We need heroes and risk-takers

00:08, Jul 17 2014

Several years ago Scott Donaldson was battling asthma and looking for a challenge that would "spin my whizzer".

He came up with the idea of crossing the Tasman solo by kayak, both as a personal challenge and awareness-raiser for the Asthma Foundation.

Presumably he's learnt a lot about what he's capable of in the intervening years . . . and also how to bounce back from hard knocks. If experience was bankable, he'd be a multimillionaire.

Donaldson got an early reality check after technical issues twice forced him to turn his kayak around when he first attempted to paddle cross the Tasman last year. Then, through this year's attempt, he has required air support twice and ultimately called off his voyage after nearly three months at sea and with land in sight, when it became clear he would not reach shore. Close, but no cigar.

And now, in what is hopefully the final blow related to this all-encompassing chapter of his life, the kayak itself - which he was forced to abandon some 80 miles off the New Zealand coastline last week for the safety of a rescue helicopter - has gone missing after looking to be an easy recovery.

While he'd tracked it to about 20 nautical miles off Farewell Spit, its locator beacon appears to have broken from the vessel, and he now must face the possibility his three-month temporary home has sunk.


There will be some who query the cost of such endeavours - in particular, when things go wrong and rescue services are required. On the plus side, however, is the inspiration that can come from watching New Zealanders take on the elements.

In this case, Donaldson's main message, to other asthma sufferers, was the importance of maintaining aerobic fitness in everyday life (not that his past three months bore much resemblance to the norm for the rest of us).

He also urges us to focus on solutions rather than problems. On his website, he writes that most people focus on "hurdles" rather than how to get over them.

"It is this focus on ‘how' that holds the attraction. A challenge so huge that most can't even conceive its possibility, let alone deliver action towards a result. That's worth doing!"

Donaldson did seem to be up against it from the start. He kept battling big odds and even bigger seas, and even if his adventure did not have a Hollywood ending, he made the right decision to quit while he still could. Even that contained a lesson, about knowing when to throw in the towel and the wisdom of doing so, perhaps to fight again.

He's unlikely to clamber back into this particular ring, citing the years of planning needed before attempting a mission like this. The effort also must have carried substantial costs both to him and his family; not merely financial.

Whatever lies ahead, he clearly has quite a story to tell. We will always need our heroes and battlers, risk-takers and whizzer-spinners. As for that cigar; he wouldn't have wanted one anyway.

The Nelson Mail