Inspirational athlete Shaz Dagg used the Foxton River Loop race at the weekend as a stepping stone in her ascent of a metaphoric multisport mountain.
The feisty 54-year-old from Feilding has set herself the goal of being the first women amputee to contest multisport's toughest challenge - the Coast to Coast - in February next year.
The 12km Foxton event at the weekend was her first serious hit out on the water and a chance to gain some perspective. The 243km Coast to Coast will require 70km of paddling.
Known as "limb-it-less Shaz", her journey is one of empowerment and determination since losing her left arm above the elbow in a farming accident in 2016.
Not one to sit around wallowing, she has used the accident as a reason to push the limits of what can be achieved with a positive mindset. Her story has the power to inspire others.
"It is something I have used to enhance my life and change my mindset...you can never turn back the clock. I'm not angry or negative or anti," she said.
"You can sit there and dwell on things - why me - but it happened for a reason and you make the most of it. Life's too short."
When Coast to Coast organisers ruled that Dagg had to complete the kayak leg in tandem with another paddler for safety reason, she cold-called Palmerston North paddler Brett Garrett. He didn't hesitate to join the journey.
"We just got talking one day and had a good chat. Things happen for a reason," she said.
Garrett had completed the Coast to Coast four times already so provided Dagg with the perfect training mate. While he would double kayak with her during the Coast to Coast, she would run and cycle on her own.
"It's for safety reasons, to have somebody in the boat with me. Otherwise I would go around in circles," she said, laughing.
"He's experienced and knows the water. It's nice to know he's going to be there."
The Coast to Coast looms as a massive challenge and her main focus since missing out on the Olympic Games this year due to Covid-19.
"Sport does incredible things...mentally and physically. I'm not going to stop now. I'll continue to do it as long as I can," she said.
Another challenge for Dagg was the pain of wearing a new prosthetic arm. The weight of it puts pressure where it joins her upper arm, and at the moment she was only able to wear it for short periods of time.
"I'm building up slowly. It was very sore but I try not to show that I'm in pain because I don't want sympathy," she said.
Dagg and Garrett were joined by 69 paddlers on the Foxton River Loop course at the weekend, athletes of all ages and levels, including aspiring Olympic kayakers, Coast to Coast aspirants, surf lifesavers, kayakers, surf skiers and stand up paddle boarders.
Whanganui's Jack Clifton was the first open man to finish, followed by Carl Barnes (New Plymouth) and Paul Moreno (Wellington). Palmerston North Firefighter Ann Cairns was first female home, followed by Emma Kemp (Wellington) and Sophie Brooke (Whanganui).
The 6km event was won by Angus Sewell (Whanganui), then Zane Mills-Nossiter (Whanganui) and Adam Opzeeland (Wellington), followed by young female paddlers Anna Clifton (Whanganui) Poppy Barnes (New Plymouth) and Hayley Cudby (Foxton Beach).
Meanwhile, event organiser Chester Burt was happy with the turnout and looking forward to the 2021 race next year where he expected an even bigger field.
"(It will) provide the opportunity to the 10 or 20 Paddlers who either missed the late entry cut off or were sick on the day," he said.
Burt was full of praise for the Foxton facility.
"The Foxton location really punches above its weight for a small town mainly due to it's central location and the huge potential to see the return of the amazing waterway of old, with this we are sure the Event will draw in more people in the years ahead," he said.
A full list of results was available at https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/LsM-ClxwjQcPWDQKu9bEtt?domain=webscorer.com