Editorial: Testing your limits

STORM TROOPER: Kayaker Scott Donaldson.
STORM TROOPER: Kayaker Scott Donaldson.

What a piker. Abandoning a little paddle because of few waves. And nearly at his destination. What was kayaker Scott Donaldson thinking?

I jest. In fact, I probably admire him more for his decision to call off his 2000km journey 80km short than I would have had he made it.

People like him are usually so driven that common sense eludes them. They end up putting themselves and others in danger.

DRY LAND: Scott Donaldson walks from the rescue helicopter to an ambulance, with the support of his wife Sarah.
DRY LAND: Scott Donaldson walks from the rescue helicopter to an ambulance, with the support of his wife Sarah.

I'm not sure what to really think about adventurers like Donaldson. Sportspeople, artists, entrepreneurs - we can see what they do and admire it.

Adventurers - well, they're all a little self-centred. Doing things on their own. Or is that just jealousy.

Row across the Tasman? Heck, watch this, next week I'm going to bike to work.

Maybe though we just don't give enough thought to the deed.

Takes Donaldson's situation. Three months ago when we were going about our daily lives, he was pushing off from Coff's Harbour in New South Wales, destination New Zealand.

Three months of paddling, and sleeping sometimes, and more paddling. Hour after hour, day after day, left, right, left, right, paddle in, paddle out. No telly, no morning newspaper.

That's like paddling from Timaru to Auckland and most of the way back. All of the way back if you count being blown off course occasionally.

Imagine how your hands and shoulders would feel. Imagine how your bum would feel.

And your mind. Men don't think much at the best of times. Can you think nothing for weeks on end? Can you get claustrophobic in a wide open space? Do you wonder what the paddle might taste like?

And then to prove that you are indeed different to other people, when you are within sight of your destination and a storm kicks up, you just accept it and decide to wait it out. Wait while vicious waves toss you around for days on end, tip you over a few times, smash you into your own vessel.

Wet, cold, scared, alone. Sleep, what sleep? Isn't this fun.

But it's not about fun. Never was. It's probably not even about being the first to do something. And it's not about proving something to other people either. If they want to take an interest, that's their issue. No, this is all about testing your own limits.

And it's good we have people like that. Heaven forbid we all be alike. And if you appreciate difference you have to allow for the extremes of it.

And that acceptance allows us some association, and we can feel a little gutted for Donaldson when, after all that effort, he's been forced to give in. We were beginning to imagine him pulling into some wharf, his wife hugging him (or holding him up), the champagne flowing.

Instead, the sea wins. And it sits awaiting the next challenge. The next challenge that means nothing at all, but also somehow makes some sort of difference.

The Timaru Herald