Making it possible…
“…the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
‘Making it possible’ is Huw Kingston’s reason for being. He sees endpoints and then moves heaven and earth to reach them.
He rarely reads novels, has to be dragged along to the movies, is happier reading newspapers than watching the latest fictional TV show. If it’s not real, it doesn’t float his boat. That’s not to say he doesn’t have fanciful dreams and big ideas. The difference with Huw is that they don’t just percolate around in his mind. He makes them manifest. Living. Three dimensional. Possible.
Huw is an adventurer, speaker, entrepreneur, former cafe owner, event director, environmentalist, writer, ski guide, mountain bike guide, tour leader and grandfather. This leaves him never short of a story to tell. And he does so with passion and humour.
Whether running a complex sports event, galvanising a community campaign or organising an out there expedition, Huw has the ability to engage others with his dreams to make them possible.
In mid 2015 Huw returned from his grandest adventure to date. mediterr année, a year long, human-powered circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea. Beginning from and returning to Gallipoli, the journey was a commemoration of the Anzac Centenary as Huw sea kayaked, walked, cycled and rowed a boat 13,000 kilometres through 17 countries. At a time of immense and tragic upheaval in the Mediterranean this journey was touched by human kindness throughout.
Aside from the vast personal, logistical and geopolitical challenges this expedition posed, Huw also sought to highlight the heartwrenching plight of those innocent kids caught up in the conflict of warring ‘grown ups’. Hence his partnership with the charity, Save The Children Australia for whom he became their biggest ever individual fundraiser and now continues to work closely with the charity and was appointed a Community Ambassador. In part for his Mediterranean journey Huw was presented with the Australian Geographic Society’s Spirit of Adventure award.
Huw has form for long, challenging, human powered journeys. Through a project he tagged City2City, he joined all of Australia’s capital cities by the wildest terrain between them – desert, mountain, river and ocean. A series of seven journeys, totalling some 25,000 kilometres. After first visiting India in 1984 and vowing never to return, Huw embarked on a 15 year love affair with the Indian Himalaya and particularly travelling through these huge mountains in winter. As a result he completed the longest ski traverses then undertaken in that part of the world.
Throughout all his sojourns Huw has never forgotten how lucky he has been, and how his teenage years silly fall (through the roof of a pedestrian underpass skylight) might have had much more debilitating results. Doctors later advised his fractured spine would render walking painful and strenuous outdoor adventures unlikely.
Maybe Huw should adopt a second motto, “Getting Out and Giving Back,” as they seem to be the two common threads through his life.
For instance, on learning that a fellow cyclist had not only hurt his back, but been rendered a quadriplegic, Huw created the charity 4Wheels4Sean to buy him a $50,000 wheelchair accessible car. The charity later donated another $20,000 to the Paraplegic Benefit Fund, before being adopted by Australia’s peak cycling organisations.
In 1992, long before most people understood the problems of single-use plastics, Huw created Don’t Bag the Environment (for the Paddy Pallin adventure retail company), a win-win-win initiative, which is still supporting conservation work almost 25 years after he established it.
A life spent exploring the outdoors has imbued Huw with a strong drive to improve the natural state of his planet. Huw was the instigator of Bundy on Tap, whereby in 2009 his Australian town of Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales became the world’s first bottled water free town. An endeavour which did not go unnoticed, generating an estimated $10 million worth of unsolicited global media around the environmental issues of selling single serves of a resource that flows almost for free from our taps. Huw continues to work worldwide on the issue of plastic waste, now very much an issue for our times. In 2018 Huw gave a TEDx talk in Athens entitled ‘Message in a Bottle’.
As a result of his work, Time Magazine named Huw as one of their 25 Worldwide Responsibility Pioneers and he was awarded the Sharing Citizen prize, under the auspice of The Council of Europe. Back home news.com.au named him their Green Hero and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) made him the recipient of their prestigious Peter Rawlinson Award. Recently Huw was selected by his UK University as one of 50 individuals from over half a million former students and staff to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the University whilst the AACSB, the peak body representing 750 University and other Business Schools worldwide, named Huw one of 30 Influential Leaders and Change makers in 2016.
For 20 years Huw worked with local communities and battled with bureaucrats as one of the country’s pioneering adventure event organisers and over those two decades organised some of Australia’s best known cycling and adventure events. Always with an eye to the fun and the zany as well as the challenge, Huw remains as tenacious and resolute in his beliefs as always. Ask any government official who has been on the receiving end of what Huw terms his “particular disdain for the stultifying effect of bureaucracy and the insidious creep of the nanny state taking away personal responsibility.”
This pugnacious, iconoclastic rebel may ruffle a few feathers, but often does so with a humourous irreverence. Take for example, the various authorising entities who would request Huw’s events submit a risk management plan. Suspecting most were merely on a box ticking exercise, he included a note that, as his events were co-gender there was a risk of pregnancy and as a hazard reduction strategy condoms would be issued to participants. As if to confirm Huw’s hypothesis, only one official in twenty years ever commented on the spurious measure.
Back in 1997 he led off his event organising career with the Polaris Challenge, Australia’s first mass participation endurance mountain bike event, later following up with Australasia’s first carbon neutral cycling event, the Highland Fling MTB Marathon. The latter provided around $50,000 of fundraising revenue annually for the various community groups that Huw engaged to participate. Appreciating his event management prowess the ACT government engaged Huw to run their inaugural Brindabella Challenge, Australia’s largest variety cycle festival, with 15 different biking events. Whilst Huw hung up his event organising hat in 2017, he continues to consult on events and to run adventure tours worldwide via his company Wild Horizons. As an advocate for better cycling facilities Huw was also behind the creation of the trail network in Wingello State Forest; now one of Australia’s favourite mountain biking destinations.
In short Huw is who he wants to be. An average adventurer; by his own admission not highly skilled. But that is no impediment to someone so focused on attaining whatever dream of the day he chooses to act on.
(With thanks for the words to my good friend Warren McLaren)