The power of the paddle

Scott Farrell shares his experience with dragon boating in an effort to relay how it is on the water

By Scott FarrellPresident of Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club

I paddle dragon boats. What’s your superpower?

Most people think the sport of dragon boating looks easy until they try it.

Good teams make the sport look incredibly easy.

Most people do not realize the amount of physical and mental effort it takes to stay focused and disciplined during practice or during a race.

Our sport is one of repetition. It is built on muscle memory.

You as a paddler are taught a basic stroke which consists of how to hold your paddle, how to place it in the water, how to pull the blade through the water and when to pull the paddle out and repeat the process.

You do this over and over and over again until it becomes second nature. Some people pick up the concept right away while others can struggle a bit before it falls into place.

You can spot a new paddler in any boat right away. New paddlers have a tendency to think about what they are doing.

You see them methodically place their paddle in the water, hoping they did it correctly, and they methodically pull their paddle through the water and methodically take it out of the water and they stare at their paddle the whole time.

It is as if their whole world revolves around that dragon boat paddle. The experienced paddler will get into a boat, adjust themselves accordingly and just start paddling.

They will know to keep their heads up and across so they can keep time with the rest of the boat.

Their body will let them know when they are doing everything right. It will just feel natural. It becomes second nature. As with all things in life, practice does make perfect.

A well-oiled dragon boat team is much like a racehorse: neither are truly happy until they are racing.

The best part of being on a dragon boat team are the dragon boat races themselves.

Being lined up with five other teams at the start line, adrenaline pumping through your veins, the anticipation of the start gun, in your boat with your teammates. It does not get better.

The horn sounds and you are off. Time to move the boat. Five long strokes to get the boat out of the water, a couple of sets of “ups” to get the boat up to race speed and then into our race pace.

Paddle, paddle, paddle.

Power Series. Paddle some more. Another Power Series. Why are we still paddling? We must be done.

Paddle, paddle, paddle.

Then you hear, “Finish it now,” and you dump every bit of energy you have left knowing that the finish line is just seconds away.

Then comes the best three words ever put together in the English language (from a dragon boater’s point of view), “Let it ride.”

You did it. You have nothing left. You are exhausted. You are totally out of breath.

Your body is like Jell-O and the only thing going through your mind is, “When do we race again?”

It is a very addicting sport.

A quote that was going around the dragon boat world a while ago went something like this, “People that think a minute is not a lot of time have never raced in a dragon boat.”

A typical 500 metre race for a recreational dragon boat team will last about 2.5 minutes. Those minutes do feel like an eternity while you paddle.

As you paddle through a race your body slowly starts to tire. When this happens your body position tends to suffer.

You slouch, you bend your elbows, your head starts to fall forward and you look down instead of up.

That is where the mental toughness comes into play. You force yourself to sit up straight and to battle through the tiredness.

Your body fights with your mind during the first half of the race and then your mind fights with your body during the second half.

The fight lasts a few minutes, the rewards last a lifetime.

The sport of dragon boat is not for everyone but it is for most people.

Come challenge yourself, come change your life.

• • •

For more information about our club check out the newly revamped website: www.fvdbc.com. Free Open Paddle dates, times and locations are listed below. The Open Paddles are open to the general public. They are free and there is no obligation to join.

March 19th at Municipal Dock on Harrison Lake, 10 a.m. start; April 9th at Municipal Dock on Harrison Lake, 10 a.m. start; May 29th at Kawkawa Camp and Retreat on Kawkawa Lake, Hope, noon start.

 

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