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Bill Robillard

Bill Robillard, 63

Dragonboater, outrigger paddler, retired meat-cutter

Years of paddling: 1 so far

Teams: FGPC Momentum, Outrigger

“I sort of thought that at age 63, my athletic competitiveness was over, but I found a rebirth in paddling. And then you get kind of a rebirth again in thinking about maybe one day traveling to some exciting international events, too. It’s a whole other world opened up.”

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Bill Robillard has been paddling for just a year, and he’s already progressed to an advanced solo outrigger canoe class (OC1). We spoke to Bill about his paddling journey so far, and what FGPC means to him. Here’s an edited Q+A:

Q: What do you like most about paddling?

A: I’ve got fairly bad knees and I find it just extraordinarily pleasurable that I can elevate my heart rate and get a good workout in paddling without hurting my legs or my knees. So, um, the ability to get my heart rate up and get a good workout in, uh, in 50 minutes. It’s just a luxury. It’s incredible. I feel so good that I can work this into my life. 

Q: How has paddling affected your life?

A: The paddling club, including the dragon boat team, and the coaches are like a family to me. I just think it’s incredible. Everybody is so supportive and everybody helps each other out.”

Q: How active were you before the COVID-19 crisis hit?

A: I couldn’t really be that all that active. I was always busy, like renovating my house, building a fence or building a sundeck. But it was not something where I could really elevate my heart rate and get a good workout. In terms of paddling, when COVID hit, I was doing nothing because we were expecting dragon boat season to start. But when that got cancelled, the club immediately adapted and developed new programs.

Q: What are you doing now?

A: I joined OC1 on May 1, and just to give you an idea, I feel I probably lost 10 pounds of fat and gained five pounds of muscle and I’ve taken an inch and a half off my waist measurement. The core workout you get with OC1 paddling is just incredible.

Q: What have you learned about yourself or your community as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?

A: I’m 63 now and I thought the competitiveness within me was basically put to bed. But when you get in that OC1, and you have time trials against other team members, all those competitive juices come right back. It makes you feel younger. So, the positive thing is discovering that again. And then, the coaches are so supportive and welcoming.

Q: When it comes to paddling, is there a person or an event that is a special memory for you?

A: I’ve always enjoyed a good, aggressive, strong-minded coach who is willing to push you. So when we’re coming into the three-quarter length of a 500-metre race in dragon boat and Erik Ages yells that he wants 10 hard strokes from the back, and then you give him 10 hard ones, and then he says 10 more! and he just yells it, I just love it. It’s so inspirational. He gets a lot out of his team and his paddlers, but I don’t think he overdoes it. He’s excellent at what he does. 

Q: In terms of paddling, what are you most looking forward to when normalcy returns?

A: I’m very glad that FGPC’s crew have gone to extra lengths to keep open. I can’t imagine the reduction in cash flow in losing the dragon boat season. It’s shown me that I can keep as active as I want for years. And even the potential for international travel intrigues if I ever get invited to try out for a team that wants to go to Hawaii or France or Italy. As long as I can meet the criteria, I’ll be all over that.

All proceeds from the 2021 calendar project will support FGPC’s race restart programs.

Bill Robillard