A disabled kayaker has been motivated by the East Cowes Shrape Swimmers to take on a sponsored virtual round-the-Island challenge to raise money for the East Cowes Esplanade and Landslip Community Project.
Last week, the nine Shrape Swimmers named after the breakwater at East Cowes, completed their virtual round-the-Island challenge to raise around £1,500 for the project.
And, following a chance meeting with the swimmers, Ann Coulsen, who has spent the last year in isolation, has decided she is going to virtually kayak around the Island.
Ann, who has multiple sclerosis and spends much of her time in a wheelchair, explained: “I have spent most of the past year isolating inside having caught Covid twice. I’ve felt terribly down and virtually bedbound since Christmas and I would just look outside my window at the East Cowes Marina. I was really fed-up with life.
“A couple of weeks ago, I felt a bit better and decided to go to the Esplanade for some fresh air. It was there I met one of the Shrape ladies after her daily swim and we got chatting. And that’s what gave me the motivation to get out and start my own charity challenge.”
Ann, a former nurse, grew up in Portsmouth and emigrated to Perth, Australia, in 1986. While she was there, she got into white water raft racing and raced under the name ‘Goanna’, after children started shouting ‘Go Anna’ when she was racing in the water. She eventually became an instructor.
She returned to the Island in 2006 to help look after her poorly mother.
Ann said: “I brought back my kayaks with me because everything is water-based in Australia and I was told there would be plenty of places to white water race on the Island – but there wasn’t!
“Every year I have promised myself I would kayak around the Island but it’s never happened. The thought of doing a virtual challenge was really appealing. In this sport, you use your hips to direct the kayak and I have very strong arms. So, while I can’t use my legs, I am still able to kayak. I feel like a mermaid when I’m on the water.
“I’ve already started the challenge but it’s a lot harder kayaking in the sea because of the swell and currents than it is white water racing!
“This has made such a difference to my life. I feel like a new lady. I’ve gone from sitting indoors totally fed-up to getting out each day with a new purpose.”