2022 Winner and Entries for Christmas Canoe Giveaway Contest

Please find below all of the wonderful entries we received (and were not asked to withhold from publishing). As you can see, our community is full of amazing people. Not only deserving of such a gift, but filled with selfless individuals who consider others and take the time to thoughtfully share their praises. Enjoy these well written tributes, and know that we at Cali Paddler are so honored to have met these individuals through their nominators! (Original contest info and story here).

Congratulations to the Winner, Julie P (read nomination here) for winning this new canoe! We hope you will continue to enjoy its glide on the water. Gigi Gigglberger who nominated you did a wonderful job of portraying your qualities that make paddlers such special people.

We would like to extend an Honorable Mention to Damien (read nomination here) who was nominated by his mother Nancy Capper. Damien, and family, we can't wait to see what an amazing paddler you become and hope the Christmas spirit lives within you for a lifetime.

To everyone nominated: Please continue to be the type of person you are. We are inspired by you, admire you. And grateful to shine a light on what others think of you!

Nominator Nominee(s)
William Tucker Carl, Emma and Katie K
Adrian Proctor Arthur
Chloe Retika Josh
Hilary Bryson and Cynthia Tom  Angela “Angie” S/F
Jonathan Lew Roy
Carmen Ma Mckayla
Sheri Blades Brian S
Lynn Nguyen Evan
Gigi Gigglberger Julie P.
Bradley Davidson Kainoa R
Anders Nilbrink Katherine N
Balian Ho Oyster Point Dragons
Kerrean Monteiro Dale K
Nancy Capper Damien
Yuki Schwab William H
Emre Durmus Skylar T
Angelina Green "Dad"
Ronald Bergmann Aero Dragonboat Team
Jakob Johnson Brian P
Sky Tan Emre
Christopher Gee Henry G
Jaime Dinh Abigail D
Edric Garcia Ethan G



William Tucker Carl, Emma and Katie K

Aloha and Happy Holidays!

I have a good friend that has been on the water all of his life, until recently, when he and his wife had 2 beautiful little girls. Carl shipped his sailboat to the US when he moved here from Australia but had to sell it to start his family and he’s really missing the water. Not only would Carl enjoy getting back on the water but I believe his 2 daughters would enjoy the paddling ohana and would take an interest in paddling and ocean adventures! They live in Irvine and enjoy family time at NAC already with an inflatable SUP. He’s very good at inviting others to join him on his adventures so he would let others use the canoe and be a good ambassador to the sport of outrigger canoe paddling. He’s working but his wife is not on board with spending  thousands of dollars on a canoe so, a gift is the only chance he has aside from borrowing mine occasionally. 

This is a very nice idea and very generous of someone to gift their beautiful OC1! Certainly the spirit of the holidays! I would give him one of my paddles and he’ll be set! 

Thank you! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Mele Kalikimaka!


Bryan Tucker

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Adrian Proctor Arthur

Jiaozuo, a small city on the banks of the Yellow River in China, to many would be a surprising birthplace for an ocean loving, surf loving young waterman. But in May 2006, Arthur was born & found abandoned in Jiaozuo, then in 2008 amidst the Beijing Olympic celebrations another event occurred; his adoption and move to his new family home in Southern California. Arthur, now almost 17 years old, immediately found his love of the beach and water. He tenaciously worked hard on learning to swim as a little boy, loving and hating Junior Lifeguards in the summer break, but it gave him the confidence in the ocean he desired. At ten years old his family moved to The Pacific Northwest and Arthur traded his weekend activities from ocean to mountains, however his love and yearning for the Southern California beaches never ceased. The pandemic in 2020 bought a time of reflection and as a growing teenager he was able to vocalize his love for the ocean and strong feelings of belonging on the water.

During the summer of 2020 and under the cover of worldwide COVID lockdowns, Arthur’s family packed up their home near Seattle and moved back down to Southern California. Immediately on his return he used all his savings to buy an old surfboard and spent as much time as he could at Doheny Beach in Dana Point teaching himself to surf. During these days of learning to surf and chatting with anyone young or old whilst sitting on his board, he watched people from The Dana Outrigger Canoe Club emerge from the harbor, paddle up and down the coastline and on occasions ride the waves. He imagined himself as part of the Outrigger tribe, getting fitter, stronger, and finding another sport he could throw himself into that didn’t require the assistance of Kanaloa, Tangaroa, Neptune, Poseidon, Mami Wata, or whomever your ocean god is, to deliver the necessary swell.

Since joining The Dana Outrigger Canoe Club two years ago, Arthur has thrown himself into the sport; loving the exercise, freedom, and friendships. He trains at minimum twice per week during the school year and his private church on Sunday mornings is a two-hour session up and down the harbor. As parents we see how outrigging has changed our boy; he is not just physically stronger, but mentally stronger and happier. This is evident in his confidence and willingness to strike up conversations with other like minded watermen young or old at the Outrigger Canoe Club, out in the harbor, or on the ocean.

Working as a pool lifeguard throughout the year, Arthur has managed to save up some money, and he spends his spare-time searching adverts for used canoes in the hope he can find one at the right price, or that Santa will be able to enhance the level of his savings account or maybe even throw one in his sack this year. Hints of taking a canoe off to college and using it every weekend are liberally tossed around the car as we drive home from school during the week. Owning his own Outrigger is a major dream for this boy; the ocean is his peaceful place, his workout place, his playground, and his university of life.


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Chloe Retika Josh

An Embodiment
He was supposed to be an Olympian. He was a dancer on blades, and he and his twin sister placed first in the US Championships for pair figure skating from 2014-2016. When his spinal disc herniated in 2017, it shattered any chance they had in the professional world.

Josh transformed from being a focused, dedicated athlete to a life swallowed by pain. Double axels used to be muscle memory, and now he could barely take three steps without needing physical support. He adamantly refused crutches, much less a wheelchair, and a year of physical therapy resulted in minimal progress.
It was one thing to become physically injured, but it was another to know that his more-than-a-decade’s commitment to 5 AM practices, moving neighborhoods just to live near the ice rink, and pushing his body to the limit resulted in a prematurely ended career. It should have been the end, but it was not.

Josh’s friend offhandedly invited him to join Jaws, a high school dragon boat team based in Long Beach, which he did without a clue as to what it meant (just like most of us in this community did). It quite literally saved him. The very act of paddling, the renewed dedication and spirit, and his supportive community redirected his path. His back became reinforced through the sport, and he could once again focus on strengthening his body. He tells me that his life was forever changed. I argue that the lives of countless others were also changed.

He became one of the youngest on the Team USA U24 Men’s roster in 2021. He also became a paddler and coach for the UCLA Dragon Boat team, and every team we compete with has a member who knows his name. However, his accomplishments are not why I’ve chosen to write this essay for him.

Josh is a precious, integral part of paddling culture at UCLA. Beyond his apparent responsibilities (cabinet meetings, outreaching to new members, never missing a practice, and more), I notice that it is the small, extra things that make our team members say with fondness that he is their main inspiration. I have watched him drop whatever he’s studying at 2 AM to get someone a COVID rapid test so they could make it to practice the next day. He has single-handedly cooked 10 people on the team dinner, just so we could sit together and relax prior to finals. He notices the people on the fringes, and invites them in (whether to have lunch, to visit his own home, or to get to know them). He transforms the UCLA team into a family and focuses on the gentle growth of every single paddler. Many members of our team were drawn into the sport not just because of his outreach (vivaciously flyering, decked out in full dragon boat gear), but because of the environment he’s created. We have international students, musicians-who-don’t-do-sports-for-a-reason, and people who have never done a pull-up in their life on this team because of him, and he has transformed them into paddlers. He is the non-judgemental leader, the safe space, he is the person we look up to in admiration and respect. He has so much pride when he tells people he’s in dragon boat, and he is one of the main reasons why we have something to be proud of. Josh is an example of how we can rely on each other, be ourselves and remain loved, and grow individually to make the team stronger. He tries to give back everything that paddling has given to him, and I think he has done so many times over.

