Laura Stuart and the Floating Pontoon - Outward Bound

Laura Stuart and the Floating Pontoon

Project Refresh

On 2 February 2016 my life changed forever. I was tragically injured in a mountain bike accident; fortunately, you helped me gain my life back with Outward Bound.

Laura shoulders

I have always been an active person and I love the outdoors. At school my passion was gymnastics and I competed at national level. At university I got hooked on mountain biking, it was like gymnastics on a bike - same mind set and same challenge of pushing myself just outside my comfort zone.

This desire for a challenge led me to Outward Bound as a 20 year old and naturally, I loved it!

Then on my birthday in 2016 my life completely changed. I’d just bought myself a birthday present - a new mountain bike, and I went out for a ride. I was going down a steep section and not being used to the new bike, I lost control.
I was unable to stay on the trail, I flew over the berm and fell down a 5 metre cliff.

As soon as I crashed I knew something was very wrong. When you can’t feel your lower body you know you have done something terrible. I had three fractured vertebrae in my neck and two crushed vertebrae in my back.
I can no longer walk, run, or cycle.

I spent three months in the Auckland Spinal Unit. The team there were great – they helped me to learn how to adjust to my new life in a wheelchair. The biggest challenge was regaining the confidence to go anywhere out of my house without stressing about falling out of my wheelchair or getting stuck in a gutter.

I decided that I needed to accept what I have and get on with it. I went to the Outward Bound website and found there are generous people, like you, who donate money to support people like me to do adapted courses for people with disabilities. I took a deep breath and signed up to an Outward Bound Activate Course. I set off to Anakiwa a very different person from the outgoing student who attended almost 10 years earlier.

Doing the Activate course boosted my confidence, it gave me a feeling of control and independence.

Before the course I was terrified of how I would cope getting ready for the early morning starts, wheeling in and out of the water during my morning swims and whether I would be able to balance in a kayak. I wondered how I would manage tramping, camping and if I could look after myself alone in the bush.

Now, I am proud to say that I experienced and survived these challenges. Any challenges back home in Wellington pale in comparison to the challenges I overcame at Outward Bound. I felt physically stronger. I became less fearful of the unknown, more confident about my capabilities and potential, and most importantly; positive about my future.

Laura in chair at ropes

It wasn’t until we sailed into Te Kainga homestead, or TK as it’s known, at Torea Bay that I remembered my limitations. The jetty at TK is pretty small and high up. It was impossible for me to get onto the jetty myself which meant I had to be physically hoisted up onto the jetty and pushed up the hill to TK. We also had to make sure the tide was in so we had to time it just right. All of the effort it took to get me to TK made me feel a little bit uncomfortable and was the only drawback of my amazing experience.

Once at TK it was so worth it. I was so pleased we’d been able to get there even if the landing was not ideal! But I am excited to share with you that I’ve recently heard from Outward Bound that they are doing something about this.

Outward Bound reignited my confidence and has drastically accelerated my rehabilitation. I am so grateful to all of the generous donors for the opportunity to attend the course and overwhelmed by the impact that it has had on my life.

Yes, Laura is correct we are going to do something about the access at TK, as the first major development included in Project Refresh Anakiwa!


I think what will excite Laura most about the project is the plans for a floating pontoon for TK. As you know, TK is a very special place, it was gifted to Outward Bound by the Carey family in the late 1970’s. Over the years many volunteers have spent countless hours there creating a place for all to enjoy.

TK is used over our busy summer months to accommodate the extra number of students and used throughout the year for some of our 8 day adult and adapted courses, giving them their own space away from the hustle and bustle of the school. We also use it as a safety exit point for students on their sea scheme, if conditions turn rough.

You may have spent time at TK yourself while on your course. If not, you probably ventured past as the solo sites are dotted all around Torea Bay. So, you’ll be aware that TK is only accessible by sea.

A floating pontoon at TK will make it possible for students with disabilities to leave their limitations on shore. Once they get on the cutters it’s all about what they can do – like helming a Cutter! The floating pontoon will move up and down with the tide allowing easy access on and off the cutters, no more being uncomfortably hoisted as Laura experienced.

Check out an artist impression of what the floating pontoon at TK will look like below. We look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of Project Refresh Anakiwa and especially our floating pontoon which Laura will be very excited to see.

Pontoon jpg