The fifth Sale to Sea Disability Kayak Challenge began on Wednesday morning, with more than 50 kayaks setting off on the 120 kilometre journey to Lakes Entrance.
Amongst the participants were Wellington Shire’s citizen of the year, keen sailor and disability advocate Mark Thorpe, and Paralympic silver medallist Amanda Reynolds.
Organiser Andrew Bedggood was in high spirits before hitting the water, and said it was all about having a crack.
“We don’t treat it as a race — it’s about inclusion,” he said.
“We travel at a leisurely pace, everyone has a lot of fun.
“It’s not about being the first over the line, it’s about making it over the line together.”
Mr Bedggood said seeing new faces was also rewarding, especially the return of Amanda Reynolds.
“There’s some new paddlers, some new amputees, our Paralympian Amanda Reynolds — she did the 2013 challenge with us, then won the world championships in 2015,” he said.
“She hasn’t been allowed to paddle with us because they’ve been Olympic years, but that’s what the whole thing’s about — setting goals.”
As well as welcoming all-abilities participants, Mr Bedggood was proud that the event also helped others in the community.
“All the money raised goes back into the community to help people with wheelchairs and medical equipment,” he said.
“There’s going to be a lot of sore people at the end of the day, we’re lucky we’ve got a physiotherapist and a masseuse.”
Wellington Shire councillor Scott Rossetti, who opened the day, said the challenge was a great example of what can happen when the community gets together.
“This event didn’t start out by bureaucrats and local government deciding it would be a good idea,” he said.
“Since 2009 it’s been running and I’ve been to a number of launches, but I haven’t been in a boat yet.”
While the morning was sunny when the kayaks departed, windy conditions on Lake Wellington made the lake crossing risky.
Consequently the paddlers decided against the lake crossing and went directly to Seacombe for Wednesday night before paddling to Loch Sport on Thursday.