It’s early Sunday morning on July 16th and the DiSCOVER participants arrive and park on the winding road that outlines the lakeshore – home of the Outer Harbour Dragon Boat Club.
Today is Dragon Boat workshop day!
Some of the DiSCOVER participants are experienced paddlers but for several, this will be there first time stepping into the dragon headed, 20 seat long wooden boats.
Simon Lam, the Captain of the Mon Sheong Paddlebears, led the day’s water practice.
Having more than 10 years of paddling experience, Simon was thrilled to share his expertise with the group
After Simon handed out the lifejackets and paddles, the participants were off to the beach to load onto the boat. Simon sorted the participants into groups and had them load the boat one by one.
This process is crucial to balancing the boat – in terms of weight and strengths.
The boat has 3 main sections:
- The pacers – usually the first 3 rows
- The engine or engine room – the middle part of the boat
- and the rockets. – usually the last 3 rows
Based on each person’s weight and right/left arm preference, the boat was carefully organized for the day’s dragon boat workshop. (The boat was not a full boat but we made it work!)
“Ready Ready, go” (a call used to signal the paddlers to get ready to paddle and set off into the Toronto waters)
With this call, the boat was off and the participants paddled away from shore.
On the water, the participants learnt basic race calls, forms, and techniques required to paddle. Amid the occasional splashing, bubble breaks and the inevitable, non-synchronized paddling, the participants had a fun and exciting time trying out race pace paddling and race starts, having the CN tower as the backdrop to their practice.
After water practice, the participants had a quick lunch in Chinatown and then piled into the Mon Sheong Downtown CVS for a presentation on the history of dragon boat.
This presentation was lead by Arlene Chan, a 3rd generation Chinese Canadian, 7 time published author, and 11 time international dragon boat medalist. What an accomplishment!
As a Librarian by trade, Arlene explained that she wrote the books about the Chinese culture that she could not find in the Library.
Arlene engaged the participants by speaking to her research as well as sharing her triumphant wins in her dragon boat career competing on the international level.
Being raised in Toronto, Arlene’s experiences connected well with the participants evident in the shower of questions that she received after her presentation from the participants!
Overall the participants got to learn about the history of dragon boating and experience the spirit of the sport on the water first hand!