This past Wednesday (July 14), I went dragonboat racing for the very first time!
If you don’t know what dragonboating or what a dragonboat is (because trust me, I sure didn’t), here is the definition according to ever-reliable Google results:
A dragon boat is a very long and narrow canoe-style human-powered boat. It is now used in the team paddling sport of dragon boat racing. A dragon boat team consists of about 20 paddlers sitting 2 abreast/side-by-side, with someone who steers in the back and a drummer in the front. The team of paddlers must work together to hit the water with their paddles in time, to propel the boat forward.
My friend, who I affectionately call Chable (but her actual name is Ileiren) has been dragonboating for 8 years and her and her husband lead/coach University of Alberta dragon boat teams. She gave me an open invitation to come down and experience a dragonboat practice with one of her teams and that offer has been present for nearly two years now. I finally took her up on the offer and so on Wednesday, Mike and I headed down to the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival Association headquarters (located at 9734 – 98 Ave.), got our life jackets, paddles, and a crash course in “Dragonboating 101,” as Chable says.
We learned that we have to sit with our butts/side of our butts pressed firmly against the side (or “gunnel”) of the boat. Our legs need to be placed in front of us. One hand near where the actual paddle part of the paddle starts and one hand gripped up at the top of the paddle. As per Chable’s instructions, we had to lean forward while reaching our arms and paddle out to hit the water, then sit back up as the paddle motion finishes. That motion is repeated throughout the dragonboating session. Done right, our legs should get the most work out, because all the force is supposed to come from the leaning forward and backwards. I, of course, did it wrong, and was left with extremely sore arms as I used my arms to give my paddle power. The team we were with, the University of Alberta United International team was made up of international students from the U of A. Many of the teams veteran boaters weren’t there that day so the practice went a little rough. We weren’t as timed in unison as the ideal dragonboat team should be but we had tufts of timely, powerful paddling and whenever those brief moments happened and I actually felt that I was maybe doing it right, I was filled with a feeling of extreme satisfaction. The light spray of river water on my arms and face was also nice. It was also quite a sight to see the other dragonboat teams practicing around us — how intense they were and how impressively fast they could speed up the river (yes, we were boating UPHILL!) and how in unison they all were.
All in all I thought my first dragonboating experience was pretty good. I only took three breaks, which Chable said was pretty good for my first time (I don’t know if she was just being nice for my ego lol). Mike didn’t take any breaks, he was sweating and extremely tired by the end of the hour-long practice but he was pretty proud of how he’d done. He really liked it actually, if he didn’t work just as much as I did, and at odd hours, he wouldn’t mind taking up dragonboating for a summer. I, on the other hand, am far too weak to be a dragonboater. At least my arms are anyway. Except, again, done properly, dragonboaters arms’ shouldn’t be all that exerted, because it’s all in the leaning forward of the legs, but again my technique sucks.
Still the weather was beautiful, the sun was shining, we were with a great group of people and had our dragonboating crash course taught by a very sweet and patient friend, and I am glad that I finally did it!! I recommend everyone to try it out if they get the chance! I guess lots of corporate businesses sign up dragonboat teams for the annual Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival, so if you’re in a corporate business, lol, get a group of 20 together and try it out! Chable says the corporations pay $1,000 to sign up a team ($50 per member), and you get 2 practice sessions before the festival. Chable’s team (and others) pay more to practice several times throughout the summer just because they love it so much!
This year’s Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival is August 20-22. Apparently dragonboat teams from across the country have come to compete in this festival, so it’s a pretty big deal. I think this year I’ll go and watch! I recommend you do too! :)
June 14, 2010 – Dragonboat Practice!