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?”
Daven Ng, Florida
I take a deep breath and move my paddle through the water. A rush of adrenaline fills my body as I feel the boat come to life and lurch forward. To this day, this action still gives me the same burst of feelings.
Paddling is seen as an obsolete sport. Most do not understand or realize its existence. More often than not, you will find people who confuse paddling for rowing! However, despite being very different from traditional sports, I truly take pride in what I do. I never hesitate to represent the community, the teams, and the amazing accomplishments our community has achieved. Just asking my friends, many of them can confirm that my conversations are 90% paddling related. This community has helped me develop so much that I often find it hard to not talk about it. As a leader on my team, I get asked the questions: “What motivates you to do what you do?”, “How did you come into this sport?”. Often, I find it hard to give an answer. I feel that my passion and love for this sport cannot be summarized in words. Even through this essay, I struggle to capture the true essence of how I feel and how this sport has changed me. However, my time throughout this sport has not always been this way. In fact, my dedication and commitment to paddling have stemmed from my own series of ups and downs throughout my life. Despite all of that, I truly believe that paddling has changed my life and helped me develop into a better person.
Sweat dripped down my face as I hoisted the basketball up, hoping that it would fall into the hoop. My hopes were followed by the dull thud of the ball ricocheting off of the rim and bouncing off into the distance. Up until eighth grade, this was how many of my previous attempts at sports had gone. Being an awkwardly proportioned, uncoordinated teenager, I felt as if I had no chance in sports. Everywhere I turned, I saw my peers excel at physical activity, while I struggled to get down the basics. Eventually, even my coaches had started to give up on me after years of little to no improvement. The mentality of failure and “not being good enough” plagued my mind and influenced my loss of self-confidence and motivation to become an athlete. This evolved into hours, days, weekends, and summers plastered in front of my computer screen. By request of my mother to find a way to get me active and out of the house, my cousin, Frederick Au, a prominent figure in the dragon boat community, recommended trying dragon boat. He coached a high school dragon boat team from San Francisco. Reluctantly, I accepted his offer as an opportunity to get myself into shape. Little did I know, the sport that I initially disliked and avoided would open a world of possibilities for me.
It was the Spring of 2015. I spent my first year on the team beating around the bush, trying to find ways I could avoid coming to weekend practices. Racing season was upon us and although I still did not feel as if I truly belonged on the team and in the sport, I decided to try my first race. Our first race of the summer was in Alameda: The 2015 CDBA Sprints. Not thinking much about it, I went through with the directions given to me and prepared for my first race. I had no idea how much this one small race would change me. Prior to that day, I had never spent an entire day with my team. However, this one race day with them made me feel as if I had known them my entire life. As we spent the day together, I realized how our social barriers were breaking down. They made me feel so included and at home. Essentially, my love for paddling did not stem from the pure action of moving a boat, it stemmed from the community. That day, I realized that what this community had was precious. I was able to see how diverse, generous, and helpful everyone was. I was ashamed for being so ignorant for the past year and vowed to commit myself entirely to this sport. Looking back, I would like to tell that young, shy, stubborn freshman who was scared of commitment due to his past failures that he had made the right choice.
As I continued to paddle and grow within the community, I began chasing other endeavors. I worked for and earned a spot on the USA U18 and recently the U24 teams to represent the United States in the World Championships of Dragon Boat. I became the male captain of the Galileo Celestial Dragons, and more recently I decided to open my perspective to the world of outrigger canoe. All of these experiences were fueled by this sport and more importantly this community. Trying to write the best answer to this prompt is difficult. There are so many factors and aspects in which this sport has changed me. However, if I were to choose the most prominent answer, it would be the very first lesson I was taught as a paddler: Paddling is a greater connection to people all around the world. You may not know them now, but this sport connects you in so many ways. As you continue to pursue your passion for paddling, you will truly understand how deep these connections are and how much it has taught you. To this day, I stand by the statement that paddling is one of the most inclusive and open sports in the world. Although we have various sub-categories such as outrigger canoe, dragon boat, and more, this sport allows for an almost seamless transition between all types of paddle sports. This is truly a sport where aesthetics, physicality, and brute force are not hailed as determinations of ability, and I believe that is why many people devote their lives to it.
I find it serendipitous that the Okalani site is only a couple hundred meters from where I raced my first race. It was at Okalani that I truly learned the importance of sharing and caring for one another. When I first joined, Huy Do and Joseph Gapuz, two prominent members within the Outrigger community, offered their resources with no hesitation. They allowed me, a complete stranger and rookie to outrigger canoe, the ability to use their boats, paddles, and more. They, along with my other mentors, are my role models because of how benevolent and caring they are. Without them, I would not find myself trying to win this boat to give back to the community. If I win this canoe, I plan to utilize and care for it and more importantly, teach others to care for a canoe as well. As summer approaches, my time to train and paddle is much more abundant. This OC will come into my training for races in Thailand, Long Beach, Vancouver, and much more. I also plan to allow anyone at the club and anyone I know to use the OC. I believe that time on the water is special and it is my duty to share the gifts that I have. I want to inspire those around me and help them to open their perspectives to something new or allow them to get the water time they need. I truly see the OC, not as a way to get faster, but a bridge to connect paddlers to their passions. We often take for granted how lucky we are in such a loving and caring space like this. I want my teammates and my peers to know and understand the importance of promoting a community that places others before themselves.
My life was changed the second I started paddling and the list of ways that paddling has changed me continues to grow as I invest more time into my passion. As I approach my future of paddling and spreading the same love and kindness of this community, I hope that my list of ways that paddling has changed my life never ceases. I genuinely love what I take part in and the ways paddling influences my life continues to evolve daily. I will always look forward to giving back to the community and teaching others. As I look to the future and envision myself paddling throughout my life, I hope I never find a solid and concise answer as to how paddling has changed my life.
My name is Daven Ng. I am currently attending Campolindo High School and will be finishing up my senior year this June. I’ve been paddling for five years. I started in dragon boat and have recently ventured into the outrigger canoe scene. For the past five years, I’ve been paddling with Galileo Celestial Dragons, a high school dragon boat team from San Francisco and for the past six months, I’ve been paddling with Okalani Outrigger Canoe Club in Alameda.