Monday, 22 August 2016

Dream big and full of ale

Every now and again we all experience moments in our lives that dramatically shape our futures. No, I’m not on about the time I witnessed Ben fall 6ft through some stairs and smash a chair to bits, or about the time that I stopped him from doing a Jimmy Hendrix and subsequently put his phone through the wash. 

The moment in question came about as a result of a conversation Ben and I had about purchasing a fishing kayak... 8 pints and two bottles of wine later and we had decided that we were going to kayak around Wales!

The day after most drunken conversations people either don’t remember the conversations they had, or they choose not to remember them. For Ben and I this was different. We realised that we both had the same goal; to do something—anything—to promote disability enablement and equality. And what better way could we do that than to partake in something that would challenge us both to our limits, on an equal basis, not as individuals but as a team.

We are now just days away from setting off on our trip and it is simply staggering to think how far we have come. We have learnt to kayak in a pool, reservoir and on the sea. We have learnt to roll and self-rescue, undertaken radio and safety courses, learnt about coastal navigation, set up and updated numerous forms of social media, sent thousands of emails and created our own logo and events. And much to my displeasure we have both spent countless hours in the gym over the past 6 months. 

This trip would not, however, of become a reality if wasn’t for the kindness, generosity, and selflessness of a number of very special people. Wales' kayaking and sailing communities have truly stepped up to the mark with offers of sea support, accommodation, fundraising and even promotion. They have helped inspire us with their unwavering enthusiasm and made us believe that this was all possible, even when we doubted it was. A couple of groups deserve a special mention though. 

This trip would simply not have been possible without the support of both Escape Watersports and Croesyceiliog Canoe club. 

Both Croesyceiliog and Escape have provided us with lots of equipment, hours of expert advice and backed us from the very beginning. They have somehow managed to turn us into something resembling credible kayakers who also, on occasion, actually look quite good doing it.              

The last, and most important person to mention in all of this, is Ben.

There have been times over the last 18 months where he has driven me mad with his general stubbornness and highly speculative ideas, but he is the ultimate example of disability enablement. 

At no point in this trip, or in his life, has he ever let his disability define him and I have never heard him use it as an excuse. Ben doesn't have it easy, but he'll never tell you that. Going in to this trip he is fitter than me, physically stronger than me, and more determined to succeed than anyone I have ever met.

There is not anyone else (disability or not) who I would rather be doing this challenge with.
It goes without saying that when we launch off Anglesey on Saturday we will be apprehensive and full of adrenaline. 

We know it’s going to be hard but we will also know that just by getting to the start line we have already won our race. 


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