Dan Skinstad: how I beat my disability
AFTER six months kayaking the Icelandic seas, Dan Skinstad wants to inspire others to live beyond their fears.
Speaking during an interview with cricket commentator Robin Jackman in Hout Bay at the end of day two of the St Luke’s Hospice 175km fundraising walk yesterday, Skinstad, who has cerebral palsy, told of how he grappled with his disability before embarking on the expedition.
He and adventurer Riaan Manser returned in September from a 2 000km circumnavigation of Iceland in a double kayak.
“I had insecurities and used to think people thought differently of me because I walk with a limp, but after being out there in minus-degree weather, those things seem insignificant,” Skinstad said.
Born 10 weeks premature, Skinstad, 31, has lived with the disability his entire life and said he used to ignore the condition by “pushing it under the carpet”.
It was tough being the younger brother of former Springbok captain Bob Skinstad, because he struggled with sport.
Having to attend physiotherapy sessions about four times a week and deal with ridicule from fellow pupils he described as being “vicious” at times, Skinstad said he “bemoaned” his situation.
But about three years ago, he took a decision to do something to change his attitude about living with the disability.
“I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. So I decided to improve my physical condition,” he said.
He approached Professor Tim Noakes of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, who encouraged him to do something extraordinary that would inspire not only him but others.
And so, after meeting Manser, he embarked on the gruelling trip to Iceland.
Skinstad admitted that he was initially “naive” when agreeing to the Around Iceland on Inspiration expedition but learnt valuable life lessons.
“At times it was very scary and there were days when you are out there, when you think to yourself, ‘I shouldn’t be here’.”
He said the start of the journey was in the middle of the worst winter Iceland had experienced in about 63 years and conditions often worsened.
“One of the worst days was when I was flung from the boat during gale force winds and up to 6m swells. I got separated from Riaan and it was terrifying… all I tried to do was get a better grip and you start to cramp up, but you can’t sit and bemoan what’s happening, you just have to get on with it,” he said.
Today marks the third day of a week-long walk across the Peninsula by three nurses from St Luke’s Hospice to raise funds for the country’s oldest hospice. For more information, go to www.stlukes.co.za or phone 021 761 1700