This week we have witnessed three different cases of water-torture survival. One was self-inflicted, one was a combination of bad planning and predictable bad weather, and the other a case of sheer idiocy.

In the first instance, I am talking about Scott Donaldson who this week knocked off his own version of the 'bastard', accomplishing the historic feat of crossing of the Tasman Sea in a kayak.

The second was less meticulously planned; the horror of the 12 young members of a Thai football team and their coach who, after being trapped in a cave for nine days, are hopefully on the verge of rescue as I write this.

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The third water survival story relates to the Australian twit who nearly had her hand taken off while hand-feeding sharks in crocodile infested waters.

All three of these stories are horrific to me. Probably, for me, being in a kayak for 90 days, facing six-metre waves and playing tiggy with a great white shark would take the cake.

My achievements include surviving the twice daily commute between Ruakaka and Whangārei without being flattened by a logging truck or tourist.


The resilience of the shaggy bearded kayaker was amazing, and he did raise awareness and dosh for Asthma NZ.

For me, the real intrigue isn't that people set themselves these challenges which are not only mentally and physically gruelling but potentially life-threatening. Generally such challenges don't really help in life. They don't make a particularly helpful discovery. They don't test any theory that might be useful. Although I guess if a zombie apocalypse breaks out in New Zealand one could potentially escape to Australia by canoe.

I quite like the slight snobbery implicit in the saying: "There is nothing more common than people who want to be uncommon", and I totally get that.

In the world of disability there are multiple examples of this. The irony is that disabled people are pretty damn unique anyway, but this quality doesn't stop the urge of disabled people to tackle great feats, such as travelling the length of our country on a tricycle or similarly self-propelled mode of transport.

I am fairly satisfied by surviving the daily grind. My achievements include surviving the twice daily commute between Ruakaka and Whangārei without being flattened by a logging truck or tourist. I also take unnatural pride in going to bed without first falling asleep in front of the TV and in getting more than one question right while watching The Chase. A little more seriously, I enjoy the satisfaction of raising children who are both passionate and resilient (they say the first 40 years are the hardest!).

It is true that setting and achieving goals is very satisfying and promotes one's successful grasping towards the holy grail of happiness.

Helping others achieves the same thing, I believe. I can imagine the euphoria the search and rescue team felt when they discovered those young football players.

I remember when I was 21, in Bangkok on a river taxi and being totally freaked out. Forty Buddhist monks were sitting resolutely together on one side of the boat and the boat was listing heavily to one side, leaving only millimetres of free board. When we did not tip over, I was relieved, but deep down not surprised.

When it comes to water one needs to use common sense but, as a clever chap named Thomas Chalmers once said, "There is nothing more uncommon than common sense."

■ Jonny Wilkinson is the CEO of Tiaho Trust — Disability, A Matter of Perception, a Whangārei-based disability advocacy organisation