Josh is my best friend. I will never forget how it felt to paddle with him for the first time, cut through that water and wind with the right amount of speed, right amount of strength, in growing sunlight and red sky, then have him turn around with so much joy in his eyes and ask me, “Do you feel it?”. I recently entered this space because of him (I was one of those musicians who had never worked out my arms, ever), and stayed on the UCLA team because of myself. I know for a fact that paddling healed him, and resurrects him every day. His spine condition has deteriorated to one he shouldn’t have until decades from now, but because he fell in love with this sport, I’m able to watch him breathe and glow when he is on the water. I have an incredible, incredible amount of love and respect for what he’s done, and who he is as a person.

We are both undergraduate students at UCLA, finishing our last year. We will no longer have access to the resources and opportunities of a collegiate team, nor do we have the financial means to acquire a boat until much later in life, which is why I’m writing this essay for him. For Josh, this would be the most precious gift he would ever receive, not just because of the freedom an OC1 would offer him, but because this gift embodies the solidarity and kindheartedness of the paddling community that he knows and loves. I think that someone who approaches everyone equally, with respect and welcome (whether they are newbie, veteran, friend, or stranger), someone who takes that extra time to carefully bundle and protect our paddles, who is the first to offer congratulations and the last to leave, who spreads and encourages the pure joy of belonging to a family like this, is someone who fully deserves to celebrate Christmas with (and on) a canoe.

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Hilary Bryson and Cynthia Tom  Angela “Angie” S/F

When we saw the post to enter someone who deserves a new OC1, We immediately thought of our dear friend Angela “Angie” Stephenson Foltyn, and this is why...

Angie embodies the spirit of a paddler and especially of the sport. She has been a member of the Windy City Dragon Boat Club for over 10 years, holding many positions within the club, from Captain and Coach of the Ladies Team to managing the clubs presence on all Social Media platforms to being the official photographer and videographer for the club. The Windy City Dragon Boat Club includes the Elite Team that competes worldwide, the community Black Dragon Team and the United Sky Dragons, the club’s corporate team. Angie manages to capture each of these teams to showcase their achievements and capture the spirit of the sport. Angie, despite being a fierce competitor, finds time to ensure all aspects of the clubs competition requirements are met. This includes maintaining training schedules, ensuring the USDBF rules and regulations
are followed and keeping the positive morale of the club.

In addition to her multiple roles in the Windy City Dragon Boat Club, Angie manages to find time to be an accomplished outrigger paddler on both OC6 and OC1. In her free time, you will find Angie and her husband training on the lake outside their backyard, which she has named “Lake Foltyn”. Angie’s husband, an accomplished paddler himself, has notoriously hijacked the newer OC1 for his trainings, claiming that as a more renowned athlete he should get the newer OC1. That leaves Angie with the much older and outdated OC1 Stingray. This Stingray is a heavy boat, not streamlined and light like the newer boats. It is showing signs of wear with paint chips, worn out seat and multiple patches. Despite having to settle for the older boat, you will find her on Lake Foltyn at sunrise and sunset, listening to her favorite music and enjoying her love of the water. For Angie, paddling is therapeutic to heal her mind, body and spirit.

For those of us lucky enough to join her on Lake Foltyn we are so grateful to see her demeanor change the moment she sits on that old Stingray. You can hear her choice words for her boat, but she is thankful to have a dedicated boat. Her love of the water and sense of humor is contagious, she has this keen ability to whip out her camera at just the right moment to capture you as you huli.

We all have our limits, our walls if you will, where our body just can’t go further. We have witnessed Angie push herself on training days to go further in inclement weather. In her mind, she wants to make sure she is more than capable of pulling her weight (in OC1 competitions), but also pulling the weight of her teammates who have reached that wall (in OC6 competitions).

Recently, she and her husband have found a love of OC6. And as expected, the funds saved to buy Angie a newer OC1 is now being used toward the OC6. While Angie is thoroughly disappointed, she finds the positive in that she will be able to bring her love of OC6 to others.

Given Angies continued generosity to others in her time and efforts, We believe she more than deserves a
new OC1. The OC1 would enable her to maintain her training schedule, a newer lighter boat will continue to
heal her mind, body and spirit.
Love teammates and best friends,
Hilary Bryson and Cynthia Tom

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Jonathan Lew Roy

“Dragon boat is life.”


These words ring true for many. In fact, it’s changed my life and many more. I write this essay to give an oc to a fellow teammate, Roy, whose life has changed for the better because of dragon boat. I haven’t known him very long, but our experience in dragon boats has been very powerful. We both participate in the Abraham Lincoln dragon boat team. Together and with the rest of our team we have achieved first place both locally (San Francisco) and internationally (Vancouver). Our team plans to participate in many more races. To us and the team, dragon boats have really become life. We commit at least 9 hours of our week to dragon boat. 9 mandatory hours at least, but he has never been satisfied with doing the minimum. We are very hardcore team who trains off and on the boat to be our bests. He is an inspiration to us all. In fact, he is our captain and leader. I’ve seen him grow in many ways and be a prime selection to be our team leader. Above all, we are competing for spots in team USA u18 where the main component of selection is the time trial which is on the oc1. 

The two ways Roy is involved in the paddling community is as a member of the Lincoln team and as part of the team USA u18 team. Lake Merced where we do all our practices has become like a home away from home. His love for dragon boat doesn’t just end at the lake. He often workouts separately in the gym and on the pErg to improve his skills. He has gotten many others involved in the sport as well. He’s recruited at least ten people to join the team. His passion is extraordinary and I can only say that because of his growth as a member of this community. When I first met him just a year ago, I couldn’t imagine he would be the person he is today. Paddling has truly changed his life. It’s not only in a physical sense but also a personality sense. Some people might say that a dragon boater's personality is dragon boat. However, I would say that they misunderstand the beauty of our sport. I’m certain Roy would disagree with that too. They talk about it because it’s amazing. I’ve seen him grow from a shy kid in class who I had never heard speak to a confident leader. Of course, he’s changed physically because it is a physically demanding endeavor but there has been an even bigger change as a person. He has grown so much and I believe he deserves the opportunity to enjoy his passion more.

Our team unfortunately doesn’t have readily available access to an oc in general. So, it would be a great help to Roy if he could use an oc. Like I mentioned before, team USA does rely heavily on the use of the oc1. If I were able to give him one, it would be a great opportunity to practice and grow as a paddler. I’ve noticed that when we have the opportunity to oc that he always jumps on it. So, I know he is committed to improving and loves the oc. I see other teams having much better access to the oc and I want our team to be able to have better access. After all, one would be better than nothing. I would really appreciate being able to help out a friend in achieving his goal of becoming the best paddler he can be.

If I win it, I’m sure he would make great use of the oc. I’m sure that he would never turn around and sell it. He’ll probably take all the way to college to continue his dragon boat career. If not, he’d definitely donate it to the team so other people can experience the magic of the oc. Just you by yourself on the open water, able to paddle to your heart's content. I know in my heart that the oc would bring a lot of joy to Roy.

Lastly, I would like to thank you for giving us a chance to be able to have an oc of our own. I’m very appreciative of the gesture and kindness. The dragon boat community has always been one of kindness and support. I know that anyone who receives the oc will make good use of it.

I'm Jonathan. I've been a part of the dragon boat community my whole high school career. All I can truly say is that dragon boat is life.

