Around 70 participants are part of this year’s Sale to Sea Disability Kayak Challenge, which is increasing in size every year after starting with two kayakers at its inception in 2009.
Founder and organiser, Andrew Bedggood, created the group after his life was changed forever. On his way home one evening his car ran out of fuel, so he got out and stood at the boot of his car. Little did he know a speeding vehicle was careering towards him, ran off the road and pinned Andrew to the back of his car.
The impact crushed Andrew’s left leg below the knee and destroyed his right leg, which had to be amputated below the knee. He was 19 years old.
Now 50 years of age, he’s living a full life and is proud to have created such a positive community event that has received national and international interest.
“I think it just gives people hope and belief that they can do something, and it may lead to bigger things. It could be a small as them thinking ‘Well I’ve done this, maybe I’ll go get a job now’,” he said.
“It’s about helping people achieve their personal goals, by making them think ‘What’s the next goal that I’ll do with my life, what am I going to achieve next?’ It’s what they set for themselves.”
Around 25 per cent of this year’s participants has a disability, which is a number that is also growing along with the able-bodied kayakers.
“Around 15 disabled people will be paddling this year, which is an increase in years past. But all these able-bodied people move in on our glory, so we have to drag them along and look after them,” Andrew said.
Brenton Dinsdale from GippSport’s Access for all Abilities program is one of the support kayakers in the challenge. He’s rowing with Mark Thorpe, an avid sailor and kayaker, in a double kayak.
“Kayaking isn’t a mainstream sport and has garnered a lot of interest. It’s a sport that’s a bit different, and it’s a great opportunity for those with a disability to get out onto the water. These guys always put a smile on your face and keep you entertained so it should be fun,” he said.
Andrew emphasises it’s not a race, but an opportunity for personal challenge and growth.
One kayaker, Amanda Reynolds, has gone on to represent Australia in the World Titles in Moscow in which she won the Bronze medal. Currently, at Nationals for the Paralympics in 2016 in Rio, she was unable to take part in this year’s Sale to Sea, an event Andrew says is proud to have cultivated such determination and strength in the face of adversity.
Sale to Sea is not-for-profit, and with the money it raises it funds infrastructure and tools to assist the lives of those living with a disability. The group’s trip to Lakes Entrance will take three days, but Andrew says one-day trips will be introduced in 2016.