New DH contributor, Zec Richardson, shares this fascinating article about his new found passion for kayaking!
I suddenly find myself at the age of 44 and disabled and it all happened so quickly!
I am very lucky to have an amazing wife and two beautiful teenage daughters and they have been amazing through these past few years.
I have had knee problems since my early twenties and had my first knee surgery when I was twenty five, I put it down to the many miles of road running and the heavy weights that I punished my legs with, although it could just be that I had dodgy knees.
I have now had thirteen bouts of knee surgery and the last one was knee replacement but unfortunately I am now in worse pain than ever and the multitude of meds don’t help and I am laid up in far more pain than anyone should ever suffer. I am also now reliant on a wheelchair whilst out, and crutches around the bungalow.
Of all the things that I missed, sea kayaking was the activity I missed the most. I live close to the Thames Estuary in between the River Thames and The River Crouch and I find being out on the water in a kayak very therapeutic and so I decided that despite the pain, I would try to carry on where I left off, I had always wanted to make the crossing from Lands End to St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly and to raise money for charity at the same time but had to stop kayaking after the pain became too much.
I am a tweeter and so I tweeted – “if anyone has or knows anyone with a sea kayak they no longer use, I would give it a very good home & train for my dream adventure.”
I had to sell my kayak when finances took a tumble and so I hoped someone would have a mouldy old beast they would give up, I was shocked when I was offered an NDK Explorer; it is one of the top sea kayaks and is used for major expeditions.
I couldn’t wait to get out on the water. With my family’s help we got the kayak to the water’s edge, I got in and bid them farewell. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised how much my disability would affect my kayaking and I spent the next half hour getting very wet. The knock on effect of dodgy knees has been muscle wastage in my legs and my hips have stiffened up and so I was unable to keep my balance in what is a very tippy professional kayak.
I also have damage to my back at L5 S1 after I slipped getting out of the car in the snow a couple of years ago and so my legs go totally dead after being sat in the kayak and so I cannot stand at all when getting out.
I was so upset with myself and felt very disabled and thought that my goals were impossible, I spoke to some kayakers and they suggested taking out the moulded seat and sit lower and further back and this was a success, however on a capsize I became trapped in the cockpit by a large bilge pump and a leg that doesn’t bend very well, but was luckily rescued by some lads who dove in and so further changes were made to the kayak.
I was blogging about my mad attempt to sea kayak and the blog was read by Nigel Dennis who makes the Explorer. He was the first guy to kayak around the UK and he offered me a new and better suiting kayak which hopefully will be delivered sometime soon. Eila Wilkinson of Lendal Paddles and SKUK sent me a pair of kinetic and a pair of Archipelago paddles. Paul Robertson from Palm Equipment sent a complete set of dry gear and Ann Turner from KariTek sent me an easy load roof rack which makes life so much easier as I can load the kayak from my wheelchair. I am not kidding when I say that I was close to tears because of the generosity of these people, sponsorship is only normally given to people who excel in the sport and yet I have been so fortunate.
Kayaking is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, it is way harder than the intense training I went through at RAF Manson to become a fire-fighter for the MOD.
After I have been out in the kayak, I have a huge flare up of pain and it normally reduces me to tears and it takes a few days of total rest to get back to just being in pain, but it is so very worth it and I plan my first charity paddle next summer, however if it takes longer, then it takes longer, but I refuse to be beaten!
And so I leave you with a very cold winter to the fore and a lot of training to complete.
My Motto – If it hurts, you are still alive!
By Zec Richardson