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Carmen Ma Mckayla

My alarm rings at 7am on a Saturday. I don’t usually get up this early but set my alarms for this time so I can send a text to my younger sister: “Are you at the lake yet?” She replies back “yes” and I put my phone away and snuggle under my warm blankets, wondering why she would rather be at the lake than in her own cozy bed. But that’s how it was for all of my sister’s high school years. This Saturday lake practice was in addition to the weekly land and water workouts that extended to 6:30pm on weekdays; while others were probably eating dinner, I was at the lake waiting for my sister to finish practice. As she approaches the car, her appearance denotes a practice well-done: disheveled hair, shorts, flip flops, backpack on one shoulder, and most importantly, a paddle in one hand. My sister, Mckayla, is a dragon boat paddler. I will tell you about her story through my eyes.

Mckayla joined dragon boat as a high school freshman to forge friendships and as a way to stay physically active. I had never done dragon boat before so I couldn't give her any advice on the sport. But I didn’t need to because she seemed to fit in so well and always knew what to do in her dragon boat team. Throughout her high school career, I witnessed how her roles and visions for the dragon boat community changed as she became more dedicated to the sport. She paddled in many local races, such as the Youth Race held at Lake Merced in San Francisco and in the San Francisco Dragon Boat Championships where she competed in A division, C division, and Girls’ Division. At these races, she braided all the girls’ hair, a long-held tradition for their team. For races where she wasn’t paddling, she volunteered because she wanted to help make the racers’ experiences memorable and learn how to organize races for the future. In her junior and senior years, she became a girls’ conditioning leader where she created workouts for her group that were personalized to each teammate’s strengths and weaknesses. She also planned many team bonding events and upheld long team traditions, such as the annual team bonfire, paracord bracelet exchange, and the paddle exchange where juniors gifted graduating seniors hand painted mini-paddles. My sister’s additional involvements in the paddling community involve planning fundraising events to help offset the costs of race fees, such as bake sales and paddle-a-thons where paddlers fundraise $10 for every kilometer they paddle. To elevate her dedication and involvement with dragon boat, she applied for and was selected to be on the Youth Leadership Council (YLC), the student-led division under the California Dragon Boat Association (CDBA). As part of YLC, she represented the student paddlers from different San Francisco high schools and had the opportunity to provide feedback to the adult leaders on what the youth racers wanted to see more of during races and practices. One notable achievement was when she led the efforts to apply for a $10K grant to subsidize fees for the Youth Race so that student paddlers from outside of San Francisco would be able to travel to San Francisco for the race. The many late night Zoom meetings and coordination with team members outside of her school spoke volumes to her dedication to the dragon boat community and I could not be more proud of her.

Dragon boat has changed my sister’s life for the better in numerous ways. She became physically and mentally stronger, as depicted by increased muscle tone and not giving up when workouts were hard. She became more disciplined, making sure her school assignments were complete so she would have time to go to dragon boat practice and waking up early on weekends to get to practice. She learned about teamwork and unity, and how everyone must work in unison to be victorious. She gained more confidence, which was shown in her refined leadership style, such as adopting open communication and directly reaching out to the new members to better support them. My sister also became more driven and goal-oriented, always setting new goals whether it was to improve her paddling technique or do one more pushup at each workout. Dragon boat also brought her a group of supportive teammates who eventually became some of her closest

As the older sister, I was used to always being the role model. In the case of paddling and dragon boat, my younger sister was my role model. Her love and enthusiasm for the sport radiated so strongly that it inspired me to join dragon boat as well! While she has paddled for more than three years, I have only paddled for about three months, but I couldn’t have started my paddling journey without my sister. With this OC1, it will unlock a multitude of new goals for us and the many youth paddlers in San Francisco. For my sister, paddling on the OC1 will elevate her paddling skills and confidence even more. For me, I am immensely afraid of it because it looks like it can flip very easily. However, I know that if I see my sister paddling on the OC1, I know that I can too. My sister, Mckayla, who I want to give this OC1 to, is my role model and inspiration for my own paddling journey.

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Sheri Blades

Brian S

To the Generous OC1 Owner and Paddling Ohana,

I want to tell you about my friend and paddling “pillar” Brian Schneider. Brian has been a paddler in Northern California since 2011. I befriended Brian in 2014 when we became teammates.

For the past eight years, I have continually witnessed Brian’s dedication and kindness to his paddling Ohana. I consider Brian to be a “pillar” in our paddling community because of what he does year after year: carpools for keikis, coaching, towing our team canoes, volunteering at fundraisers and cheering at races even when he’s not competing. During the 2017 Sonoma County Fires, Brian quickly stepped in to help load supplies and donations for evacuees. When one of our canoes needed massive repairs, Brian continually showed up to sand, epoxy and paint our canoe. His generous heart and time is fully invested into our paddling Ohana. No matter the need and no matter who’s asking, Brian always supports. I consider him a “pillar” because he is so critical to our paddling community.

I would love for Brian to care for and paddle this OC1. When I first met Brian, he had access to an OC1 through a friend. But when that friend moved away, the canoe went with them. Brian was a competitive OC1 racer in our regattas and it was devastating to see him sidelined simply because he didn’t have access to a canoe. Over the years, I searched for the perfect canoe for him. He voiced a willingness to put in the work needed to bring a canoe to a competitive state. He has the skills to work on minor repairs however, every canoe that was within his price range was spoken for faster than we’ve been able to jump in.

With this opportunity, I am hoping to get Brian back into competing in OC1 competitions as well as give him a way to coach from beside our OC6 canoes. I know this canoe will be well cared for. Brian is the most deserving paddler I know. He is a grateful person who continually pays it forward. I’d love for him to receive the same gesture from others. 

Mahalos for your consideration and incredible generosity! 

Sheri Blades

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Lynn Nguyen Evan

To Evan,
Hey coach! How has it been—leading and representing Cal Dragonboat for two years? You are actually the most passionate, yet insane, person I know. From talking to our alumni, one year on board is already draining enough. But you are built different. When we needed a Head Coach for the new year, you stepped up again to fulfill a role that not any regular paddler can just do.

I remember my newbie prank when you were the Water Coach. We were asked to redo our tryouts, and you came in with such a straight face. Our laughter died and the aura tensed up while you led us across campus, calling out our whispers and nervousness. I was preparing myself to hop on the pErg again, still sore from the last trial. But we were interrupted with cheers and posters from the other team members surprising us, and I could feel my heart lighten. From that day, I began to form bonds and friendships with paddlers who I can now call my family.

To be honest, I was very scared of you! Knowing how serious and intense you can be made me feel intimidated. But your guidance with feedback and consistent optimism helped the boat surge faster with every practice. You applauded us for our strengths and humbled us for our victories. You redirected Cal Dragonboat to become competitive, yet enjoyable by providing so much support for all of the members.

When the new year came and we needed a Head Coach, I remember your name being passed around from conversation to conversation. The team all recognize the impact you have on us. You lead us so well, and although two consecutive years as an officer is unheard of, we all genuinely believed in you. As Water Coach, you took the team’s comments and suggestions seriously, implementing new ideas each week. You were receptive and we knew that your skills would be incredible as Head Coach.

And we were right. Head Coach Evan is a whole new person. We raced seven races this year, and our performance could only be sourced to you. You encouraged us to come to water practice, you ensured that we took pErging seriously, you are the reason why the team wakes up at 5:00 A.M. on Wednesdays to paddle in the cold, dark marina. You strive to push us to our limits, while at the same time making sure we feel supported and welcomed.

As coach, I know you did not get the chance to paddle much. After all, your calls at the front were necessary for us to check in with our bodies and ensure we are using proper technique to paddle. But I’ve seen how focused and determined you are to take strong pulls with every stroke. Paddling has matured you—you are ever so eloquent with the numerous speeches, and your patience and kindness has grown. Even when the team is slacking, you never show disappointment. I would see you run 3 miles to practice every weekend and think, “Wow, I could never.” Finding ways to keep up your physical strength while also scheduling time to make sure others do the same is the definition of self-discipline. You dedicated so much for the team, I hope we were able to give back tenfold.

