My 2017 11 City Tour was always going to be different but who would have thought it could be what it was. Having completed 4 Tours solo with the assistance of the most amazing people. I was always the focus of attention as I was the paddler I decided 2017 was the year to give back. When Dean Dunbar, a blind paddler asked me to guide him I was overwhelmed, honoured and slightly nervous. As most know I get lost EVERY year, struggle with left and right and have a reputation of not being a great Team player. But I put all that aside and said yes, I will never regret that decision. Dean will forever be my inspiration and someone I will think of in my deepest darkest moments of paddling during races of ridiculous length. His persistence, strength and determination will be forever etched in my mind. We paddled around 100km in the most horrific weather I have ever been in. We had torrential rain, hail, thunder, lighting and winds gusting 40 knots from head, tail and side during these 11 hours. The rain was horizontal at times and the wind nearly blew us off the boards. At one point we were doing over 9kph and our paddles were not even in the water but on the other side we were doing 0.5kph and every time we changed sides we were going backwards. I only heard Dean complain once and the funny thing is it was because he was too HOT. I was in vest, rash vest, jacket, hat, gloves and had my hood up and I was freezing. When they made him, they certainly made a tough one!
I had such sadness in my heart when he had to withdraw due to the pressure on his eyes and losing his sight completely. It was soul destroying for him and a tough decision to make. The World was following him and every one is so proud, and no one more so than me as I saw what he battled through. Dean I am so lucky to call you my friend.
I then joined a great group of people, Team Supskool and paddled 2 stages with them. I loved the friendship, encouragement and love they all showed. We had the craziest headwind and crossing the Morra lake in 30 knots of headwind was certainly an experience I will never forget. A boat approached me to offer help getting across the lake as it was so bad but no way was I getting in the boat. Remember Peter Vale and Sam Ross telling me “you NEVER get in the boat”. I was not giving up despite knowing only the Elite men crossed the lake and all others drove round it. Even if it took me all day I was paddling the course. The Team cheered me on, fed and watered me, were patient when I got lost and helped me to the finish line. All in the Team paddled like stars and deserve huge congrats. I love you all and you made my adventure special. Thank you for inviting me to join.
On the Sunday both Dean and I got back on the water and we did it. Dean Dunbar and I crossed the finish line ahead of the fleet. We were allowed a 5 minute head start from the Tour to enable Dean to get under the first 2 really low bridges 100 metres from the start. Proud beyond words of my friend as he would not give up. We completed 29.4km in 3:52. My words to all paddlers “don’t stop when you are tired , you stop when you are done” Dean is a huge inspiration to me