OC1 Essay Contest Entry - Lynn Nguyen

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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Lynn Nguyen, California

Three coaches, two words, one team. Who knew such a sport would influence me so much.

I remember my first practice out, especially how nerve-wracking it was initially. There were so many unknown faces, and I stuck close to my friend the entire time. I didn’t know anyone, no one knew me, I felt surrounded by strangers. However, the team captain at the time gathered us up in a circle and we all introduced our name, grade, and favorite food. We did warm-up exercises, but once it was time to get on the boat, I didn’t know what to do. I remember a girl running up to me, helping me determine what size paddle I should use. She was so enthusiastic and lively, and I’m happy to say that the two of us are very close to this day. Getting on the boat was very...eye-opening to say the least. I have never heard, seen, or experienced this sport before. Everything was so new. However, I’m so grateful to have a motivating coach who taught us all the basics thoroughly and clearly. Although we were all new paddlers, the coach stayed patient and kept sending positive feedback. Once practice was over, we all went out to eat at a local In and Out. At first, my friend and I sat at a separate table away from the team. However, our coach pushed us to sit with the team, and I’m glad he did. Everyone was so cheery and welcoming. They all introduced themselves to us, and we shared so many laughs. I can’t believe that a group of team members could be so close to one another. They don’t just paddle together, but they also casually hang out, play games, and enjoy life like a family. This made me realize that the bond this team has with one another is irreplaceable, and I want to be a part of it.

I would like to say that dragon boat, as a sport, did change my life dramatically, but the team was what kept me going. I stayed on Mountain View Dragon Boat because I saw how dedicated everyone else was. I wanted to work hard as well to help my team push through and execute cleanly at races. My second practice out was actually a Time Trial, where we are placed on an OC and had to travel 300 meters as fast as possible. I got 2:36, which isn’t bad at all for a first timer. Looking back at the footage, it was very cringy. I didn’t stack my paddle, my rotation was nonexistent, I was flaring and splashing. I can’t even watch five seconds of that video without looking away. But there was a specific moment in that video of the team cheering my name and encouraging me to finish strong. They were all yelling and clapping, and during that moment, I pushed as hard as I can. A team can work together to execute well, but only a family can really soar by pushing each other to the max.

In 2018, I realized how much of an impact this team made in my life. Their energy and optimism are contagious, and since then I have been a more extroverted person. I’m an ambivert, but I usually don’t go out of my way to talk to people. However, nowadays, I noticed a change in my everyday lifestyle. Whenever an acquaintance passes by, I always make the effort to say hello. I greet my teachers every time I enter the classroom, and I never forget to smile. I noticed that everyone on the team smiles very often. Whether that be during just casual talks or practices, it’s rare that you’ll see Mountain View Dragon Boat without at least one person smiling. I wanted to repay back the favor of how the benefitted me, so I asked my coach if I could join MVDB Leadership. I was recruited and I learned so many things from the team captains and coaches. I learned how to be more open-minded and professional. I learned how much logistics really go into planning events. I became more confident in my public speaking, and I have no trouble asking around to get the information that I want. I became a stronger person physically and mentally through dragon boat. When the old team captains graduated from high school, I was promoted as the new team captain. It’s a pretty big role, I’m not going to lie. At first, I was hesitant about being able to fully maintain this role and perform well. I was afraid that this team would become a burden under my responsibility. However, with the help of the coaches, I was able to push the team greatly. I was able to contact many different companies and get fundraisers going! In total, I raised over $2,000 for the team over the past year since I’ve been a team captain. I was able to plan so many socials that I didn’t think were possible due to complications in expenses and carpool. I overcame multiple obstacles along the way, but I’m proud to say that I learned from my mistakes. Ever since I joined MVDB Leadership, a whole different me has sprouted. I gained experience in professional skills such as public speaking and outreaching, as well as building more self-confidence and assertiveness.