Now that the year is over, I couldn’t be happier to see you step down as coach and get to paddle one last semester until you join the military. You have worked so hard for these past two years, you deserve the best from Cal Dragonboat. No gift will ever be able to capture the hardships you endured, but I hope I make you proud as I nervously, but excitingly, step to the position you had before. You made me a better paddler, and I hope that with the remaining time I have left, I could do the same for you.
Love, Lynn

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Gigi Gigglberger Julie P.

A Canoe for Julie: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

By Gisella “Gigi” Gigglberger

Have you seen those photos of such exuberantly happy people that are caught mid-jump with arms outstretched overhead kicking up their heels as they defy gravity? I guarantee you it will be that same photo capturing Julie Pickerel’s reaction when she finds out she has won the gift of a canoe she can call her very own. As soon as I saw the Facebook post explaining this essay contest, I felt I was called to submit Julie’s story. There is no one I know more deserving of the gift of OC1 magic and meditation than my friend and teammate, Julie Pickerel.

I met Julie back in 2006; it was my first year paddling with Hanohano OCC and Julie’s third. She was nothing but welcoming, patient and approachable to all of us novices. She was involved in everything Hanohano and paddling related. She always had that infectious look about her announcing to all that she was having fun and knew that you could have that same fun too! I soon discovered not only was she fast becoming the confident steerswoman she is today, our club’s future board member (secretary), dependable volunteer and that enigmatic personality that everyone gravitates to. All paddlers want her on their practice or racing crew including those traveling across state lines or ocean waters. They know she is a responsible, careful team player but always a fierce competitor. 

But even the fierce are fragile. Fast forward to 2020 and the world shuts down, including our beaches and season. Julie has dedicated her career to public health research so this pandemic struck very close to home. Because Julie’s partner was and continues to be so health compromised, she was faced with the reality of making some difficult decisions around her paddling and social time. Risking exposure was not an option for Julie as her partner’s health and life depended on her cautious decisions. The pandemic blurred the lines between paddling and social events because getting out to paddle was the only social contact so many paddlers, including Julie, were left with. While so many people suffered in isolation, paddlers were scurrying to buy OC1s, loaning out their boats or reserving time on OC2s to keep from being isolated. Many, including Julie, joined or started online workout groups to stay connected and sane. But we know the screen will never replicate the salt splash, wind or Vitamin D and sea, a good long paddle can get you.  When OC1 or OC2 availability presented itself, Julie fully embraced the opportunity to get out there and paddle those open waters. They were symbolic of freedom with her like-minded friends paddling alongside her and meditative mask-less time for herself where she could unplug for just a bit. Catching glimpses of whales or dolphins provided a brief respite from the pretty intense health issues she supported her partner through. Even picking up the floating trash along the watery way became a challenge she took on knowing she was making a difference one paddle and one piece at a time. Julie knew full well how times were tough for so many so she did not readily disclose the toll her caregiving situation was taking on her. But those of us who know Julie, knew. Working in public health did give her information and resources to call upon if needed, but how often does one REALLY take care of themselves when immersed in the care of others? It takes a Herculean effort for one to advocate for their own self care when your career is in PUBLIC health AND your loved one is facing their own extreme health issues under your same roof.

Julie is not one to “toot her own horn” as they say. That’s why I am tooting it for her. To her, an OC1 would be magical. The canoe would not only carry her over the waters she loves to paddle so much, but also helps lighten the load of the burdens she carries with her. Julie is a fierce protector of all she holds dear and but sometimes one can only hold so much. As OC6 paddlers, we are taught to thank the canoe for keeping us safe and to respect its spirit as the seventh paddler. In this case, Julie’s OC1 would be her second paddler, both strong and swift in spirit, each in turn protecting the other.

This and more is why I nominate Julie Pickerel for consideration and selection for the gift of the OC1. Thank you for the opportunity. I can’t wait to see her jump up in the air with all the exuberance and energy she is known for.

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Bradley Davidson Kainoa R

He dreams like most 8-year-olds.  On this morning he looks out over the calm waters of Mission Bay and dreams of being out on the water. 

Soon little Kianoa will be sitting on the front of his dad’s SUP board being driven about the bay dangling his hand or foot into the cool waters.  His dad takes him and his older brother to the shores as often as he can between job and house renovations for his dad is busy but he’s an avid paddler.  Even during the summers, his family participates in a kid oriented Hawaiian canoe club.  He watches the older kids practice their paddling and even helps on the rigging of the six person outriggers.  Occasionally he gets to paddle. But still, he dreams.  He dreams of paddling, of being like the older kids and powering canoes through the waters, competing and even dreams of being stearsman. 

Paddling is a family activity and keeps him, his older brother and parents connected in a common enjoyable pastime.  Even the club he is associated with is family oriented where not only the kids participate in paddling, the entire family chips in with attendance and providing elbow grease, food and support.  Paddling is a central theme in Kainoa’s life.  An introverted, quiet and smaller kid, the community he enjoys with paddling has brought his spirit to the surface and is building his confidence around other kids and adults to where he is even speaking out more sharing interesting and entertaining stories from his deep imagination.  Paddling has been good for Kainoa.  As a parent myself of a paddler and consistent participant in his club, I have personally seen this transformation in the past few years.

So, Kainoa dreams, and I’m sure any opportunities he can get to paddle will launch him into the waters of opportunity, adventure and success.

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Anders Nilbrink Katherine N

I’d like to gift the OC1 to my wife Katherine Nilbrink, Pale Kai Outrigger Canoe Club in Avila Beach if we wine. 


Since my wife joined Pale Kai she has become a happier and more outgoing person. She has been looking for organizations to join since we moved to the Central Coast and be part of communities that both have fun, bring people together and care for beaches and waters. 

She has always wanted to live by the ocean and hear the sound of waves from her bedroom. That has not become reality yet but being part of the paddling community has compensated for that. She often comes home after practice, tired and wet, and says that there is nothing better than being on the ocean with new and old friends and seeing animals. When she misses practices she sometimes becomes crabby and I tell her to go and I’ll take care of anything that she needs to get done. Just go paddling!

The first time she saw a whale when paddling she was so excited that she wanted to tell everyone and almost yelled from the Paso Robles town square I SAW A WHALE TODAY AND IT WAS AWESOME!

She has chosen to sacrifice a few things she has been involved in to be able to make the 75 mile, 2 hour drive to Avila Beach and back three times a week during season to be able to be part of the community that she loves. She says it’s all worth it! She is actually getting more involved in Pale Kai by becoming a board member as the Recruiting & Membership chair.

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Balian Ho Oyster Point Dragons

To the Team, who Started it All

From the first practice I attended in the 6th grade of 2018, the impression of this dragon boat community created an expectation so high I never thought others would be able to live up to it. Oyster Point Dragons, a non-CDBA team (California Dragon Boat Association), based in Oyster Point Marina in California’s South San Francisco, has fostered my growth as a young teen and demonstrated firsthand how to impact a community.

The children-to-elderly atmosphere, ages 10 to 80, raised my morals and principles in my tween years. I learned how to communicate with others and build my social confidence. Moreso, our team’s motto, paddle for health, has forged my views on fitness and the importance of maintaining our health. The adults within this team have given me advice for school, insights into being a leader, and opportunities to create long-lasting friendships. Diving deeper into the impact this team has made on a personal level, OPD’s leadership team appointed me to be part of the coaching staff of the OPD Youth Team, enabling me to pass on the impact I experienced to the next generation of paddlers.

