Grace and I used to to paddle kayaks together every week, back before she was a famous motivational speaker, yacht racer and adventurer. We originally planned to do this interview while in kayaks, out on the ocean, dressed as pirates, drinking lots of rum. Annoyingly, I moved to the other side of the planet before we had the chance. So instead, we drank rum and chatted over the internet, to share with everybody a little slice of the story of how this teenage girl from Jervis Bay, Australia, came to be doing the amazing shit she does.
DSM: Grace Kennedy. Describe yourself in 3 words.
GK: Accidentally funny, kindhearted and happy.
DSM: That’s accidentally funny in itself, ’cause that’s four words! You just proved yourself right! You do lots of cool shit. Tell us about it.
GK: Well since I’m an outgoing person, I like adventures, so I do some kayaking trips with friends in the summer holidays and weekends.
I also competed in last years Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. We came 31/100 and 3rd in our devision. It took us 3 and 3/4 days to get there with 3hrs shifts; 3 on,3 off. We completed the race with a 15 man crew. Half of our crew was disabled, with many and varying disabilities.
‘Our skipper was legally blind, we had a navigator that can’t read or write, amputees and deaf people, along with a few able-bodied crew members as well.’
I’ve also become a “motivational speaker” as such, which is pretty funny. I’ve done heaps of presentations at local high schools and primary schools, as well as some functions like ‘Inspired Women’s Day’ and other events. I am currently finishing my last year of high school and would like to work in community services when I leave school, but I’m not entirely sure what part of it, eg. youth work or disability services.
Another crazy thing that happened lately; I got a boat named after me.” Amazing Grace”, as it is called. There was a bit of champagne drinking and I got to meet the Premier of NSW, Mike Bair. All in all it was a great day and still to this very moment I can’t believe I got a boat named after me.
‘Maybe if I save up enough money I’ll buy my own boat and name it ‘Disgrace’…
DSM: You have more excuses than most people to not do all the cool shit you do. Talk us through some of the hardships you’ve faced in your life so far.
GK: My early years involved many operations and hospital time. I missed out on social actives and school.
The hardships I’ve overcome with having a disability such as Spina bifida is that when I was younger I never really could keep up with the other kids/friends who were riding their skateboards and bikes. But I’ve overcome that when I got a 4×4 motorised wheelchair, and now I can basically go anywhere they go, on the beach or even on the rocks.
DSM: What’s been some of the key things that have helped you to overcome all the challenges life’s dealt you?
GK: It’s only being through the support of family and friends. It’s with their help that I have made up for a lot of lost time and then some.
DSM: What would be your message to other people who are faced with really shitty shit and are feeling like it’s preventing them from doing the things they really love?
‘Well I’ve never felt like I was in the shitty shit, but I don’t have to look far to find people who love me, and love will get you out of the shity shit when you really need it.’
DSM: What’s next for GK? You’re just starting life as an adult, what are the next dreams you’re chasing?
‘I’m not really a dreaming kinda person but when I do dream, I know it’s going to become reality one day.’
See more cool sailing adventure with Sailors with Disabilities here!