Most of us live within our comfort zone. Without pushing the limits we don’t know what can be achieved.
A few months before my fifteenth birthday an accident robbed me of nearly all my sight. Since then life hasn’t always been easy. I’ve wanted to live beyond the boundries of expectation and go further one step at a time.
In 2009 my husband Roy and I bought a double sit on top kayak and started another one of our adventures.
After paddling it for a year I wanted a faster kayak. Then we bought a real sea kayak. The kayak we bought was a big heavy slow double. I felt I wanted to go yet faster.
After another two years in the double I felt I was not learning any new skills.
I challenged myself to learn to paddle a single kayak. Yes! You may say how does a totally blind person paddle a single kayak? That is a very good question. Initially with apprehension, lots and lots of turning turtle and wobbling on the water, tears and fears. What kept me going was Roy’s encouragement and my indomitable determination not to let that skill evade me.
Over the years Roy and I have tried many adventures. It was the same old story. Roy picked up the skills easily and I fell down all the time. I refused to let the falls overwhelm me. Sometimes I got discouraged but I told myself not to give up. While learning to snow ski I was on my bottom more than my feet. With determination I mastered the skis and before long I was the fastest vision impaired skier on the slopes. It was the same with kayaking. I have that need to conquer.
The most important thing when paddling is having the right boat along with the correct paddle. Rob Mercer got me set up with both and some tips on paddling. I have absolute confidence in my TideRace Xcite S and my paddle.
I would like to give credit to my husband for his encouragement and unfailing support. He’s always behind me if sometimes a little too far and I have to wait for him to catch up.
I also thank Rob Mercer for his initial training and his belief that I could kayak unsighted. Most of all I thank Adrian Clayton for the hours of patiently giving me training. He is the catalyst that has launched my skills and given me confidence to paddle bumpy seas without turning over. He taught me how to edge for a sharper turn, using sweep strokes, stern and bow rudder turns. He’s given me many more tools to keep me safe. He thought out how he would teach me effectively while encouraging and supporting me.
Thanks guys! I have confidence in the skills that my kayaking friends have contributed to.
When I’m paddling I imagine where the horizon is. In my mind I see the glassy smooth bay or rough wind swept ocean with the swell coming towards me as I bump over it. I have to imagine the other paddlers around me or sail craft in the distance. I remember the glory of seeing hundreds of craft on Sydney Harbour and have the picture in my mind forever.
Sometimes the backwash from the rocks is like paddling in a huge washing machine. It is so much fun when the waves splash over my bow or I run down them sometimes using my paddle to brace or slow me down. Once I caught a wave off Shelly Beach and I was lost in the joy of racing down it.
I use my core muscles to balance. When the sea is rough and the wind is blowing it takes all my concentration to keep my kayak upright. I used to tense up in those conditions but with the skills that Adrian has given me I’m able to relax and enjoy the wind swept swell.
I feel the grandeur of the cliffs as I hear the waves pounding on them. It’s all a bit frightening not knowing exactly how far away they are from me. It’s also frightening when I hear a jet or speed boat and not know how close it is.
It’s comforting to know that Roy is always nearby. If he doesn’t respond to a shout I call him on my marine radio.
I get a sense of freedom and exhilaration when I’m on the ocean in a sea kayak. I get that same feeling when snow shoeing or skiing. When we get back to the beach after a 25 km trip through the wind and waves I feel proud and a great sense of accomplishment. Sometimes all my joints ache and my legs are like jelly. It means I’ve enjoyed myself and I’ll do it all again.