Growing into my high school years, although I mainly raced with Abraham Lincoln Dragon Boat (a team within CDBA), the ongoing impact of OPD has never been more substantial. Being a non-CDBA team, they can host various events as they see fit to strengthen the community. In 2019, OPD hosted a cultural service event opening up its resources for those who want to learn about dragon boat paddling. This team has also hosted humanitarian efforts such as coastal clean-ups, local recycling, and urban exploration to improve and maintain our community and Marina. Touching back on the age range of OPD’s teammates, they have paddlers as young as ten to as old as eighty. Sticking to their model, paddle for health, OPD opens the gate to anyone who wants to try dragon boat paddling in the southern parts of the Bay Area.

Being an underdog team, OPD could still gather the resources to send a youth 16 crew to Hungary (2018) and another crew to participate in a Taiwan race the following year. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, we were not able to recruit many new paddlers, making us fall behind the competition. After Covid restrictions became more lenient, practices were resumed once again. Since coming back, OPD always seemed to fall short of gold or an A-division placement. However, with the recent disbandment of a local team, Bay Tsunami Warriors, the members we were able to refuge from their team have changed the atmosphere within the community. Using the youth’s competitive hunger, I see OPD’s potential to come back stronger than ever. With the gift of this OC to the team, I think this added resource will create more enthusiasm, provide exposure, and further educate everyone OPD has ever welcomed into their waters.

From a paddler,


Special thanks to Chris Gee, for providing amazing help and support with this essay.

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Kerrean Monteiro Dale K

I would give the canoe to my dad, Dale K. He has been paddling with cubs in Monterey Ca, San Francisco Ca, and Kona Hi for a number of years. The paddling community means a great deal to my father, and many of them are like family.

He has had some health challenges ( don’t we all after a certain age…) but I feel that his passion for being on the water… and in the water has kept him really motivated to stay fit, and choose an active lifestyle. I’m thankful, because it means he will be around longer, and able to enjoy life.  

I did not grow up knowing my dad, but we connected when I was in my mid twenties. Building a father/daughter relationship as an adult was never easy, but he never gave up. I’m so very thankful for him, what he has shown me, and taught me about the ocean, and living life in a way that matters.( my own personal tour guide on a recent trip to Kona, that he took my sons and I on… ) There is no way I would ever be able to afford a gift like this for him, and I would love to give this to him. Although, knowing my dad, and his generosity… this canoe would probably be gifted to the Ke Kai O’Uhane Canoe Club in Monterey so that others could share in his joy and love of paddling.  I hope you consider this entry. I love my dad very much, and I would love to see this given to him.  Thank you for your time.. Kerrean Monteiro

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Nancy Capper Damien

It’s Christmas time, but this year something has changed. That crucial year, where your child – in my case a 13 year old boy named Damien – flits between childhood and young adulthood. Too old to want for toys. Too young to know what he wants. Unsure if Santa still exists, as I struggle with the idea of how and what I should tell him. What I do know, is this is the first year he did not write a letter to Santa Claus asking for anything. I’m not sure if he feels it is childish or his attentions are turning to adult pursuits, but I do know there are two things right now that mean more to him than anything else and those are the uncontrollable excitement, joy, and freedom he experiences when playing his drums or while paddling with his dragon boat team – LACDBC (fka Team DPW). When Damien’s coach, Nathan Salazar, who I’m sure many know as the head coach for U18 Team USA, tagged me on Cali Paddler’s Facebook post for the OC1 Christmas Canoe Giveaway Contest, I knew I had to write in and plead my case for you to consider allowing me to put myself in the running to gift this magnificent prize to my little bae, Damien.

Damien’s journey to the world of paddling, you could say, began over a decade ago when my older brother, Alain Au, found himself retired, overweight, and starting to suffer with increasing health issues. A friend turned him on to dragon boating, which he quickly embraced and made a main focus in his life. Alain lost 60 pounds and now heads the Bucks County Fusion dragon boat team in New Jersey. It wasn’t long before his oldest child, a son named Matthew Au, took up the sport, as well, around the age of 14. Father and son found themselves immersed together in the exciting world of paddling, something everyone in the family got used to due to the numerous Facebook posts that we saw week after week. In August 2021, Matthew came out to Los Angeles to try out for Team USA and made the U24 team as a steerer. Matthew also was and still is an assistant coach for Team USA U18 and paddles with Catch 22 in NYC.

It was that moment, when Damien saw Matthew try out for Team USA at Santa Fe Dam that a fire was lit inside him. Damien had found himself overweight, with doctors pleading for him to lose weight. No matter what sports he tried, nothing worked. He was not particularly athletic nor really interested any sports. Then dragon boating and paddling came into his life. Damien joined Team LACDBC in October of 2021. Since then he has gone every weekend for practices Saturday and Sundays, never missing a session. He has competed in five races – Baby Long Beach, Big Long Beach, Castaic Lake, San Diego, and the LA Country Dragon Boat Festival – taking home 2 golds, 1 silver, and 2 bronzes for his efforts.

But, it wasn’t the medals. It was the sport of paddling that changed his life. The weight is all gone now. He is fit and starting to put on muscle. His pediatrician is ecstatic. He has quickly integrated into the entire local dragon boat community. Having never been comfortable with traditional sports, paddling has allowed Damien to finally learn the important meaning of teamwork. He has made good friends – the kind that he will likely hold on to for life. Even the adults have taken a shine to him, his enthusiasm for the sport and community, and his infectious good spirit. That’s why they made him perform his trademark Gangnam Style victory dance at the annual Christmas party last week when he won Rookie of the Year. However, even more important than any of that is he has found something he loves. Something that is all his. Something that makes him proud of himself, increases his self-worth, and always puts a smile on his face. Heck, he even got me to join a special “Mom’s Boat” for the LA County Dragon Boat Festival the team hosted a few months ago. And now, even I get it. After a month of training, and feeling that deep accomplishment of winning gold, it looks like another family member – me – will be taking up dragon boat racing, which is good, because like everyone else in the family, it is time I did something fun and exciting that can help me get healthier and back in shape. They say the family that paddles together, stays together. What can I say? I know it doesn’t rhyme, but I’m a veteran mom and novice paddler; not a poet!

So, why would I hope and pray Damien could win an OC1, and what does this have to do with Christmas and Santa Claus? Well, just this morning, after almost a week of pestering Damien to write his letter to Santa before time runs out, he confided in me that all he really wants is an OC1. You see, he has really dedicated himself to the sport of paddling, but Coach Nathan is increasingly having him use an OC1 to strengthen his paddling with the hopes of getting good enough to someday sooner than later try out and make it on to Team USA and maybe even go to the World’s Championships in Thailand next year. Coach Nathan has made it clear Damien needs an OC1 with which to train to take his paddling to the next level. Unfortunately, we do not have spare money for such a large purchase. Times have been tough for many, and we are no exception. We simply cannot afford it, which makes me sad. Damien has always been such a good, well-behaved boy. Without being asked to do it, Damien is always the first to step up, welcome, embrace, and teach other new juniors who join the team what to do, what is expected, and some of the tips and tricks to succeed. Having faced isolation in life from being an only child, to the pandemic lockdown and remote schooling, to having to change schools two times in 3 years due to cyber bullying, Damien doesn’t want other children to feel that sense of isolation and awkwardness he himself felt in his school life upon joining a new community and having no one to help him acclimate to a new way of life. Damien does that for dragon boaters newer than himself, even though he himself has only been there a little more than a year. And, I think that puts him on the Nice List. I told him to write his list to Santa, because you never know, miracles do happen.

