Bunbury's Sail Into Life program supports clients of all abilities in WA

A program for all: Mark Blowers says sailing is his way of
A program for all: Mark Blowers says sailing is his way of "de-stressing" from the challenges of everyday life. Pictures: Pip Waller

SKIPPER Mark Blowers had no idea that when he installed a television antenna on his father's roof some 10 years ago, his life would change forever.

Suffering a seizure, he blacked out and fell from the roof, sustaining a spinal injury.

Another seizure just 15 months ago, which Blowers said doctors said was caused by functional neurological disorder, resulted in his paralysis from the waist down.

Blowers said today he used sailing with Bunbury's Sail Into Life program as a way to de-stress, relax and allow the wind to just "pass him by".

"I didn't do much sport as a kid - but now, what don't I do?" Blowers laughed.

"I've played and been involved in wheelchair basketball, archery, rowing, disabled surfing, wheelchair curling, tennis - but for me, sailing is a favourite.

"When I'm on the water I'm just so relaxed and all the stresses of what's happening goes away - you just forget you have any disabilities."

Sail Into Life is a program run out of Koombana Bay on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the aim of supporting clients with physical, mental, intellectual disabilities and those in recovery.

The Sail Into Life program uses Hansa 303 vessels.

The Sail Into Life program uses Hansa 303 vessels.

Supported by Enable Western Australia and three Rotary Clubs in Bunbury, South Bunbury and Leschenault, the program provides with the opportunity to experience sailing.

Clients use Hansa 303 boats which are an international class disability sailing boat with a weighted keel and a water ballast in the centre board, making them safe and sturdy.

Sail Into Life coordinator Paul, who joined the program just four months ago, said the difference he saw in clients after the got involved with the program was "like night and day".

"You don't even need to have been here very long and you see the differences immediately," he said.

"Some of the clients you can see are very bound up with the way they hold themselves - but as soon as they've been in the boat for 20 minutes, they come out as completely different people, relaxed, with a huge smile on their face.

"What also blows my mind are the volunteers - we have around 15 on the books who turn up every day for four to five hours, for free, all the time.

"Without these people giving their time so freely - we wouldn't be here, plus it's a pretty nice office to have."

Blowers enjoying his twice-weekly sail with volunteer, Rex. Picture: Pip Waller

Blowers enjoying his twice-weekly sail with volunteer, Rex. Picture: Pip Waller

Blowers recommended anyone in Bunbury with a disability to get involved with the Sail Into Life program, and referred it to one of the "great things" about Bunbury.

"It just sets you up for a good week - plus having the wheelchair hoist makes it possible to get onto the boat."