New Zealander Scott Donaldson became the first person to kayak solo across Tasman Sea.
New Zealander Scott Donaldson became the first person to kayak solo across Tasman Sea. Trevor Veale

He's taking a breather after epic voyage

AFTER kayaking almost 3000km across the Tasman and garnering international acclaim along the way, Scott Donaldson says he's relieved to settle back into normality and his life in Coffs.

It's been three weeks since Donaldson conquered an incredible feat, making history as the first person to kayak from Australia to New Zealand completely alone.

Emerging from his kayak dishevelled, exhausted, and with an overgrown beard to match, Donaldson limped onto New Zealand's shore to a throng of cameras and excited onlookers, and even fireworks.

The 48-year-old embraced his wife Sarah, a local occupational therapist, and son Zac.

"It was absolutely amazing," Donaldson recalled.

"You go from seeing nothing but water, and then your senses start to wake up. You start to smell things and see things.

"As I got closer a few kayakers joined me, it was a nice subtle way to ease into it. They prepared me for what was going to happen on the beach... (the crowd) waited hours in the dark and in the rain. It was really special."

After weeks of interviews, the 48-year-old Kiwi ex-pat has retreated back to his home on the Coffs Coast with his family and is looking at months of recovery ahead.

"The recovery is going okay in that I got off the boat in good health, but on the other hand - especially from the waist below - all the ligaments have let go so it'll be around 6-12 months of recovery," he said.

 

Coffs resident Scott Donaldson made landfall on NZ coast in his third attempt to become first person to kayak across the Tasman solo.
Coffs resident Scott Donaldson made landfall on NZ coast in his third attempt to become first person to kayak across the Tasman solo. Contributed

Donaldson spent a total of 62 days paddling out at sea, leaving from Jetty Beach on May 2 and arriving at New Plymouth on July 2, spending some time at Lord Howe Island in between.

Preparing for the journey for up to nine years, he managed to paddle for up to 16 hours a day. "It's hard for a lot of people to comprehend, I think," he said of his voyage.

"The first thing that strikes you is just the starkness of the water, the sensory deprivation. All you get to see is a whole lot of water.

"That's one of the first hurdles you have to get over, seeing that endlessly for days on end."

Despite a run-in with a 'frisky' shark, riding out lightning storms, and being forced to travel backwards for days, Donaldson admitted his job wasn't the hardest.

"Sarah's (wife) job was the hardest job in the world," he said.

"I at least had something to do out there but she had no control over what was happening. On the other hand she trusted my skills.

"It was a lot of hard work for years beforehand, so it's nice for us to be at the end of that."

 

Scott Donaldson with wife Sarah and son Zac.
Scott Donaldson with wife Sarah and son Zac. Contributed

It'll be smooth sailing from here for Donaldson who is looking forward to getting back into routine at home, and who is planning to become a speaker for Asthma Australia.

"We need a bit of family time. We'll be on the speaking circuit telling people about the tricks we used while out there, and hopefully we can convince a few asthmatics to have some better habits as well.

"I don't suffer from asthma, clearly my lungs work well. I do have asthma, but there's a difference between suffering from it and having it. That's one of the important things I want to get out to people who do have asthma.

"If you suffer from it then it's leading you, rather than you leading it. If you have asthma, you can do something about it by exercising, making your lungs stronger. The first thing you've got to do is get your attitude in the right place, and go from there."



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