OC1 Essay Content Entry - Tyler Wong

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?”

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Tyler Wong, California

My name is Tyler Wong and I am currently a third year at the University of California, Irvine and also the current water coach for the UCI Elements Dragonboat team. I have paddled for 6 years starting in high school with *Asterisk and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue this sport through UCI Elements.

Dragonboat. A sport so unusual yet so unique that many times when one hears the word dragonboat, they can’t help to respoond with, “What’s that?”. Often autocorrected into two words (dragon boat), it is a sport
that is under the radar yet gives so much to the ones that are involved. Dragonboat is a sport that gives many a home, a family, a community, a sense of belonging, and a safe space for people to truly be themselves.
Thankfully, this is a sport that I have been a part of for around 6 years now and I do not regret any second of it. Paddling with both my high school team and with UCI has given so much more than just a way to stay fit as
paddling is more than just a sport, it is an outlet for people to become a better version of themselves and teaches the importance of hard work and dedication.

My 6 years of paddling, while an absolute blessing, actually all happened by chance. My older brother was invited by a close friend of his to come check out the sport at an introductory poolside and I happened to
be in the car when our mother was dropping us off. When getting out of the car, my mother told me, “why don’t you go join your brother? It is good to try new things out!” Reluctantly and begrudgingly, I decided to just give it a shot. The moment I held that paddle and started pulling that heavy pool water, I was hooked. I was hooked by the uniqueness of the sport and how dragonboat really embodies the infamous quote, “teamwork makes the dream work.” The next day, we went out to Mother’s Beach in Long Beach for our first practice and upon taking that first stroke I fell in love. I did not think I would be able to have so much fun while being splashed with salt water in my face. I did not think that a sport so repetitive in motion can be entertaining with others. I did not expect paddling with this team to give me a new family. Paddling for my high school team helped me grow as an individual as I applied to be part of the leadership team. This gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone to step up as a leader and speak to large groups. As a young teen, I grew up to be introverted and paddling has helped me grow out of that little cocoon to beautiful social butterfly. With paddling, I found my lifelong best friends that I continue to keep in touch with no matter how far they are due to their choice of college. High school dragonboat played an important role in my paddling career for giving me that first step into a vast world of love and support that I could never find anywhere else.

When applying to colleges, I knew that I wanted to continue this sport for hopefully the next 4 years so I began to apply to universities in California that I knew had established teams. Fortunately, I was accepted into
UCI as a Mechanical Engineer and honestly I did not expect dragonboat to be able to play an even more important role in my life. I went out to the recruitment events for the team and meeting all the veterans of the
teams was like opening a window to a whole new world to me. I always thought high school dragonboat was fun but boy was I wrong. The amount of time we spend with each other goofing around, studying, eating, paddling, and even crying together makes college dragonboat just that much more special to me. It is through the UCI elements that I was able to change even more for the better as both a paddler and as a human being.

If I were to compare my high school paddling experience with my college experience, I would say high school is like a drop of water while college is like the vast ocean as that is how much learned and changed in these 6
years. The amazing network and familial relationships that you build within this team is huge as you are exposed to 50 other wonderful individuals and they all become a member of your second family within less than 6 months. That is how amazing the paddling community is. It has literally changed my life by giving me life long relationships and priceless memories that I will always be able to look back and reflect on. Paddling
changed not just my social relationships but also myself as an individual. It taught me how to be a better leader, how to be more empathetic, how to always think of the bigger picture, how to pay attention to detail,
how to create and foster a familial environment; paddling has taught me many of the essential lessons in life that some are unable to find anywhere else. Paddling changed me, and not only me but everyone that is
involved in this fascinating world.

With this OC-1 I wish to pass on this chance to become involved in this priceless community and give others the opportunities that paddling has opened up for me. I want to use this OC-1 to foster the strong familial connections and bonds that we strive for in our UCI elements team as paddling brings all of us together. One tradition that our team has is a Trivium carbon fiber paddle that is handed down to a paddler that the current owner thinks deserves it due to that individual’s hard work and perseverance through any challenge presented to them. Just like this tradition, I wish to use this OC-1 to pass down along the generations of UCI elements to give the chance to many on our team to get in more paddling time outside of our weekly practices. Currently, we have access to rental OCs but membership is too expensive for some as they have to also pay for the very taxing school tuition fees. This OC will give these members an opportunity to experience a world outside of dragonboat that is still within the paddling community and the chance to improve themselves. Overall, I wish for this OC-1 to embody the hard work and dedication to be at the highest level of competition across all paddling communities and to pass this symbol down to the newer members on
this team.

Paddling itself is something that just can not be described in one essay as it is so much more than just a single word. It is a sport, a community, a family, and almost a lifestyle for many. It changes people to be better versions of themselves and gives back to those who dedicate their time and effort into it. The benefits that paddling has provided me are those that I want to share with others and hope it gives people the same, if not more, happiness it has brought into my life.


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