I am sure there are many others who will write in to this contest. And, there might be someone more deserving in the end. But, when I saw the post for the contest, it was as if Santa himself had tagged me in it. Is Damien involved in the paddling community? That’s a big yes! Has it changed his life? Like you wouldn’t believe! Hopefully, Santa can bring him an OC1 for Christmas to help him take his paddling to a new level, make dragon boating a sport he enjoys for years and years to come, and we can have a son who believes at least for one more year that Santa Claus really does exist. Because, from the backstory of this OC1 being given away, it’s clear he truly does.

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Yuki Schwab William H

Dear Cali Paddler,
Hello! My name is Yuki Schwab, I am a senior at the University of California, Berkeley and a member of the Cal Dragon Boat team. Today, I will be writing on behalf of William Hastings – my teammate, roommate, and good friend. William is also currently a senior at the University of California at Berkeley. William is a psychology major who is currently involved in neuroscience research on campus, and he aspires to become a physical therapist. In the next year, William wants to compete on the U24 national Dragon Boat team and national paradragons team. Currently, he attends U24 national team practices, has a meticulous meal plan, and goes to the gym several times a week. He OCs 6 times a week using borrowed equipment from another local Dragon Boat team, but he has been expressing interest in an OC of his own for several months now. We are very grateful to our sister team for allowing us to borrow equipment, but some of the OCs have severe damage and one of them even split in half on the water (please see the first picture attached below). I have seen how hard he has worked to achieve his goals, and I believe that with the generous gift of an OC1 he will become unstoppable.

I met William three years ago, when we lived on the same floor in a freshman year dorm. As soon as I met him, I was surprised by how down-to-earth, driven, intelligent, and kind he seemed. He was the kind of person to light up a room and be able to talk to anyone. William gets around with the use of two forearm crutches, and this prevents him from playing many sports that involve running and jumping. However, even back in freshman year he remained very active by swimming and lifting weights regularly at the gym. He was always very open about his disability and even though he’s overcome a lot of adversity in his life, he would discuss it in a humble and lighthearted way. Even though his crutches can make everyday tasks complicated, I have never heard him complain or make excuses for it. William and I lost touch for over a year due to the pandemic, before we both coincidentally joined Cal Dragon Boat during 2021.

This past summer, William also moved into my apartment with me and two of our other teammates and I have gotten to know William better than I could have ever imagined. He has shared his past with me, and I have been privileged to witness how he has succeeded in life despite his difficulties. William has struggled with depression, ADHD, substance abuse, body dysmorphia, and patterns of self-destructive behavior for many years. During one of our late-night conversations over tea, William shared with me how Cal Dragon Boat has served as a support system during this time, but Dragon Boat itself has improved his life immensely. William is the kind of person to fixate on one goal and single-mindedly work towards it. I have observed how having a focus has done wonders for William’s mental and physical health. Dragon Boat is what gets William up in the mornings. When he slipped and fell a few months ago, his primary concern wasn’t his injured wrist, it was how this would interrupt his training for the national team.

Furthermore, not only is William driven to make himself stronger, he wants to help others reach their full potential as well. He regularly invites people to OC early in the morning and gives helpful critiques. He is especially involved with the newer members of our team and gives them lots of encouragement. He will use our team’s modified erg machine and share his personal record with other people in order to encourage a friendly sense of competition (please see the picture below of William and Anthony). William is wonderful to have on the team, and he is a great asset to our community.

I have been able to watch as William has become stronger, faster, and more confident on the OC in the past year and a half. OCing gives William pure, unadulterated joy, and that is what drives him to go out on the water at 6 or 7 in the morning, even when the temperatures are below freezing. On land, he walks around with the aid of crutches, but on the water, he can fly.

Thank you for your generosity in offering a free OC and paying forward good deeds! I hope you and your loved ones have a lovely holiday season. Thank you for your consideration.
Warm regards,
Yuki Schwab

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Emre Durmus Skylar T

Friend, mentor, and teammate, I can't think of a better nominee for this competition for the Huki Vl-Z OC-1 than Skylar Tan. I met Skylar (or as we call her, "Sky") when I joined the University of California San Diego Dragon Boat team, in my sophomore year at UCSD, where she was an already established and experienced member. She was my first close friend on the team and remains one of the best I will ever have, with her friendly, outgoing, competitive, encouraging, and iconic attitude. In addition to being a crowd favorite, she is also among the fastest paddlers and one of two women to make our open boat when Dragon Boat racing. Sky has been paddling since high school with Oyster Point Dragons. Along with being one of the fastest members on the team, Sky also dabbles in Outrigger Canoe racing. She is on the women's Hanohano Outrigger Canoe Team (2021-present), did the Rig Run hosted by Ka Nai'a Outrigger, and the Angel Island race with Okalani.

After she introduced me to the program and local staff, we are now applying together to join the Under 24 USA National Team to compete in Thailand's 16th international Dragon Boat World Championship. We have been preparing by launching out of Fiesta Island in San Diego's Mission Bay at 6 a.m. with club boats before our first classes. She has be.en an idol and role model for me, balancing excellent academics, inciting team passion, and motivating me with friendly competition to reach my fullest potential. Seeing Sky on the water is a must-see sight, as "paddler Sky" is quite different from "regular Sky" with a boosted confidence, energy, and enthusiasm. I can always expect to go from a drowsy cold state at 5:30 in the morning to laughing and messing around when either ofus gets picked up. From "2k Tuesdays" (2km pieces at increased intensity) to leaving teammates in the dust on an OC-2, Sky always seems to unlock a level of serenity, balance, and pure will-powered focus that contagiously improves the performance of eve,yone in her vicinity when she paddles.

Easily one of the most mileage-accumulating members of the team with near-daily workouts, Sky is the most deserving person I know in the paddling community to get ownership of her o,,n canoe for the first time. I am restless to see the level and speed she will achieve with the accessibility of o"'ning a canoe. I'm confident her progress and improvement will positively reflect on the team as a whole.

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Angelina Green "Dad"

My dad has many goals in life and one of them is to someday get an outrigger canoe. My goal is to one day get it for him which is why I jumped at the chance to enter this Essay writing contest. I am currently 12 so I am too young to get a job to be able to save up for this canoe. I have been struggling on what to get him for Christmas and this would be the perfect gift.

My dad loves outrigger canoeing, in fact this all happened about a year ago when my dad was introduced to outrigger canoeing by one of his friends, Brandon. Brandon introduced him to outrigger canoeing and the community and asked him to come out and paddle one day. My dad decided to check it out.When he first came home from paddling he was tired, but hooked. He became a part of the paddling community and joined the San Diego Outrigger Canoe Club. With perseverance my dad kept going and going, paddling and paddling, and the work had paid off. After several weeks it began to get a little easier for him. He is glad he didn’t give up because this is one of his most enjoyable activities he has been involved in, for a long time. He has competed in contests, goes to his club on Tuesdays and Thursdays, hangs out with his friends from his club and more! Personally I feel that sometimes having a separation between family time and time for yourself is important because it brings you balance. Which is another reason why I am glad that he is doing this. He's brought us to a few of his races and we can see how hard he tries. He really enjoys this outrigger canoe club and with his personal canoe he will take every chance he can get to use it.

Outrigger Canoeing has changed my dad’s life for the better. He has little time to do things for himself because he's either out on a run with my mom, making dinner, at work, or helping one out of his three daughters, and I happen to be one out of the lucky three. He’s always ready to get up early in the morning to go paddling and hang out with some friends out on the water. I've noticed that when he comes home he’s in a really good and enlightened mood. He loves talking about the paddling community and wants to get my sisters and I involved. This would be the perfect opportunity for him to have some time with his daughters while teaching us one of his new favorite passions. It has given my dad a chance at a new hobby that he loves. 

