It’s hardly fitting to call the paddling groups in Samoa a community, a better term would be ‘family’.
As Billy John Peters prepares himself to go over to the International Va’a Federation (I.V.F) World Elite and Club Sprint Championships, members from the Samoa Outrigger Canoeing Association (S.O.C.A) put together a small fundraiser to help him.
The trip to Lake Kawana, Sunshine Coast, Australia on the 5th-15th of May will see Billy go up against the world’s best paddlers.
The trip will be self-funded and according to Billy there’s nothing he wouldn’t pay for his dream to come true.
“This is going to be bad for my bank but it’s good for the mind bank,” He said. A small group of friends and paddlers came together at the Ocean Club bar to raise a bit of money and to farewell their brother before he leaves.
“Billy’s one of our very passionate paddlers that saw this opportunity and has taken it upon himself to make his way there,” Ulugia Jay Ah Fook Schuster said during an interview with Samoa Observer. “S.O.C.A is doing its role to see what we can do to help out and in appreciation to a lot of paddlers who have sacrificed a lot to represent Samoa.” Ulugia saluted Billy for his effort to represent Samoa.
“It’s not a small task so we acknowledge that and we congratulate him on that,” he said.
“Tonight we are bringing all the paddlers and friends together to fundraise a little for him, this is also a farewell for Billy and we wish him all the best.”
According to Ulugia, this is a big step forward for the association.
“Sending Paddlers overseas is a big step for S.O.C.A as far as developing paddlers,” he said.
“(but) I guess in the past couple of years the association has been focusing more on infrastructure and trying to set the foundations locally.
“We feel that sending paddlers is a good thing but if we don’t have a good structure locally then we won’t send our paddlers off with good preparation.
“It takes a lot of money and effort to send paddlers overseas but if our focus is solely on sending paddlers overseas without a firm local foundation then they will go unprepared and return to nothing that can further develop them.”
S.O.C.A has already put plans in place to boost the sport of paddling in Samoa.
“We are looking at doing things like running regattas that help prepare our paddlers for world standard type races,” Ulugia said. “We are also starting our athletes young with our junior programmes which will help develop our teams for overseas competitions in the future. “We want to Set up proper facilities and training equipment in that way when we send more people for the I.V.F then they will go not just for the experience but to actually compete.”
For those who want to one day go to the I.V.F, Ulugia says dedication is key.
“Commitment is something paddlers need, there’s no such race where you will meet people who haven’t prepared to the best of their ability,” he said.
“You will see people who are passionate about doing well, any paddler that travels overseas that go through that effort will do well, and the only way that they will do that is through dedication and commitment.”
Billy was stunned by the fundraiser and how many people wanted to support him.
“Right now I’m feeling pretty blessed to have support from the other paddling clubs; Nafanua, Laumei, Lau Foe and Tautai who have all come up with gifts to help fundraise to help me with my trip to Australia,” he said.
“Laumei has come up with my uniform as well as an extra to give away as a gift to another paddler; all in all I’m just honored to have my fellow paddlers support me 100%.
“In return I hope that I will do the country proud as well as my friends who support me, maybe in the next 2 years we will have a full team of 6 paddlers going over to the next I.V.F.”
Each club active in the association donated to the fundraising: $150 was given from the Tautai outrigger canoe club, $100 from Nafanua kalapu Alo Paopao, Tequila, baileys and hot dogs was donated by Vaai Lau Foe, World sprints Samoa uniform was provided by Laumei outrigger canoe club, Alo paopao and Vailima sponsored the 50L keg and prizes were happily donated by Mahealanis, Millenia hotel, Roseberg clinic and Home café. Together they managed to raise $1,000 for Billy.