You are sitting alone in a canoe with no one else from your country out in the water with you; you look to the left, you look to the right and everyone has that determination in their eyes.
They have given everything to be there and will do everything in their power to come first.
This will be the situation Billy John Peters will be put through as he gears up to represent Samoa in the International Va’a Federation (I.V.F) World Elite and Club Sprint Championships.
The 42 year old from the village of Tiavi is a father of 3 and the husband of Rosaline Peters, he will be flying out in 5 days.
The event will be hosted at Lake Kawana, Sunshine Coast, Australia on the 5th-15th of May.
The event comes around every two years with the world’s top paddlers racing their hearts out to become the best.
The tournament consists of v1 (Single paddler), v6 (6 paddlers) and a v12 (12 racers) but Billy will take part in just the v1 races.
“This is like the Olympics hundred meters dash but the only difference is that it is on the water and it is 500m,” Billy said.
“The first few days will have the elite world sprints which will be nation vs. nation, each paddler cannot represent their clubs but instead they must represent their country as a whole.
“Then 2 days after that, there will be the club world sprints where every club will have a chance to go up against other clubs.”
Billy will be going up against some really tough competition.
“My first heat will be tough because this is where the fastest paddlers in the world will be, so we’re looking at people from Tahiti, Hawaii, New Caledonia and even New Zealand where the competition will be quite high,” he said.
“In the v1 500m race, to actually having a chance of progressing through, you have to have a time between 2minutes and 5 seconds to 2 minutes and 12 seconds.
“This is because most of the guys coming from the top paddling countries can do the 500m sprint within that timeframe.”
Training hard and sacrifices was what the paddler focused most of his time on for the past few weeks.
“For 8 weeks I have been training quite hard, which consists of short sprints and sometimes long distance paddles,” he said.
“I have to try maximizing as much as I can in my power and technique for 500m in 2 minutes, and to be honest, that’s not easy, but in saying that, it’s also not impossible.
“I have faith in God so I pray as I train; there is a lot of discipline and sacrifice that goes with preparing for something like this.
“Every weekend after my races with the boys we would have a few beers and a BBQ but I had to give that up.
“Going to Australia will be expensive and it is self funded, Samoa Outrigger Canoeing Association (S.O.C.A) will host a fundraiser to help me out but a lot of my own money is going into this so leaving for the competition without the proper training which requires sacrifices will be just a waste of money.” An opportunity to test his paddle against the best out there has always been a dream of Billy’s.
“I have wanted this for a long time where I line up for the race and I look left and right looking at all the best paddlers in the world,” he said. “This is going to be the best feeling ever so I don’t want anything to jeopardize it; I have 5 days left to continue eating healthy, and train my heart out to make the most of this trip and represent Samoa to the best of my ability.
“I want to make Samoa proud of paddling and hopefully encourage and promote paddlers to make it a dream and a mission to make these world events.”
Pushing for your dream is all that counts for the paddler.
For every athlete, their dream is to make it into the Olympics but for Samoa, paddling in the world sprints is the closest thing to the Olympics,” he said.
“If you don’t try attending a world sprint then you are not pushing hard enough for your dreams.
“I have been training a lot with my boys and also with Amanda who is one of Australia’s best open women paddlers.
“As of today I am only 80% ready but I have 5 days to get to 100% which I am sure I can do, I have only done a 500m sprint race twice while in Samoa so I have been working very hard for this.
“In terms of being ready I think I am ready to give those guys there a good run, I won’t give any promises but I will be as ready as can be when the time comes.”
But where did all of Billy’s passion come from?
“Most of my life I was a surfer, I used to think that paddling looked boring and that it was bad for their back,” he said.
“But in 2011 one of my close friends invited me to paddle and to my surprise I actually enjoyed it, it felt good and it was a great way to keep healthy, I still surfed but I slowly made that transition into only paddling.
“I’m not one to turn down challenges and I felt that paddling was more challenging than surfing so I really enjoyed the competitive side of paddling.
“When I did the Savai’i crossing, that cemented my love for the sport, I loved everything about it, being out in the open sea paddling against some tough currents with the wind blowing here and there,
“When you are out in the ocean it’s just an amazing feeling, there is something about ocean water that makes you feel alive.
“Right now my motivation is that bond with your fellow paddlers in the water, my wife paddles and I want my kids to start paddling.
“There’s no better way to experience the ocean than to paddle with friends and have that camaraderie.” Billy is hopeful for the future of Samoa paddling.
“Down the line, I see paddling being part of the Olympics, we have Samoa 7’s in the Olympics and we also have our weightlifters making us proud,” he said. “Not long into the future we will also have our representatives in the Olympics for paddling and we will do well because we have the advantage, we are surrounded by ocean and we are Polynesians.
“Samoans are strong paddlers because it is in our blood; who knows, by the year 2024 I will be too old but the next generation might have a spot in the Olympics for paddling and maybe even win medals.”
The S.O.C.A will be hosting a fundraiser tonight at 7pm to help Billy with funds at the Ocean Club Head quarters (the old YNOT bar, next to paddles restaurant) at Matautu.