When Amanda Lowry passes the rugby ball or carves her way through the water, she's no longer confined by the limits of her disability.

In her words, she's "free".

The 47-year-old is ambassador to this year's Healthvision Festival of Disability Sport in Tauranga later this month. The festival aims to encourage people living with physical disability to give sports a go, to increase their quality of life.

On March 7, 2013, Lowry was surfing at Mount Maunganui when she dived off and broke her neck on a sandbar. At that moment, Lowry's world imploded. The active mum-of-two became a tetraplegic.


Read more: Surfer breaks neck in freak accident

In those long years since of recovery, training, and physio, Lowry has discovered the joy of swimming and wheelchair rugby, despite 14 per cent body function.

Despite this, Lowry has achieved world para-swimming titles for her classification, trained for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, become a member of the Bay of Plenty Steamrollers wheelchair team and is now on the development squad for the New Zealand Wheelblacks.

"When I'm in the water, I don't feel disabled," she said.

"And [wheelchair rugby], it's just vicious and quick and cool. It's like violent chess."

Sport also offered priceless moments for Lowry to swim with her partner and children, like most usual families.

"Sport makes everything okay for our family. It helps us make a new normal - where people with legs are the weird ones, you know?"

There was camaraderie and acceptance among the para-sport community, she said.


"Because it's so difficult to negotiate the world in a chair. It's tough. You have to be quite brave. But when you go into a sports space, you know no one's going to ask you questions about what happened to you. You forget you are in a wheelchair and you have a disability," she said.

"It's freedom.

"That's the bit I didn't think would be possible."

Lowry wanted others to experience what sport has given her by taking part in the Festival of Disability Sport. Wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, powerchair football, blind lawn bowls and sailability will each feature across three venues over March 30 and 31.

The festival, in its second year, is free for anyone to attend. People are encouraged to come down and support the athletes and see what's on offer.

Event manager Claudia West said the festival created a fun and exciting atmosphere which could also serve as an introduction of sport to people with physical disabilities.

"We want people to find their 'what next' through sport," West said.

A "have a go" youth programme and an awards evening will be held as part of the festival.

What you need to know:
What: Healthvision Festival of Disability Sport
Where: Trustpower Baypark Arena, Mount Maunganui; Mount Club, Mount Maunganui; and Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club
When: March 30 and 31
Cost: Free
What else: Wheelchair rubgy, wheelchair basketball, powerchair football, blind lawn bowls and sailability will all feature.