My dad doesn’t know that I'm doing this, but my mom and I want to win him this canoe because my dad needs a canoe of his own. My dad is a very patient person. He usually has to wait awhile at his club to be able to go out paddling on the water because he doesn’t have his own outrigger canoe to use at this time. My dad doesn’t get anything for himself which is why Christmas is a big deal to me, my mom and my 2 younger sisters. My dad is very important to everyone in my family and we are grateful for all that he does for us and as a father of three girls you can imagine how important it is for him to have guy time or even self time and this canoe would do exactly that.

In conclusion, my dad is a very kind, helpful and motivated person. Giving him the opportunity to own a canoe would be like giving him his dream item! My dad is so supportive of me and my family and we want to show him that we support him too. My dad has always been there for me and I want to do something special for him. He's always trying to teach us lessons, and talks about owning a canoe.  He’s always trying to reach his goals. So by giving him this canoe will help him to get closer to those goals. He will no longer have to borrow or wait for others to go out on the water. He will be able to go whenever he wants and can get some additional practice in. Which will help him to win some races. I hope you consider giving my dad this canoe.  

Sidenote: I am Angelina Green’s Mother, Nina Green and I have given her permission to enter this essay contest.

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Ronald Bergmann Aero Dragonboat Team

Do you know what it’s like pushing off the shore at 6 in the morning? The chill of wet, morning sand. The familiar hug of a questionable smelling PFD. The snug fit as you and your fellow paddler grab a bench. The slosh of water pooling against the edges of the boat. It’s a morning every paddler knows all too well.

I have spent years paddling dragon boats and have always loved the competitive outlet and physical exertion that comes with it. I’ve had the privilege of traveling both nationally and internationally, competing on world stages, but perhaps nowhere have I been surrounded by more incredible people than here on the sands of Long Beach. And while the workout is great and the medals are fun, it’s my teammates and the community that keep me coming back.

Aero is a team that embodies what it means to not only be a paddler, but to be a part of a community. As I’m sure many teams experience, it’s difficult to strike a balance between competitive edge and recreational fun, but Aero recognizes the beauty of this diversity by providing opportunities for any and all skill levels. It can be difficult to join the paddling community. There are barriers to entry all over the place, whether it’s one’s physical fitness and mobility; the cost of equipment, uniforms, and travel; the time commitments of practices and competitions; or even proximity to a body of water. However, Aero finds ways to make the sport accessible to the casual paddler and competitive athlete alike. They run practices at multiple times of day; encourage beginners and veterans alike; offer activities and workouts for both on and off the water; host coaching sessions and practices at multiple locations; etc. 

I would love to help Aero continue to grow and find more ways to break down barriers to access. Many paddlers do not have the luxury of paddling in an OC1. They are expensive, involve a steep learning curve, and are often used as a means of assessing paddling skill. I have found that the issue with using OC1’s as a means of assessment, is the lack of practice opportunities and equipment access that most paddlers experience.

I believe that paddling an OC1 should not be an expertise held only by the most elite and competitive paddlers or those who can afford to pay for one, but should instead be a tool utilized by all paddlers. The feeling of freedom one gets pushing off the shoreline and experiencing the ocean on a boat only you control is indescribable. I’m reminded of many paddles I’ve done surrounded by dolphins, the fun I’ve had pushing myself to greater speeds in timed trials, and the friendships I’ve made and strengthened by meeting on the water.

I would like to nominate Aero to receive a gifted OC1 for their team. While there are so many deserving individuals, by giving Aero this amazing gift, even more paddlers will have access to the water! Whether for the casual paddler who wants to try an independent paddle for the first time, or the veteran who wants to improve their paddling time, this gift would benefit all. Aero is already committed to servicing the paddling community to the best of their ability, and this gift can make a huge difference in helping more paddlers access even more ocean! 

Sincerely, Sue Bertran

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Jakob Johnson Brian P

I was first exposed to paddling when I tried out for UCLA’s Dragon Boat team almost a year and a half ago. Before we paddled out for the first time, I had no real conception of dragon boat or competitive paddling, and I certainly had none of the broader paddling community and all that it offers. After an hour on the water culminating in a 500m race piece, the sport enthralled me. The people by my side throughout UCLA’s strenuous tryouts week did so too. That week, I tried out alongside Brian Pham; since, he has become like a brother to me on our team, which itself is a family within the larger paddling community.

I don’t use that word—family—lightly. In the LGBTQ+ community, there’s this notion of settling into a “chosen family,” a group of people you choose to be around and who choose to be around you. Being a gay man, this resonates with me as I seek comfort and affirmation in being confident in my own identity, especially as I received none from my peers for most of my younger years. Coming to UCLA, I was unsure where I would find such a family; at first, I was scared that I might not. After less than a year on UCLA Dragon Boat, it crossed my mind that I’d found that family in my teammates. Although the members seemed kind and considerate when I joined, I hadn’t necessarily expected to develop the love that I have for them now, especially as I’d struggled to find a place in competitive, athletic spaces growing up.

Brian Pham was one of many on the team who took me for who I was, as I was. We had both joined to paddle, or rather, to learn to paddle. Since we began training together, it’s been clear that Brian has had a sort of dual focus on school and improving as a paddler. Last year, he made the most of our limited practice opportunities by thoughtfully approaching each one intending to improve based on experienced paddlers’ feedback from prior weeks. During our off-season, he took up almost-daily outrigger practice in Newport, pushing himself to paddle longer distances at higher intensities. With less than a year of paddling experience, he paddled in the Catalina Crossing outrigger race. His outrigger training supplements his dragon boat training and vice versa, as he continually seeks to apply skills to both paddling sports. Now, Brian is training to qualify for the USDBF U24 Dragon Boat team.

Even with the emphasis Brian places on individual improvement, his support for his teammates is unwavering. As he pushes himself to be his best, he pushes those around him to be their best. His cheerful, encouraging demeanor on and off the boat continues to motivate me through our early-morning practice slots and late-night land workouts. With our latest newbie class, he’s not only learning but is also teaching. He emphasizes the importance of form and technique on the boat and at the gym when working with others, and the feedback he contributes strengthens us collectively as a boat.

As we've trained, raced, and celebrated our successes together over the past year, Brian and I have grown close. He cares deeply for each of his teammates. I’m confident that I could count on him in a time of need, and I hope he knows he could do the same with me. From Brian, along with several other teammates, I’ve realized how deep friendships can go, as well as what it means to really care for someone. Brian’s part of my chosen family, and I’m hopeful that he too has found one in UCLA Dragon Boat and the paddling community surrounding him.

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Sky Tan Emre

For this competition I would like to nominate my teammate and good friend Emre Durmus. When I first met Emre last school year, he was quiet and shy, and did not have much of a presence on the UCSD dragon boat team, but over the course of the year this changed dramatically. Emre went from not talking much to people at practice, to running for the team's social chair to share the good experiences he had had on the team with the next round of recruits, all thanks to the paddling community.

Last year, me and Emre’s sophomore year at UCSD, was his first year living alone, and first year living in the states. Now Emre is what we call an embassy kid, his parents work for the US embassy so he has moved around from country to country his whole life. So coming into college he knew nobody, had no family around, no support system. A much different experience than I had, having over 40 people from my highschool class attending UCSD as well. For him, there was lots of culture shock, so he sought out a club to find friends, and gravitated to something familiar to him, dragon boat. The year prior to attending college, he had competed in a local dragon boat competition in Taiwan on a US team, and after seeing that UCSD had a team he decided to give paddling sports another go. While in the beginning of the year he was quiet and shy, he slowly opened up and began hanging out with his new teammates on and off the water, slowly developing into the personality the team knows him to be today. While he may have just been seeking friends when joining the dragon boat team, he found a new family in it, even living with his teammates this year. 

