Dr Geoff Wilson, veterinarian, serial adventurer and world record holder
Be all in in all you do ...
Dr Geoff Wilson is not your average veterinarian. He’s got an unquenchable thirst for adventure that has seen him ride from London to Kenya, drag a ‘boobsled’ across Antarctica, escape pirates in the straights of Mollucca, cross the Sahara desert by wind power alone, run the Kokoda track over and back in six days (usual track takes seven to 10 days one way). He holds multiple world records and he’s done it all in the name of charity. Geoff – who is afraid of heights – is gearing up to take on his most difficult challenge yet. He will co-pilot a purpose-built hot air balloon 40,000 feet above sea level to raise $400,000 in the world’s highest, manually piloted, unpressurised balloon flight. We caught up with Geoff to find out what makes the mad man tick.
You’ve previously dragged a ‘boobsled’ for 53 days, 3428-kilometres across Antarctica to raise $250,000 for the McGrath Foundation. What compelled you to do that?
I always try to showcase a charity or cause during any adventure I do and I have always wanted to cross Antarctica, I just hadn’t found the right cause yet. My mate Kate Carlyle’s breast cancer journey was in my face and it started something within. We had a coffee and the ‘boobsled’ was born!
You couldn’t hold a lamington drive or do something less life threatening to raise money?
That’s not my skill set! People think I do these things for ego or attention but that’s not it, it’s more the fact that long journeys hauling heavy loads is what I am excellent at. It would have been so much better to be excellent at golf but it’s my DNA – it’s in my make-up.
You lost 22-kilograms of body mass on that expedition, was there ever a moment when you thought to yourself what the heck am I even doing?
Many times! There were many near death moments where the costs felt too high, made even more stressful when put through the filter of family pain and loss but when it’s compared to what the girls are going through back home connected to chemo or going through surgery, it is nothing. It’s always worth it if you believe in the charity and I wholeheartedly believe in what the McGrath Foundation is doing.
What did you tell yourself to keep going?
I always imagine a loved one’s face, or think of a friend back home going through the breast cancer journey – it becomes like rocket fuel pressing me forward. No challenge is too large if the cause is correct in the first place and the motives are right.
You’re about to take on another (possibly insane) world record challenge. Can you tell us about Pink Apollo Project?
The Pink Apollo Project is about dominating or excelling in another hostile environment, I’ve done hot deserts and a cold desert but I havn’t done an oxygen desert before. At 40,000 feet there is no oxygen so it’s about learning to mentally cope, to survive, to thrive. We fly a simple hot air balloon to break the 37,000-foot barrier, the highest the human body has been without a pressure suit. We’ll have oxygen masks on but just speedos otherwise (just kidding, we’ll actually be in jumpsuits).
We hear you’re afraid of heights. How is that going to go?
I hate heights! But it’s like taking medicine. It’s getting better, I am onto jump 20 out of a plane at 15,000 feet but I have still got heaps to go before I am comfortable. I’ll get there!
It sounds terrifying! How are you preparing for that challenge?
Just getting to peak fitness and getting comfortable with the skydiving.
What’s your blue sky dream? What do you hope to achieve through all of these expeditions?
I aim to be known for being ‘all in’ in all I do. I aim to reinvigorate the Australian people’s passion for adventure – big or small. Adventure is not a luxury, it’s a necessity to keep oneself invigorated and jumping out of bed in the morning.
How can readers help?
Please please please sponsor a foot of altitude – it’s $10 per foot. Get onto Pink Apollo’s page on GoFundraise and sponsor a foot, all of it goes to the McGrath Foundation to get nurses into rural Australia and support our Aussies with breast cancer.
What inspires you?
My heroes Jesus Christ, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen … the greats of exploration, the drivers, the pioneers.
How does your family feel about you taking on these challenges?
They understand that this is who I am. I don’t have a sickness or pathology that can be fixed, I am, I was, I have always been like this – I’ll adventure into my 80s!
What’s the scariest thing you’ve seen/experienced on one of your adventures?
Probably the first Antarctic megastorm – it was the most horrific weather event I have ever had to survive. Mid-way through I had to make a terrible call to Sarah to explain I couldn’t be sure I’d survive the storm. It just seemed to get worse and worse and by day three I was going insane. However, I did survive and it certainly built character!
Finally, any words to live by?
Don’t accept the bland, mundane, and routine as your lot. Dream, imagine, determine your gifts and get out there and change your story. Be all in in all you do.