"Feel the fear and do it anyway" is the motto of 23-year-old Rotorua local Nikayla Wood, and will be at the fore when she takes part in the Mount Festival of Multisport in Mt Maunganui this weekend.
Wood was born with athetoid cerebral palsy, which affects her speech and motor skills, confining her fulltime to a wheelchair.
Despite this, she is on a quest to be an inspiration for others living with disabilities and doesn't let anything hold her back with myriad goals and adventures on her horizon.
From white water rafting to boxing, Wood is constantly defying the odds.
Despite being unable to walk and having limited control over her movements, she is always looking for new challenges with the goal to inspire others.
"Being in a wheelchair doesn't mean I have to miss out. We just have to figure out a way to make it work for me. I am hoping that when people see me taking part and doing my best, it may inspire at least one person to get out of their comfort zone and give things a go."
During Wood's journey to keep active and take on new challenges, she discovered a love for swimming and will be taking on the new Pilot Bay Ocean Swim event, as part of the festival, on January 22.
Being able to take part in events like the Pilot Bay Swim meant a lot to Wood, and would be the biggest swim she has done.
"I am always trying to find something new that gets me out of my comfort zone. It means so much to me to be able to take part. I hope it helps more events to head in the right direction and include people of all abilities."
The Pilot Bay Swim was a new event on the Fulton Hogan Mount Festival calendar.
It takes place alongside the festival's Tauranga Half triathlon, AquaBike and Mount Run. The Pilot Bay Swim was launched to encourage more people to take part, with a 750m, 2km and 3.7km option catering for swimmers at all levels.
Wood will be swimming the 750m event alongside her two guides. It will be the longest swim she has done. Since she started swimming in 2019 with Swim-Able, an organisation to help people of all abilities to swim, Wood hasn't looked back.
"When I started swimming, I was scared and felt out my depth, but I felt the fear and did it anyway. After a while, I grew a little more confident.
"Being part of Swim-Able is awesome and has opened doors for me including open water swimming events and triathlons. Just being part of a team is fantastic and something I never thought I could be a part of."
Event director Julia Tilley was looking forward to the inaugural event.
"We are looking forward to welcoming a new group of ocean swimmers to the Fulton Hogan Mount Festival. We wanted to include an event that was accessible and achievable for a wide range of participants and have included three distances to cater for this.
"There is going to be such a great buzz seeing swimmers, triathletes and runners of all levels get involved across the whole festival."
The Fulton Hogan Mount Festival will bring more than 2000 participants to Pilot Bay, Mt Maunganui, across the four events.
The pinnacle event of the festival is the Tauranga Half, which has been held for 33 years.
Tauranga Half 2km Swim 90km Bike 21km Run
Aqua Bike 3km Swim 120km Bike
Mount Run Run – 5km, 10km or 21km
Pilot Bay Swim Ocean Swim – 750m, 2km, 3.7km