Water­sports a new sen­sa­tion

Teenagers can flour­ish in a new arena, says He­len O’Cal­laghan

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

TEENS are par­tic­u­larly wel­come at the Wa­ter-Sports In­clu­sion Games in Dun Laoghaire this week­end.

Launched by Round Ire­land sailor Mark Pol­lock, the Games is a free event let­ting peo­ple of all abil­i­ties from the phys­i­cal, sen­sory, in­tel­lec­tual, and learn­ing dif­fi­culty spec­trums try water­sports.

Pol­lock, who be­came blind when he was 22 and was then paral­ysed in an ac­ci­dent in 2010, says be­ing able to con­tinue sail­ing re­ally helped him move for­ward.

“Not just be­cause of the sport it­self but [be­cause of] the ca­ma­raderie and friend­ships it con­tin­ues to pro­vide me with,” he says.

Speak­ing about the po­tent sen­sory im­pact of wa­ter, Pol­lock says hu­man be­ings aren’t used to be­ing on wa­ter.

“Most peo­ple walk­ing around see run­ning as an ex­ten­sion of walk­ing — but it’s un­usual to be bob­bing around in wa­ter, whether in a kayak or a dinghy,” he says. “Those first mo­ments in a boat are so un­usual and ex­cit­ing, par­tic­u­larly for chil­dren. That sense is height­ened if you’re in a wheel­chair or have a dis­abil­ity.”

What would Pol­lock say to teens who feel ‘dif­fer­ent’ be­cause of dis­abil­ity?

“They prob­a­bly are dif­fer­ent,” he says. “I’m dif­fer­ent from the next guy, who’s dif­fer­ent from the next guy. We’re all dif­fer­ent. If be­ing dif­fer­ent is a con­cern, the only way is to get out, be in­volved, make mis­takes, and learn that get­ting things wrong and be­ing silly doesn’t make you a bad per­son.”

Or­gan­ised by the Ir­ish Sail­ing As­so­ci­a­tion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Spinal In­juries Ire­land, Ca­noe­ing Ire­land, and Dun Laoghaire Sea Scouts, with fund­ing from Sport Ire­land, the inau­gu­ral Games event will at­tract peo­ple of all ages and back­grounds. It aims to pro­mote the ac­ces­si­bil­ity and ben­e­fits of water­sports for all.

Pol­lock’s fo­cus is on help­ing peo­ple achieve what they be­lieve is im­pos­si­ble.

“Some who’ll come to the Games don’t yet know they’ll go on to have a de­sire to com­pete and in some way to fol­low sport into Par­a­lympics,” he says. “Some­times chal­lenges choose us — other times we take on chal­lenges.”

Hosted by Royal St Ge­orge Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire this week­end (June 24 and 25), ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude sail­ing, row­ing, and ca­noe­ing. Equip­ment and in­struc­tion pro­vided by fully qual­i­fied per­son­nel. No prior experience re­quired to par­tic­i­pate.

For more info or to reg­is­ter, visit sail­ing.ie/ wa­ter sports in­clu­siong ames or email ws­in­clu­sion @gmail.com.

Pic­ture: Mor­gan Treacy/INPHO

PLAIN SAIL­ING: Mark Pol­lock at the launch of the Water­Sports In­clu­sion Games.

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