This premier post for 2015 is neither about the boat size and design nor the latest models of dragon boats used in present day paddling. Rather, this is about the different types of boats or teams which you see during practice sessions or at local races.
While dragon boaters are in a uniform jersey, there are also other (relatively) common looks, characteristics, and perhaps nuances which you may have noticed among the paddlers of a particular team. Oh yes, you know them so well, and, you know which type of boat you’re in, too.
This type of boat has paddlers who look so fierce—like warriors. Looking at them, they seem to appear greasy, sticky and they look angry, as if it’s the final death match in films, 300 and Gladiator. They are impossible to tell apart with their identical (massive) biceps, shoulders, and trimmed backs. These dragon boaters all have poker faces. They all look so serious and always ready for the attack. They would shout the loudest and they can be a bit scary too. If you observe their demeanour, they often possess that “what’s-the-problem-why-are-you-looking-at-me” look. (Whoah, chill man! This is dragon boating not boxing or UFC.) They can be very intimidating especially at the athletes’ marshalling area.
2. Werewolves of Wall Street
This boat is composed mainly of working people. From business finance managers, bankers, financial analysts, stock market experts, IT consultants, architects, advertising execs, teachers, journalists, sales and marketing managers; this boat is often a mix of paddlers ranging from leisure paddlers to those who are extremely competitive. They step out of the house as executives, looking sharp, smelling good and neatly combed; but then, once in the boat, they transform into wild, sweaty and fiesty beasts. They individually have full time careers but with the right amount of organisation and intense trainings, this boat can be the one to look out for at races.
3. School of Rock
Whether an underclassman, a junior, a senior, an undergrad, a collegian, or a postgrad; these schoolboys and schoolgirls are usually very strong and very determined to rock the races. Some of them may be part-time students, but they’d usually devote full-time on the band (their school team). This kind of boat has its own race category: Collegiate, Tertiary or Inter-University. They fight with each other, year after year, one race after another, and, it can get awfully competitive. In fact, after they graduate, some of them may continue on paddling for their school’s alumni team. Apart from their own category, they are allowed to join the Open Categories as well. In these races, they dominate and often come as the ‘upperclassmen’.
4. The Titans
This boat is composed of paddlers who are old timers in the sport. They are the first gods and titans of dragon boat, who ruled and beat the drums in the rivers, lakes and reservoirs back in the day. As they are the ones who were way ahead to be involved in dragon boat, they have the respect of the young bloods. Different dragon boat races would have a special category for these gods and goddesses. Some races and regattas would have them called: Seniors Class, Active Agers, Masters Category, et cetera. Do you aspire to be on their class one day? Even if you don’t, you will. These veteran paddlers have more knowledge and wisdom than any of us, so let’s raise our paddles of respect to these Titans!
These very inspiring paddlers (‘para-paddlers’) with varying physical or intellectual disabilities, exceptionally live more by taking part in the modern day dragon boat paddling (or even racing). Whatever paralysis or incapacity they may have, like any paddler, they paddle their hearts out—they fight! They may be our war veteran heroes or our next door neighbour with, say, a movement, hearing or intellectual impairment; their love for dragon boat is just as passionate. While we salute these brave ‘para-dragons’ as part of our dragon boat family; we also hope that there will be more dragon boat sporting events for paddlers with disabilities. The IDBF has pioneered a championship division called Combined Racers Division for Breast Cancer Survivors Crew (BCS), All Cancer Survivors Crew (ACS), and Paradragons/Adaptive Paddlers Crew (APC).
Why don’t we consider having more categories for Adaptive Paddlers in the Nationals and Regionals?
6. The Survivors
These men and women of dragon boat are our pride and inspiration as they are the cancer survivors or cancer patients who paddle and even race with us. As they crusade for awareness or even early detection of the disease, they play the big role in advocating and motivating other survivors and patients to maintain a good quality of life by keeping fit, strong and happy. In modern medicine, it has been recommended that exercising while on treatment or even after cancer treatment is safe, beneficial, and helpful for improved physicality and quality of life. #beatcancer #smackcancerwithapaddle
7. Cowboys & Aliens
Like the sci-fi movie, this team is composed of an interesting blend of paddlers from all walks of life. The good news is: they all become dragons when they go in the boat. This varying mix of paddlers may be composed of crew from Gladiators, Werewolves, Titans, or even retired national athletes or former World Champs paddlers; but whichever boat they may be from, when they merge together, and, with hours and hours of practicing together, they could still make the boat glide as fast as the solid teams. This boat is often magically formed when a race is coming up. While composed mainly of experienced paddlers, they have high chances of burning their competitors in a heartbeat.
Your team may be similar to one type, or, even a combination of three types. The final type of boat is the Stormtrooper Boat. It’s the kind that is uniformly dressed, most supportive of each other, knows how to have fun, and, most of all, loyal to the Galactic Empire (the team). Like the Stormtroopers, this team is especially trained with specific technique and strategy for a specific race distance and water/current condition. It’s the team where paddlers actually show up and perform at trainings and come to the race, ready to put on a good fight.
Tag you’re it! Which type is your team?