Watersports a new sensation for young people

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

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 water-sports.

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 water-sports 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.

n For more info or to register, visit sailing.ie/watersportsinclusiongames or email wsinclusion @gmail.com.


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