Paddling also fulfills Emre’s competitive drive, and he is a very hard working paddler. You can catch him some mornings out on the water at 6am using the teams OC1 boat to get in extra water time. He even tried out an OC6 team in the spring to try other paddling sports. Gifting him this boat would allow him to train more not just to improve as a paddler, but he is currently training to make the USA u24 team for this summer's dragon boat worlds. For how much work he has done for this team, and the improvement he has made as a paddler, I believe he deserves his own boat to get out on the water whenever he pleases.

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Christopher Gee Henry G

Ironically, we have the same last name, Gee. Still, despite not being blood-related, my former mentor, Henry Gee, has been an inspiring figure in my elementary school years which established a foundation for the work ethic I have today. Henry Gee, who is now a teacher at a San Francisco elementary School, was my mathematics tutor from grades three to seventh. At this time, Henry was the coach of Galileo Celestial Dragons(a San Francisco high school-based team), an active member of the CDBA, and, most importantly, an absolute unit on any boat.

During the period he tutored me, Henry taught me how to act on my curiosities and passions. Enabling me to explore my interests through creative projects, the values Henry taught me could not be found elsewhere.

To my current awareness, dragon boat has been a part of Henry’s life throughout his youth. Having attended and graduated from Galileo High School, the influence of the school’s dragon boat team, Galileo Celestial Dragons, forged a leader, paddler, and teacher with an unbreakable reputation.

Although he was never directly involved in my dragon boat and paddling career, Henry has and still is, substantially impacting the community. Even uttering his name in the Bay Area dragon boat community would send people crazing about his contributions. His notable contributions to the paddling community would be his influential guidance within the CDBA’s YLC. The YLC(Youth Leadership Council) is an organized group of youth responsible for learning how the CDBA works and how to plan an entire race, write grants, and lead a non-profit organization. I am not on the YLC, but from the remarks of my friends, Henry is a humorous, wise, and knowledgeable mentor to them. And for as long as I’ve known, Henry has been all about educating the youth, both in and out of the dragon boat community.

This upcoming 2023 season, Henry is trying out for Northwind, a formidable team before the pandemic. Having dedicated so much time to me in my pre-tween years, I hope an OC of this caliber can finally repay his good deeds towards the Bay Area dragon boat community and the personal debt I owe him.

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Jaime Dinh Abigail D

I don’t know a thing about dragon boat. I’ve never set foot in a canoe, and frankly, I find bodies of water to be thoroughly terrifying. So I can’t write about the OC1 or about paddling with any authority or insight.

But what I can write about is the light I see in my niece’s eyes when she talks about her involvement with dragon boat. And I can write (with perhaps a bit of mist in my eyes) about the pure joy the paddling community brings to her life.

My niece, Abigail Dinh, has been paddling since she was seven years old. With encouragement from her parents, she nervously went out for a trial run with the Long Beach-based kids’ Fireballs team. She still remembers that first outing onto the water at Mother’s Beach–the cool breeze, the kiss of sun, the surprise jellyfish encounter. One paddle session was all it took for the sea water to win her over; she was hooked.

Abby quickly learned the rules and logistics of dragon boating; she was a natural. And she was passionate, eager to be out on the water as much as possible. From this very young age, dragon boat instilled in Abby a drive–to become stronger, faster, more attuned to the drummer, to her teammates. Thus, when COVID shut down the world and the Fireballs disbanded, Abby knew she needed to find a new paddling home. She’s been with the LA County Dragon Boat Club (LAC DBC) ever since.

With LAC DBC, Abby has learned the importance of commitment. Every weekend, while teens everywhere are relishing extra sleep and scrolling mindlessly through TikTok, Abby is dragging her sleepy bones out of bed in the darkness of 5:30am, exchanging the comfort of her warm blankets for the frigid 40-degrees out on the water. When I asked her how she finds the motivation for this, she told me she is committed–to the sport, to her teammates, and to herself.

Last year, her drive and competitive spirit led her to the USA tryouts at Santa Fe Dam, where over the course of four days she repeatedly paddled the 500m in an OC1 to establish her best time. To say we (her family) were ecstatic when she made the team is an understatement. And this new opportunity fueled her fire beyond measure. She began working on her technique with extended practices, going to the gym to build her strength, and learning strategies from adult paddlers.

This preparation and heart paid off when, this past summer, Abby got to fly with LAC DBC to Sarasota, Florida to compete in the Club Crew World Championships! She returned home–having won with her U18 team 5 gold, 9 silver, and 4 bronze medals– ablaze with even more excitement and pride for dragon boat. Having now met paddlers from all over the country, Abby is excited about the growing popularity of dragon boat, and she takes part in its promotion, encouraging other friends and family to try it out.

Abby’s experience with the Fireballs, the USA team tryouts, and LAC DBC all have in common what Abby describes as the most important component of dragon boat: community. Dragon boat provides Abby with a second family, a second home out on the water. She treasures watching the sunrise with her teammates, quietly catching up on their week and their lives as they stretch before practice. She reveres the drum that synchronizes the team’s paddles–twenty-two teammates, one same heartbeat. She basks in the glory of a team win.

Beyond the friendships Abby has in her teammates, dragon boat has also enriched her life in that it has given her a sense of purpose. Abby sees herself actively involved with dragon boat for the rest of her life. I had to giggle internally recently when she excitedly told me she could paddle forever since there is a 45+ team... Abby is only 14 years old.

As Abby’s auntie, I am grateful to dragon boat because it has brought out the best in her. Through paddling, Abby has exercised discipline, responsibility, and teamwork. She has also become goal-driven; she has her eyes set on making the USA team again this summer. If she succeeds, she will get to travel to Thailand to compete. What excites her most about this? Sharing the experience of paddling in international waters with her teammates.

Thank you for hosting this oh-so generous OC1 giveaway contest. And thank you for the opportunity to tell you about my niece.
Jaime Dinh

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Edric Garcia Ethan G

I am writing my essay to gift the OC1 to my lifetime role model, mentor, and older brother: Ethan Garcia.

My brother began his paddling journey in his Freshman year of high school when he joined his high school dragon boat team, Lowell Dragon Boat. At the time, he was simply searching for a community to fit into. Little did he know how much this would impact his future.

What started off as a simple way to stay fit while making friends evolved into passion as my brother embraced the team's competitive spirit. I especially recall his undeterred determination to better his own paddling ability early in his paddling career. To improve, he worked out at the gym every other day, conditioned after school with teammates, and attended every practice he could. He possessed a daunting victory mentality stemming from the bond made with his teammates. In the second half of his high school career, my brother uplifted others beyond himself by leading a conditioning group. Typically, a conditioning group would be led by more experienced paddlers. Through his leadership, he made lifelong, meaningful connections with teammates while facilitating the bridge between upper and underclassmen. Even today, I see my brother contact his conditioning group’s members and mentor them through their paddling careers. As a result of his and the collective team efforts, my brother and his crew was able to bring home gold in his last high school year during the 2019 Youth Race. This moment was the happiest I’ve seen of him and the team.

After my brother graduated, he continued his paddling passion by reaching for greater heights. Firstly, he joined his college dragon boat team, Cal Dragon Boat. From the local college cup to the 2022 Club Crew World Championships, my brother trained vigorously to compete on the world stage. Most importantly, my brother’s passion has driven him to reach beyond his limits and strive to be the best. His dedication is further exemplified when he joined the 2022 team USA U24 dragon boat roster to represent his country and compete against the best in the world. This year, he will also try out for the team to continue his involvement.

Through all these experiences, my brother has served as a role model for me and many others. Even today, I draw inspiration from his sheer willpower and determination when I’m on the water. I only want to see him succeed and believe that the OC1 will allow him to reach the next step. I know he will use the OC1 to not only improve his own paddling ability but will share it with the many mentees he has under his wings. I want to show appreciation in any way I can (plus his birthday is on December 20th).



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