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Disabled Rutland Canoe Club member aims to kayak in to the record books

Andy Sutton
Andy Sutton

A disabled sportsman is preparing to take on a gruelling challenge and at the same time put himself into the record books.

Andy Sutton, 57, is hoping to kayak the longest lakes in England, Scotland and Wales, attempting to become the first paraplegic paddler to complete the gruelling challenge in a total paddling time of under 20 hours.

Andy is a disabled paddler who routinely paddles on Rutland Water with Rutland Canoe Club.

In 2002 he was diagnosed with a rare spinal cord tumour. Initially treated by surgery and radiotherapy, the tumour, which is wrapped around the spinal cord in the lower back, is now progressing. For the first few years after the diagnosis, Andy could at the beginning walk with the aid of a walking stick and then with two sticks.

But, in 2010, following a second round of surgery and radiotherapy, he is now confined to a wheelchair.

Just over a year ago, in December 2016, Andy discovered that the tumour was progressing.

It is now inoperable, which means that Andy faces the prospect of becoming quadriplegic or having to sacrifice the lower spinal cord to save his upper body function.

As a doctor himself, he is all too aware of what his future could look like with no ability to curtail the inevitable.

From 2002 until 2010 he pursued a busy career in the biotech and pharmaceuticals industry, with extensive travelling in the US, Canada and China but, after valiantly trying to continue his work from a wheelchair, it became obvious that regular international travel was not going to be possible and Andy reluctantly retired from his hectic high-profile career.

Following retirement he has looked to remain physically active and took up kayaking, with an initial goal of kayaking on the sea.

He was welcomed as a member to Rutland Canoe Club and since then has paddled regularly.

In 2014 Andy realised his first goal to paddle on the sea at a favourite haunt near Oban, partially circling the Isle of Lismore accompanied by Rowland Woollven. Since then he has been out on the sea at Flamborough Head and the Mawddach Estuary.

He took on the Trent Loop Challenge with friend Pete Dunlop in 2015, which involved circling Nottingham on the Trent and various canals for a total distance of 12 miles.

Keen to be active, when he’s not kayaking Andy also hand-cycles, rows, plays the banjo and is even an apprentice woodworker.

Following the latest news regarding his future, Andy has decided to take on British Canoeing’s Three Lakes Challenge. With kayaking buddy Pete Dunlop, Andy will attempt to become the first paraplegic paddler to complete the gruelling challenge in a total paddling time of under 20 hours over the weekend of June 16-17 this year.

On the challenge they will kayak across Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) in Wales - 7 miles; Windermere in England - 11 miles - and Loch Awe in Scotland - 25 miles.

Andy said: “I wanted to do something that was a bit special and decided on the Three Lakes Challenge. British Canoeing said they are not aware of any disabled kayaker having completed this challenge before.”

He is raising funds at the moment with two aims in mind. Firstly, with assistance from British Canoeing, he is trying to make a film about his exploits and raise the profile of disability paddling.

In addition to that, he wants to make a donation towards Nottingham University’s PoleStar appeal to install UK’s first in-theatre intra-operative MRI scanner at the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre.

Andy said: “British Canoeing were very keen to make the film because they want to encourage more disabled people to take up kayaking.

You will be able to follow Andy’s progress in the Three Lakes Challenge at https://brokenbodyofwater.com/ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brokenbodyofwater/

If you would like to sponsor Andy he has a Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/broken-body-of-water


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