From Soccer to Sailing: Royal Epa’s Journey to the Pacific Games
By Lynton A. Filia
Royal Epa, a Solomon Islander athlete, part Malaita and Choiseul province, is not your typical sailor. In fact, he’s a well-known soccer player. But for the 17th Pacific Games 2023, Epa has traded his cleats for sails, and he’s determined to make his mark on the water.
Epa’s journey to sailing began when he was just 11 years old. He quickly fell in love with the sport and spent countless hours improving his skills. However, at the age of 16, he decided to switch gears and pursue a career in soccer.
He was also part of the Solomon Islands National Under-20 team in 2005, when the country hosted the competition at the Lawson Tama stadium, in Honiara. Epa and his team mates finished second in the competition behind Australia. This was during the generation of young stars like Benjamin Totori, Godwin Bebeu, Richard Anisua, Eddie Ngaitini, John Morgan, Nelson Sale, and others.
For over a decade, Epa dedicated himself to football, but he never lost his passion for sailing. When he heard that the 17th Pacific Games were coming to Solomon Islands, he knew he had to return to his first love.
“I see this Pacific Games on home soil, so I decided to compete,” Epa said.
The transition back to sailing wasn’t easy. Epa had to adjust to a new style of competition and learn to race against bigger and more experienced sailors. However, he was determined to succeed.
“I am competing against bigger boys and they are very professional sailors,” Epa said. “From this, the thing standout for me, I gain valuable knowledge and skills from them which it will prepare me on this week’s preparation to work on my strength and weakness.”
One of his biggest challenges is, Epa encountered a difficulty of inadequate training equipment. The Solomon Islands sailing team had to work with outdated boats, far from ideal for competitive racing. However, Epa remained firm, refusing to let this obstacle hamper his progress.
“From my experience, I’ve been training here, the boats are old and we don’t have proper boats, the racing boat for the competition,” Epa said. “We only trained on old boats, it is not good for our preparation. It’s our first time to use the new sailing equipment which is the right one for competition. It is quite different, but it’s a thing you can adapt to it quickly. It is not an excuse to be a barrier for competing.”
Despite the challenges, Epa has remained positive and determined. He knows that he has the physical and mental strength to compete against the best sailors in the region who joined this 17th Pacific Games.
“Actually, I’m fit for this sail racing competition. I think my opponents are fit as well. But all is good, it’s up to my mental fitness. I must have a strong mentality to compete. The mind must be strong and ready for next competition,” Epa said.
Epa is looking forward to this week’s competition and is ready to face any challenges that come his way. He is determined to make his country, Solomon Islands proud and prove that he is a force to be reckoned with in the world of sailing.
“It’s a big week coming up, very tough and I am looking forward to go through any challenges coming ahead. Stay strong, don’t weak, always stay focus and come next day, I am ready to go down to the water doing what I support to do as a representative of Solomon Island in this 17th Pacific Games,” Epa said. –ENDS//