THE 2013 Sale to Sea Disability Kayak Challenge finished on Saturday at Lakes Entrance and has been declared a huge success by organiser Andrew Bedggood.
About 60 kayakers completed the journey, with 15 disabled kayakers taking on the challenge for the first time.
Mr Bedggood said the range of disabilities involved in this year’s challenge demonstrated the spirit in which this event had grown since the beginning in 2009.
Jenny Silcock from Menzies Creek paddled with and supported her husband Wayne, who suffered a stroke at the age of 42 and is partially paralysed on his right side.
“My husband Wayne developed a bracket for our kayak and he paddled one handed all the way with me in the back,” Mrs Silcock said.
“I am so proud of what he has achieved as I have not seen him so motivated since he had his stroke.
“The Sale to Sea team supported us all the way and it was a fantastic event that really inspires you,” she said.
“The people you meet and the stories of adversity that you hear really are amazing.
“The Sale to Sea Challenge saved Wayne and myself; it saved our marriage, it saved his life, it really has been a turning point in his rehabilitation.
“I actually burst into tears when we came into the North Arm at Lakes Entrance, I just could not help myself; I was so emotional at what we had achieved and the fantastic people we had met over the last four days.”
Mr Bedggood said this year’s event was by far the best yet.
“The organising committee and support crews we had on the water and land did a wonderful job and could not have done things any better.
“Ian Wyld, from Sale, was in charge on the water and marshalled the jetskis, rubber duck and supporting craft like a true professional.
“Our recovery teams worked extremely well together and coped very well in the conditions on Lake Wellington on day one.
“You can’t run these types of events without good people on board with you and they were all first class.”
This year’s participants included a vision impaired woman from Bairnsdale who paddled the entire journey with her guide dog, a 72-year-old double amputee from Bairnsdale, cancer survivors, hearing impaired people and a young man with Down Syndrome.
Victoria Police members also participated, along with kayakers from across the country.
“Six weeks ago, if you had asked me, I would have said that this was the last challenge as I had had enough, but after seeing and experiencing the stories and backgrounds of the disabled paddlers over the last four days, the 2015 challenge is already being planned,” Mr Bedggood said.
“These people are what the challenge is about and they are the true spirit of the challenge itself.
“They are people who have already lost or given so much in their own personal challenges in life, but aren’t afraid to take it all on again and prove to themselves that they are not done yet.
“These people are so inspirational, and I will admit, it bought a tear to my eye when I saw everyone get up on the beach in Lakes Entrance.”
Mary Anton, from Sale, participated in the challenge for her daughter who suffers from epilepsy, as a way of highlighting this condition and support for her daughter.
“When I paddled into the North Arm and saw my family standing there to greet me, I was just a blubbering mess,” she said.
“I had completed the challenge, met some wonderful people and heard some amazing stories, but when I saw the faces of my proud family, it all came out.
“Two years can’t come quick enough.
“The Sale to Sea team did just a fantastic job and looked after us all the way.”