Diver, acrobat and swimmer
On Wednesday February 13, 1974, Natal diver and surf lifesaver Damon Kendrick suffered a shark attack which resulted in the loss of his lower right leg. Despite this handicap he continued to dive, representing Western Province at nationals.
The Western Province men's diving team at the 1979 SA nationals were Neil Duveen, Damon Kendrick, Robert Whittle and Joe Hewlis. In 1984 Damon was still diving for Province at nationals.
Damon Kendrick lost his leg working as a lifesaver at a Durban beach.
A shark attack at just 14 years of age that left him an amputee and put a halt to his teen surf-lifesaving dreams didn't stop Damon Kendrick from facing his fears and getting back in the water.
In fact, it was just a matter of months before he was swimming again, competing in springboard diving for more than nine years in his native South Africa.
And now, 36 years later, the WAtoday Rottnest Channel Swim may just be the ultimate test.
Damon Kendrick swims at least five kilometres, four to five days a week.
Nearly 20km of open seas can play tricks on a person's mind, and according to Damon, the mental side of the race is much harder to overcome than any physical barriers he may face.
"I love the water and the sea, and I have always swum competitively," he said.
"But I have never been back to that same beach where I was attacked."
It was the summer of 1974, and Damon was one of dozens of lifesavers on a beach near Durban, preparing for their championship competition.
"We were about 25m from the shore, all of sudden this guy just said 'Swim for shore, swim for shore'," he said.
"What I didn't know was that the shark had bumped him, and sharks tend to bump you and then circle around and come back in to bite.
"I didn't know that it had bumped him, and then come back and lacerated his knee and shin and that he was trailing blood through the water.
"I was swimming to shore just behind him, swimming through the blood.
"About three metres from shore, in 1m-deep water, I was just about to put my feet on the ground and start running."
It was then that the shark grabbed him by the leg, shaking him. His leg was so badly ravaged it needed to be amputated below the knee.
Luckily, Damon has a sense of humour, and said despite having a great 'scary story' at his disposal ahead of the WAtoday Rottnest Channel Swim, said he won't be using it to psych-out his opponents.
"On a long swim like that, your mind plays tricks on you, and it's more of a mental challenge," he said.
"It's stopping the negative chatter that goes on in your head."
Damon is confident that his training regime, swimming at least 5km four to five days a week, will be more than enough preparation for the 19.7km haul on the weekend.
"I have no doubt that I'll finish," he said.
"Ideally I would like to finish in under six hours, that would be great.
"A lot of it obviously depends on the conditions on the day."
Now in its 21st year, the WAtoday Rottnest Channel Swim is being held on Saturday, February 26.
Thousands of swimmers will depart from Cottesloe Beach at 5.45am, making their way 19.7km to the finish line at Thomsons Bay on Rottnest Island.