I don’t necessarily like going over this topic so publicly and casually, but I am not proud of my body. Over the past five years, my eating habits fluctuate from constantly overeating to consuming less than 500 calories daily. When I was born, I gained double the amount of weight a normal baby should weekly. I’ve been overweight for as long as I can remember. For reference, at my worse, I was roughly 160 pounds at 5’3”. I’ve grown up being ridiculed for my weight and it deteriorates me mentally. There was this period during freshman year where I
would constantly overestimate calories. I would only eat one meal a day and it usually only consisted of a cup of yogurt with honey drizzled on top. Back then, that diet seemed like the perfect solution to all of my weight problems. I began to lose pounds dramatically, I fell in love with seeing that scale drop daily. I felt so happy, but it was only temporary. I stopped eating out with friends, and I didn’t have enough energy to perform any extreme physical exercise. Everything about that is unhealthy, but I was naive and blinded by my weight loss to care. Dragon boat was what made me realized what healthy eating truly is. It’s not about restricting yourself, but rather balancing how much you consume with how much you burn. I began to eat more nutritiously to gain energy and work hard at every practice. I started to do more at-home exercises that were recommended by my coach. Gradually, I saw myself losing weight again, but healthily this time. It was slow, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. As of now, I’m still 5’3” at 145 pounds. Still overweight, but I’m much more comfortable with my body. Paddling helped strengthen my core and legs, building much more muscle than I could possibly imagine. I’m extremely thankful for dragon boat and MVDB for helping me become a better, healthier person.

This team has been through its ups and downs over the past two years, but I’m glad that we still stayed strong. Near the end of 2018, one of our fellow paddlers passed away. He had a seizure and unfortunately suffocated in his bedroom. He was my age and died at 15 years old. I regret not making a bigger effort to know him better. He was incredibly dedicated to dragon boat. On his first practice out, he brought everybody donuts. He always made the effort to go around asking if anyone needed help, and he was a great asset to the team. I learned that life is very short. Sometimes, you just have to follow your heart and live with no regrets. Don’t take people for granted because they won’t be by your side forever. My whole experience with dragon boat has ultimately taught me many life lessons. I’ve become more social, civil, understanding, and resourceful. I met so many great people, and bit by bit I learn more and more each day, whether that be about technique work, strength exercises, or just how to manage life. There are so many people in the dragon boat community that range from 14-year-old freshmen to 85-year-old active paddlers. Dragon boat isn’t a popular sport. When people ask about what sports I do, I always have to explain dragon boat thoroughly because many people have never heard of it before. Despite the community being smaller than the typical sports such as swimming or track, dragon boat consists of a supportive group of paddlers who work together and encourage one another. I have met so many sagacious coaches from other teams and I’ve learned so much about how they lead their paddlers. I’ve been taught so much already over the past two years, but there’s still so much more to explore! Dragon boat changed me for the better, and I don’t regret participating in this sport one bit.

Part 2: How The Canoe Will Be Used

I absolutely love paddling on the OCs. It’s much smoother than a dragon boat and glides more fluidly. However, it is rare that MVDB ever gets to use an OC because our team only owns one OC-2 that’s mainly used by the coaches. Having another OC would definitely benefit the team as we will have more materials and boats to practice with. Personally, I have no intention of keeping this OC for myself. I want to give this canoe to the team and allow every paddler the opportunity to train on it. An OC can really help determine a paddler’s level of technique, strength, and endurance. Having that information can greatly benefit the team as each paddler will know exactly what they need to work on in order to improve. It has been a long lasting goal of Mountain View Dragon Boat to try and place in A division, and we have been close! With this canoe, we will use it to our advantage and train hard to help us make the push to fulfill our dream.

To that, I also made some friends in the dragon boat community, and I would be more than willing to let them use the canoe to train as well. I believe that we should all share and support one another, there is no need for selfishness. I would love to share this canoe with everyone if I could, but that’s impractical. However, that won’t stop me from trying my best to allow anyone to use the canoe as long as the logistics of transportation are handled.

Once I have graduated high school and no longer paddle with Mountain View Dragon
Boat, I will leave the canoe in their care for future use! This canoe is for them and will always be for them. The team has impacted me so much, this is the least I could do to repay them back. The OC will not be left on a rack unused. I will make sure that it is being used as often as possible in order to take advantage of this amazing opportunity, even after I leave.

Thank you so much for hearing my story. No matter who the winner is, I hope this canoe goes to an amazing, well-deserving

P.S. Here’s the link to my very cringy Time Trials: https://youtu.be/w_kVzuYYFR8
I hope you can cringe along with me, but in the background you can hear all my supportive teammates cheering me on!


Hello! My name is Lynn Nguyen and I am a current paddler as well as captain of
Mountain View Dragon Boat, a team located in Northern California. I am an incoming junior at Milpitas High School and president of Dragon Boat Club! I was first introduced to this life-changing sport by a friend, who encouraged me to join after she was recruited by her brother to the team. At first, I had no clue what dragon boat was. All I knew was that it was a traditional Chinese sport and required lots of people. Initially, I imagined something similar to lion dancing, because that was the only thing I could remotely compare it to. However, I’m glad that I had the courage to come out to my first practice back in 2017, and I have no regrets whatsoever.


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