Sailors with disABILITIES

Volunteer Profile: Kristi Foster

Please tell us a little about your background?

I jumped on a trampoline at twenty-one and broke my back. Then I was in and out of a wheelchair for the next fifteen years. I have a disease called Arachnoiditis which is similar to MS but, instead of in the brain, it affects the spine.

I started sailing in 2009 when SWD came to Coffs Harbour and told me I could improve my life by sailing.

Here I am, six years later, training with SWD. Now I own my own little yacht which is based in sunny Coffs Harbour on the Mid North coast.

Kristi, front right corner, with the crew of the Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht race in July, this year. 

Gold Coast Team


What made you want to volunteer with SWD?

I believe in the ethos of SWD with my very soul. Having been there, physically disabled, and still struggling day to day with crippling pain, I bring a unique perspective to their struggles, too.


What activities have you undertaken on the boat as a volunteer crew member with SWD?

I have been in training for the Sydney to Hobart for the last eighteen months as well as taking part in The Northern Campaign last year, and the Victorian Initiative this year. I also plan to take part in this year’s Northern Campaign.

Krisiti in the early days with SWD at the CYCA

What are some of your achievements, personal and skills-based, since you began with SWD?

Learning a new skill in the position of Strings (in racing), raising awareness for SWD, and, personally, learning to combat my battle with depression. And, how to manage my pain through learning to LIVE, not EXIST.


What have you enjoyed most?

The camaraderie with the other team members. I played a lot of team sports as a teenager and I didn’t realise that I missed it until I started racing with SWD.


What have you found the greatest challenge?

I live in Coffs so I train it down each weekend for training and return home again. My greatest challenge is getting on a train week after week to ride for ten-and-a-half hours overnight to race the next day, only to repeat that a day later going home again. Sometimes the challenge is overcoming the pain to race to sail.


What have you found surprising?

That I actually can put everything aside—pain, depression—to do what I love.


Kristi tells her story to SWD in this video



What would you say to anyone considering volunteering on the water with SWD?

Do it, it will be the most rewarding thing you will ever do with your life.


Krisiti during the northern campaign on board Kayle with the Winds of Joy program