The following submission was made as an entry to win a OC1 from an amazingly generous donor, who wanted to see the canoe truly enjoyed, rather than turn a profit. Entrants were asked to submit an essay answering the following:
- Part 1: “Describe how paddling has changed your life.”
- Part 2: “How do you plan to use this canoe, and perhaps someday pass it along?”
Alex Fong, California
I learned about dragonboat the same way every person does, by hearing the word “dragonboat” and promptly asking, “What's that?”. I was in my sophomore year of high school when this word was introduced into my vocabulary, but I only started in my junior year of high school. One of the few regrets of my life is not starting earlier. The last two years of paddling has been a constant fight to grow stronger and faster, whether it’d be spending more time in the gym or learning how to perfect the stroke.
Being on a dragonboat team has taught me what it means to want something, and more importantly never stop fighting. I still remember the fateful moment when we took the first place spot from Cal Dragonboat (UC Berkely’s team). We were unfortunate enough to have College Cup (a race consisting of only college teams) cancelled but we had a chance of redemption at the Long Beach Spring Race. This race meant so much because we were facing Cal, our long time rivals. We had never won a College Cup and we came off the boat thinking we took second place once again, but the results said otherwise. Our weeks of training paid off, and this was the moment I understood the true meaning of fighting for something and getting it.
Paddling on a dragonboat team gives me this sense of unity and community, people always down to eat, study, or just hang out with. Maybe it’s because my whole team is full of broke and tired college students, but I have never felt the same familial connections with a bunch of strangers than with my dragon boat team. I don’t think I would have met such a supportive group of individuals.
Currently, UCI Elements has to pay 45 dollars per paddler to use the outrigger canoes in our recreational aquatics center. However, we believe that allowing more people to use the outrigger canoe will help the entire boat glide faster. The canoe will be sent down each generation of recruits. Our team also implements the system of time trials (we use outrigger canoes to conduct a speed test of a distance interval of 300 metres) so the OC allows for quicker testing. This extra OC will benefit our team greatly because it will increase our training regime. This being true, I hope that the next generations will achieve more than the last.
Paddling gives me a feeling of euphoria, especially during a race. However, paddling in an outrigger canoe and watching the sunrise is the one of the most surreal experiences. As I glide through the water with every stroke, feeling the water push against me, and watch the sky turn an orange, yellow tint. The sun was coming up over what felt like the empty expanse of space.
My name is Alex Fong and I am a second year sociology major at UC Irvine. I initially paddled for the Kaiser Permanente Elemonators, and now I’m paddling for UC Irvine Elements.