On routine foot patrol in Helmand Province back in 2009, the 32-year-old suffered serious multiple injuries and lost both of his legs above the knee after stepping on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
It would have been the end of an active life for some – but not this father-of-one.
“Having no legs is a driving factor behind everything I do,” he said. “It’s not an excuse to do nothing – it’s a reason to do more.”
After undergoing extensive rehabilitation Nick, from Shrewsbury, began training full-time as a trunk and arms rower for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He narrowly missed out on a medal, coming fourth. But now he has a new challenge – an extreme three-week hike across land and water from John O’Groats to Lands End.
Nick is part of a team of four taking on the iconic journey on May 18. The team also includes RAF helicopter crewman Ian O’Grady, 37, who is originally from Oswestry but now lives in Oxfordshire.
This is a challenge with a twist. Instead of following the conventional Land’s End to John O’Groats route, Nick’s team, Beeline Britain, will attempt it in a straight line for the first time. To do this will involve100 hours in a kayak, 34 hours on a bike and more than 12 hours on foot.
Nick, who recently retired as a captain in the Royal Engineers, will travel across 1,100km of some of the UK’s most difficult terrain in a specially-adapted bike and boat.
He has been juggling the demands of training with being a new dad to three-month-old Jonah and is taking on the challenge to raise money for BLESMA, the charity that looks after limbless servicemen and women.
Taking in some of the most extreme coastal, mountain and urban environments in the UK, Nick will track St David’s Head, Holyhead, Isle of Man, Burrow Head, central Glasgow, Cairngorm Summit, Lossiemouth and Wick.
The first stretch, from Land’s End to Pembrokeshire, is expected to be the most difficult, involving 36 hours straight in two double kayaks.
“In the kayak, usually the paddler would use their legs to brace with and balance the boat,” said Nick. “For me, that isn’t an option, so I’ve created a false bulkhead, built up to support my stumps underneath. This keeps my stumps in the correct position and allows me to get some pressure on the ends to help stabilise the kayak.”
The kayaking is the trickiest activity – it requires far more balance than the biking and hiking, Nick said.
“I have to trust the boat and just stay relaxed. The second I get tense, things start to go wrong.”
For the cycling part, Nick will be using a 12kg Top End Force RX handbike that has been made-to-measure for the Paralympian, allowing him to reach a top speed of up to 80kmph and to cover around 120km a day.
“Physically, the hand-bike is okay, but put eight days of intensive paddling before it and I think the relentlessness of it will really start to tell,” said Nick.
“This will be especially challenging on any uphill sections, when the smaller muscle groups in my arms and shoulders will be at a vast disadvantage to the rest of the team who will be using leg power.”
On the mountaineering section of the journey, Nick will use a custom set of walking “stubbies” – prosthetic carbon fibre legs molded to his stumps.
“The crutches I use are a modified set of mono-ski outriggers which I bought from a company in America and tweaked in my garage,” he said. “They have a welded join on the handle that is vital as there is a lot of load going through it.
“And that’s it, apart from a massive set of shoulders and a refusal to give up.”
The challenge is being supported by The Endeavour Fund (created by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.) To donate, text Line59 and £3, to 70070. Follow the journey at www.beelinebritain.com