A year ago, Nikayla Wood was scared of water.
But the 22-year-old who has cerebral palsy put her motto "feel the fear and do it anyway" into action and started swimming lessons.
This month she will take part in the Legend of the Lake swim event at Tikitapu (Blue Lake).
She has "surprised" her mum and "motivated and inspired" her swim mates with her rapid improvements at lessons three times a week.
Wood told the Rotorua Daily Post the best part about swimming was "the feeling of being free".
After swims, she feels "tired but awesome" and had a handful of new friends from the pool.
Wood will swim 100m with a lifejacket on and a support swimmer hovering close by on March 21.
Cerebral palsy is a group of permanent movement disorders and one of the biggest challenges for Nikayla is her muscles will decide to do their own thing" her swimming teacher, Maxine Parker from Swim-Able NZ, said.
"When I first met Nikayla, Deena Theobald [her carer] had got her into the water on the proviso she could have every floatation device possible, and Deena attached to her. She held onto Deena for dear life."
They started teaching Wood to move in the water to help her fitness, strength and independence.
Slowly her floats have been removed and the focus became "swimming".
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It hasn't been easy finding events for her to take part in, but Wood has been able to do assisted swims in The Huka XStream River Swim and the Generation Homes Women's Triathlon which was held at Pilot Bay, Mount Maunganui last month.
Wood's mother, Kristina Travaglia, said Theobold's attitude as a carer "lit a fire in her - got a spark going in Nikayla - and she's just done really well".
Wood is also a keen cyclist and did the bike leg of the Tinman Triathlon in a team in November with Julia Hewitt and Shyla-Mei Corbett.
The trio met through Achilles International New Zealand, an organisation supporting people living with disabilities to participate in mainstream sport.
"Nikayla makes you want to get out and do more," Hewitt said.
"I've got my own issue and I tell you what, without her [Wood] I can't do a triathlon without her."
"And I can't do a triathlon without her," Wood added.
The Legend of the Lake events of various distances will be held on March 21 and 22.