Aussie battler set to hit the sand
The World's Fastest Indian - the movie about the life of Invercargill motorcycle legend Burt Munro - thankfully got one thing wrong.
"They showed Burt Munro racing clockwise on Oreti Beach," Australian double amputee Alan Kempster smiled, relieved.
If the New Zealand Beach Racing Champs were raced clockwise it would make life even more difficult for a man who has faced his fair share of challenges.
"Without my right arm or my right leg, a right-hand turn is pretty tough to execute. In a 50-mile race that would be 100 right-hand turns.
"So I was pretty happy when I found out the movie had got it wrong."
Kempster, 51, is competing in four events during this year's four-day Burt Munro Challenge, which begins tomorrow.
But the beach racing champs on Friday will be the highlight.
"The beach racing is what started it all and is what we remember Burt Munro for," he said.
Kempster showed off his modified motorbikes in the Southland Honda showroom where all the right-side functions of a motorbike have been shifted to the left.
"I only have to worry about doing five things with my left hand," he joked. "I have to throttle, clutch, brake, steer and hang on."
Kempster's early dreams of becoming a motorcycle champion were shattered when he was struck by a truck while riding his motorbike 23 years ago.
"My right arm and leg were ripped from my body."
His life was saved by a motorist who called emergency services with "what was probably one of the first mobile phones in Australia".
"They told him what to do and that was hold me in a bear hug to hold me together and stem the bleeding," he said.
The accident confounded police who arrived on the scene. "After my limbs were traumatically amputated, the bike and I carried on 100 metres down the road. They wondered where the rest of me was," Kempster said.
Further investigation found evidence that another vehicle had been involved. The driver of the truck was believed to be drunk but never faced charges for drink-driving.
He was charged only for failing to stop after leaving the scene.
"I don't think about the driver. I didn't think about him after the crash. The damage was done and I just needed to get on with my life. You can't mope around," Kempster said, his enthusiasm infectious.
"I had to learn to walk, dress and clean myself. Anger would have just been a waste of time and energy."
It may have taken the double amputee nearly 20 years to get back to his love of motorcycles, but during that time he got on with life.
Water skiing provided Kempster with a purpose and in 10 years, he won seven Australian and three world disabled titles.
Eventually a social motorcycle racing event got him back in the saddle. "I made a few adjustments to the bike and within the first few laps had my left knee on the ground and I thought ‘I'm back'."
In an admission that would surprise many people, Kempster said if he could go back and change where he was on that fateful afternoon in 1990, he wouldn't. "The accident may have cost me an arm and a leg but it has made me the person I am today."
The Southland Times