If Kevin Biggar can get off the couch and achieve his goals, anyone can.
That is what he told an audience at Timaru Girls' High School yesterday. He had been an "unemployed, overweight 33-year-old living with his mother", but had a dream to cross the Atlantic by boat.
Most of his friends thought he was crazy to think about it. But, nearly a decade on and many adventures later, he was offering advice to Timaru Girls' High School students at a special assembly.
Mr Biggar is the author of The Oarsome Adventures of a Fatboy Rower and Escape to the Pole, about his preparation for the 2003 trans-Atlantic rowing race, and his subsequent trek to the South Pole. He reminded the audience that although goals might seem insurmountable, it was best to break them down to their simplest components.
"When my rowing partner, Jamie Fitzgerald, and I were working together, we made it a rule that neither of us could do or say anything that could bring down the energy levels.
"We couldn't complain, we couldn't whine. We had to stay as positive as we could," he said.
Staying positive included rowing through harsh conditions when other teams decided to anchor.
It proved to be a turning point.
On that one evening, where the pair "rowed through sleep", they covered more than 40 kilometres, the margin of their victory.
Mr Biggar said in the early stages of his plan to compete in the trans-Atlantic ocean race, his mother was so disbelieving that she decided the matter needed to be arbitrated at the "highest level she could think of" – the daytime advice programme That's Life.
The expert panel advised Mr Biggar to follow his dreams, and the "rest was history".
Mr Biggar said he took advice from several people, such as 1997 champion trans-Atlantic rower Rob Hammill.
"It was good to hear his stories, and it made the goal seem more achievable," Mr Biggar said.
After the assembly, he spoke to several Timaru Girls' High School senior students.
Mr Biggar said he still had many adventures left in him.
A documentary series about his latest exploits, First Crossings, will be on New Zealand television screens later this year.
- © Fairfax NZ News