There’s many aspects to dragon boating. Like climbing into the vessel without falling over. Once settling into a seated position, the focus turns to the drummer/coach, who belts out a rhythm to follow, keeping the team in synch. From the back, the tiller will call out various commands: Paddles Up (prepare to paddle); Take it Away (start paddling); Hold the Boat (stop); Let it Run (cease paddling but let boat glide). Gripping the paddle involves wrapping the top hand around the T grip with thumb underneath. A good stroke results in little splashing. But if the paddler over-reaches, he or she is guilty of ‘plunking,’ and might be clacking paddles with the person seated behind.
If this sounds like fun, consider dropping by a session with the Prevailing Wins, a local dragon boat team consisting of about 30 adults in the 40 to 80 range who meet twice weekly for workouts in the Comox Harbour. The group also gathers for Saturday morning practices.
“We have a couple of coaches and tillers, and also a youth team called the Dragon Riders,” said team captain/co-ordinator Leon Van Noorden. “Many of us have been doing it for a long time. It’s a real family, and a lot of fun, especially the races. We get really excited with the races. It gets quite competitive. But the rest of the time we just have a lot of fun and work hard.”
The Prevailing Wins started in 2006 when some members of the Comox Valley Blazing Paddles formed a mixed racing team. The squad has since recruited more males — which can be a challenge in dragon boating — and formed a youth team. This season, the team will compete in several dragon boat festivals throughout the Island, including Nautical Days in Comox.
“It (dragon boating) was associated a lot with breast cancer, but it isn’t any more,” Van Noorden said. “We are a mixed team, and so the races we go in are 10 women and 10 men. There are competitions around the world, especially in Asia. This summer, there’s a world championship in Hungary. A couple of Island teams are entering.”
Last year, a number of paddlers from around Vancouver Island contributed to Canada’s medal haul at the World Nations Dragon Boat Championships in China.
FMI: contact Van Noorden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Youth members can be as young as 13.