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What matters - a different seakayak story

Being a young disabled man full of energy does not mean that you can't vent this surplus through sports. Sea kayaking, expeditions and the thrill of open crossings are reachable even for those who spend their time sitting on a wheelchair. You "only" have to have enough will to push yourself and achieve your dream. I was lucky enough that Gal Jakič, a Slovenian Paralympian and alpine skier, agreed to join me for the speed record for kayaking the more than 500 km of the Croatian cost.

 

We had a stable double sea kayak, but unfortunately it was still not wide enough to fit the wheelchair in the hatches. Together with Sandiline we made separate neoprene covers for the wheels and for the main frame. This enabled us to store the wheelchair on the deck of the kayak without too much worries about the salt water damaging the expensive tool.

Our goal was to cover the distance of 520 km in 7 or 8 days. We were on track for the first two, paddling for 12 hours a day and stopping just for short breaks. It was the third day that the weather said it's word and threw a thunderstorm towards us. Luckily we were in a small town on the island of Korčula and it did not catch us on the water. The thunderstorm was followed by strong (head)winds that we partially avoided by doing a 50 km detour for finding shelter behind some bigger islands. After that we had headwinds for almost all the duration of the trip, sometimes we were moving just 1 km/h for few hours. I think this was also the most difficult part of the expedition for Gal. He is an Alpine skier and with his monoski he races down the ski piste with sometimes more than 80 km/h. Looking at the same peninsula for hours and not seeing the progress made him struggle sometimes, but he made it and conquered the boredom and the frustration.

Unfortunately our expedition didn't have a happy ending. Because we were paddling for 12 h every day, sometimes without stepping out of the kayak, he developed blisters that turned into wounds on places where the skin was touching the plastic seat. The wounds looked quite severe and we agreed to stop the expedition just a day and half short of the finish. It wasn't an easy call, but fortunately we decided that the health was more important than the record. Gal had an operation and he is still recovering at the moment.

We plan to go back next year and finish the last small bit of the cost. Gal paddled for 500 km and he is the one of very few disabled athletes in the world to do such a long sea kayaking trip. He showed all of us that no matter what, if you want it bad enough, you make it happen.

Written by: Marin Medak

Paddlers: Gal Jakič & Marin Medak

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