Dragon Boat - Cali Paddler Answers the Call

"I'm so pumped! I feel like a puppy whose tail is wagging and it won't stop!!!", Megs Phillips - after her first race heat.

Earlier this year, Cali Paddler had its first exposure to a Dragon Boat race when we attended the Long Beach Festival in July as a vendor and spectator. Following that, one of our team writers shared his "Dragon Boat - Impressions from an Outrigger Paddler" article. We were stoked on what we saw, and invited by many in the community to get in a dragon boat race and learn first hand how exciting it can be. So, this past weekend, we did just that. But rather than just send one or two folks, we entered a whole team, from every walk of paddling life we could find throughout the state. And their response? Read for yourself.

Cali Paddler Dragon Boat

Team E.P.I.C. (Every Paddler In California) leaving it all on the water in the LA DB finals.

Question 1. What did you take away from today's experience, as it was perhaps different from your normal paddle craft?
"I would say that the level of anticipation, intensity and rush that accompany each race are a world apart from the more endurance oriented paddling I do in Outrigger and SUP.  Also the sheer number of people in each crew is a great way to interact with many different personalities and abilities. It's great!"
"Teamwork isn't just an element of the sport, it's the heart and soul of every moment on and off the water."
"Though our backgrounds are from all over, we paddled together as one. With open minds and nothing to lose, each race was a learning experience. We had fun on and off the water, and like a sprint, the epic weekend was over in the blink of an eye."
"I loved that although the majority of us had never raced in a dragon boat the concepts of timing, depth, and power were universal. We were all so excited to get started that we never asked "how do we get in this boat?" Unlike the outrigger, dragon boats are a bit tipsier than I'm used too."
"The big take away for me was how blessed I am to have such an amazing support group in the paddling community. Yesterday was truly a humbling day for me and it is something I will never forget. Oh and I managed to get a fiancé yesterday too...all due to having so many wonderful friends in both Outrigger and Dragonboat Ohana who managed to set us two together!"

"Paddling with a bunch of outrigger paddlers made me appreciate and reminisce what hooked me in to this sport to begin with four years ago. It's having that one beat, one stroke, one rhythm as one crew from start to finish. It's not about which stroke is better, nor the type of paddle you are using. It's about paddling the way you know how together, and sharing that energy from the caller/drummer to the paddler to the steersman... The dragon will only respond if we paddle as one!"

"As I'm racing for a minute and 15ish seconds the two thoughts that came to my mind were, 'OH YEA, breathe!' , And 'dear god, they have two hour practices for this, I'd die!'

In my paddling world, I'm the sturdy built, long and strong engine room; quick muscle twitch cardio, running, sprinting, eeek! Not my cup of tea. I paddle outrigger with some of the most inspirational and amazing dragon boat women I know from Team Survivor and I have gotten invitations to join a practice, "it's good cross training" they say, "you'll love it", they say and my answer was always "I like two sides and breathing, you guys amaze me!" I knew nothing of amazement until I tried this myself!"

"Dragon boat paddling is fun, family-friendly, fast, furious and all fast twitch, especially at this 250 meter distance. It was like a long race-start in a SUP race. I was gassed after every race!

After paddling SUP and outrigger, I wanted to switch paddle sides so bad - my left side was on fire and drenched from all my splashing.

Those boats are not nearly as stable as they look.

Winning hardware with a team is always sweeter than winning as an individual."

Dragon Boat Cancer Rose Ceremony and Dragon Dance

Question 2. What would you say to a non dragon boater if they were curious about trying the sport?

"Having the privilege to try a new paddle sport really opens your eyes to the nuances in your own sport that you maybe didn't pay attention to as much. For example, in OC-6 outrigger sprints, the effort is not nearly as intense, or explosive, but sprinting in a dragonboat reinforces the impact of giving the right level of effort in coordination with your teammates."

"Dragon Boating is like ice cream - everyone should try a taste for themselves and then decide if they want more. ;) "
"You will be surrounded by a plethora of personalities.
You will get wet.
You will enter the boat as an individual but cross the finish line as a team.
Smile, have fun, and enjoy the journey."
"I realize that sometimes outrigger races can seem a bit daunting, especially when you tell someone you paddle 30 miles for fun. Dragon boating would be a fantastic introduction for anyone to get on the water. There was a variety of different categories, and a multitude of races throughout the day. And as in all paddling sports the community is great for the retiree, young adult out of college or for a family wanting to start a new activity."
"Definitely worth taking a shot at it and see if you like it. It is a very competitive sport and on the water it can be really intense but off the water the people who Dragonboat are simply the most fun loving and awesome group of folks you will ever have the opportunity to meet."

"Just try. Just do it! And the rest will be epic history!"

"For me it was a community, so much more so than a competition, but you could tell once you hit that water, that it was going down; outside of it was so much more than just the race. Outrigger, in its nature of long distance is so race driven, clubs competing against each other, that you don't get the opportunity to mix and mingle while in a paddling vessel. I watched people jump from crew to crew with welcome arms all having a blast and working just as hard with one crew as with another.

But the race itself, man I do cherish and value the opportunity for two sides more than ever, it was so fast, barely settling in, trying to find the focus enough to hear the calls, finding the stroke that didn't result in a drenched teammate sitting in front of me, then it was over, can't breathe, losing my left arm, after race high fives and hugs, then as soon as it's gone, time to do it again

Give me long races any day, I bow down to you dragon boaters!"

"Try it! It’s so much fun and the people are great.
If you race other watercraft, I’m sure dragon boat training will help you with your race-starts or speed bursts to catch a wave, swell or bump."

Dragon Boat - Team DPW

Team DPW, all smiles. Owners of the fastest time of the day.


So there you have it from our Cali Paddler peers. A few folks who have never paddled dragon boat, but with SUP, Outrigger and Surf-Ski backgrounds, mixed in with some Dragon Boat vets who got to share their sport with the rest of us. Now its up to you. Check out our Paddle Directory and find a team near you. We guarantee you the Dragon Boat community will welcome you like they did us!

Cali Paddler TEAM E.P.I.C.

Cali Paddlers 1st Ever "Team E.P.I.C". (Clarke Graves, Cody Silvester, Red Pedrick, Paul Gagnon, Tony Fajardo, Justin Chi, Chris Hill, Greg Gagnon. Kristen Langhorne, Megan Phillips, Mags Gilo, Breezy Gatavasky. Rex Cajanding, GiovanniLachica Azaula. TK Kimura.)

It is our goal to unite paddlers throughout the state, share new paddle sports and expand the sense of community. Cali Paddler will be coming to a body of water near you, with new Team EPICs, and we can't wait for you to join them...Every Paddler In California!

Special thanks to Coach Nath Salazar for making this happen for Cali Paddler and Team E.P.I.C. We are grateful, humbled and stoked!

[ Photo Credit - the talented and selfless Chris Silvester ]

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  • Nate Salazar - October 20, 2015

    you are an awesome group, CALIPADDLER!!!

    See you on the water again…. And hopefully we are on the same boat.

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