. and it was fantastic. It paid nothing but I travelled all around the world and had an amazing life. I’m so pleased social media wasn’t around then, because some of the stuff we did was just bonkers (laughing). When I was teaching watersports, we always provided entertainment for the guests – quiz nights, variety shows etc. And when I arrived in Phuket to work in the property business, I quickly started missing that buzz, being on stage. So, when I heard that a local radio station was looking for a presenter, I phoned them up and started nearly right away. Form the radio I got DJ gigs, MC gigs and it kind of rolled on from there.
So, what is Leshark up to these days?
Honestly, I’ve had a shocking year end of 2017 and 2018, I’ve hit the lowest I’ve ever been. I got divorced and that ripped my heart out. One of my goals in life was to be a family man and getting divorced and losing that family feel was heartbreaking. You know, we live in the tropics, it’s supposed to be amazing, and there I was, the funny, joyful Leshark, driving around the island, crying my heart out and looking for a place to end it all. I thought of going to the Sarasin bridge and jumping off it! But the thing is, I spent 15 years of my life as a watersport instructor, so I knew I could swim a bit. I have also jumped off a lot of cliffs in my time, so I thought it was going to be the worst suicide attempt ever (laughing). Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t do it!
What stopped you?
Maybe I just had the thought and I wasn’t ready to follow it through? I’ve also met some new people who inspired me to realize that I needed to do what I needed to do. Like, I love doing the radio, I love entertainment, but I’ve stopped doing all this because I just felt that, as a family man, I needed to get a “proper job” and support the family. But then as I said, I met some people who inspired me to go out and do what I love. I realized that I need to challenge myself, set myself new goals.
So what challenges is Leshark facing in 2019?
For example, I’ve always wanted to sing, so I’m taking singing lessons now (I need to have a lot of these!). I have also started to do write and produce comedy shows, and did my first one in January at the Underwood Art Factory – I called that one my “coming out party” as in “coming out of depression”. I want to put this depression behind me and move forward, and setting these goals of producing and performing in shows is one of the challenges that I have set for myself.
And then there is Phuket Best Burger – you know, it’s like having a favourite child. You can’t say you have one, but yes, Phuket Best Burger is my favourite project. I had no idea that it would go as far as it did! It’s an amazing feeling when 1000 people show up to your party. There are other stunning events in Phuket, with lots of money behind them, but I always wanted the Best Burger to be like a weekend cookout, with kids jumping around on a bouncy castle, adults drinking beers from bottles and great burgers on the grill. So, we’re keeping it very rustic – no bells and whistles, just burgers, hay bales and a great atmosphere. And this year it’s going to be bigger than ever!
Phuket Best Burger 5 – “Dare to Dream” takes place on Saturday 23rd March at Boat Lagoon Marina. Learn more on facebook.com/PhuketsBestBurger
If you or someone you know is in need of mental health services, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline 02-713-6791 (English), 02713-6793 (Thai) or Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).