"Remember, it's not "rowing" it's paddling. Just follow what the group in front of you is doing, follow their lead". This is my first time out practicing with the local Dragon Boat team. I am completely unprepared for the athleticism needed to perform with this crew. Kind they are, to allow me to practice with them as they get ready for their upcoming trip to Hong Kong to partake in the Olympics of the sport.
After arriving into Perth and getting settled, I was looking for a way to get to know the locals as well as spend time outdoors in this paradise of a city. Not overly keen on Cricket or looking to have my old body pummeled in Footy, I stumbled upon Dragon Boat Racing. There are a little less than a dozen teams in the greater Perth area. My team, is the Indian Ocean Club, is celebrating their 5 year anniversary. Do you recall the movie "Cool Running's"? Well the IAC had a somewhat parallel beginning, in that they spent their first year practicing on land and in borrowed boats. As year two approached, it became even a bit more comical, the team discovered a boat they could use, but was currently being facilitated by a bunch of cows down south, as a trough. Though not sea worthy, the farmer who was on hand proclaimed that if it could hold water for bovines, it would certainly at least be water tight. After several months of the team members combined talented trades, the Indian Ocean Dragon Boat Team, was officially practicing on the Swan.
Honored to be the only team in Western Australia to be asked to participate in Hong Kong, they are continuing to practice even after the local season is complete, which is how I happen to be out on the Swan in North Fremantle at 8 am on this gloriously sunny Sunday. These paddlers come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and all share the common need to be "doing something", not just sitting at home watching the Telly. It is incredible watching them perform together. Like a well oiled machine. I am the only cog in the wheel, holding them back during their morning practice.
Origins dating back 2,000 years from China. Teams race the elaborately decorated boats to the beat of heavy drums. The special boats, which measure more than 10 metres, have ornately carved and painted 'dragon' heads and tails, and each carries a crew of up to 20 paddlers. Sitting two abreast, with a steersman (’stroke’) at the back and a drummer at the front. Watching them paddle from shore is just as incredible as being in the boat. With that said, wherever you are in the world. Watch. Participate. Enjoy. This is a hidden gem of of good old fashion entertainment steeped with history.