Twelve is the number of crew in Small Boat races—10 paddlers plus one drummer and one helm. Though, technically, in IDBF races, the total number of crew in a small boat is 14; and that includes the two reserve paddlers.
This post is a tribute to all the brave and strong men and women dragon boaters who have competed in the small boat races. Mind you, it is not an easy-breezy ride to qualify and be selected in a small boat crew, especially for world championships. You have to be the best of the best, so to speak. So, to you all who have paddled in a 12-crew race, ‘Paddles Up!’ Keep training hard, stay humble and be an inspiration to other paddlers, especially to the newbies.
Before we compiled this list, we asked real-life partners of dragon boaters; and from the actual experiences they shared to us, we have gathered a mix of funny and tragic moments which they have encountered, simply because they are dating or married to a dragon boater.
This goes also to you, the partners, who’ve been supportive all this time (for those of you who braved your fears and actually stepped on a dragon boat because of your partner and those who became addicted and eventually joined a dragon boat team). We hope that as you go through each of the 12 things below, you’d find one or all twelve that you can relate to. May this also guide those damn lucky (or unlucky ones) whose future partners will be dragon boaters.
1. They are very competitive.
In their every day lives, there seems to be a competition in any or all aspects–between themselves and of others. It could be between their siblings, their friends, their colleagues, or, you—the partner. If it’s not already innate in them, they have surely acquired this competitiveness from joining dragon boat races. It’s not a bad thing; just be ready to play all the time.
2. They love their dragon boat team.
They love their partners or spouses but there’s no doubt that they have an unexplainable love and loyalty to their teams as well. They may even love it more than their work/project teams. It is brought about by the immense bond they have formed in the boat at trainings and races. It is non-stop bragging of their team’s success, once a dragon boat topic is brought up in a conversation. Go on; fasten your life-jacket!
3. They can follow instructions effortlessly.
If a task is given to a dragon boater, it will be delivered. This skill is mastered through the dragon boaters’ intense focus on the calls and commands given by their boat captains (drummer/steerer) in the boat. Their execution of a task is like their paddling stroke: clean, quick, and in great form.
4. They value teamwork. A lot!
Dragon boaters know that the best way for them to win is to work together in synchrony and therefore they have the eye for a team member who is not cooperating. In team projects at work or group activities in school, they can see through the ones who are not one with the team. Beware.
5. They love to celebrate victory.
They celebrate victory as much as they value the lessons of losing in a race. Win or lose, it is always a victory for dragon boat racers for they know that there is always a chance to ‘kill it’ on the next one. Dragon boaters believe that it’s either “they win or they learn.”
6. They are very good at dragon-boat-time-management.
They may sometimes forget some important dates or meetings but they never forget the time, venue and day of practices and upcoming races. The schedules are just automatically marked on their ‘virtual dragon boat’ calendars. If practices or try outs are programmed in the early hours of the day, it’s either they’d have an easy night or if they’re committed to a party, they’d excuse themselves to leave earlier and they won’t be swayed by anyone. Just try to get use to them of being unavailable on weekends. You know why.
7. They are voracious eaters.
Majority of dragon boaters can eat like nobody’s business. As for them, they’ll be able to burn it on the next circuit training or water training. In spite of the fact that they can really eat a lot, they try to watch their weight, too, for they know that it can either help or drag them in fitness test protocols and cardio assessments. With some national teams, for example, there are rigid weight tests (e.g. bench press) and time trial runs that one needs to pass/complete. Notwithstanding their big appetite, most dragon boaters, especially in the elite level are often ripped and buffy; and seldom will you see Buffet Kings and Queens. #realitycheck #healthcheck #dragonboatisgoodforyou
8. They are addicted to it.
Okay, they are addicted to dragon boat. That is to say, the fitness gains and fun of it. For most part of the day, all they think of is dragon boat. Romance, friendship; perhaps all their relationships are quite affected. Friends would clamour about them not hanging out as much with the group anymore. There’s a clear pattern of them always missing the Friday and Saturday night outs. Also, try not to upset the dragon boater by whining or belittling the sport because you might awaken the angry dragon in them. Yes, they have this addiction; yet, apparently, it’s not something that’s harmful to themselves or to others.
9. They may not always be contactable.
This is true especially when the water practice has started; they will be uncontactable (for two hours, at the very least). Their mobile phones and other valuables are left inside the bag in a locker somewhere so if you need anything from them, say, apartment keys, car keys, credit cards, coupons, a wrench, a nail file, or what have you, make sure to ask for it before they leave for practice.
10. They are unrelenting to their partners who are also dragon boaters.
In a dragon boat race, even if the partner is in the other boat, no apologies but there is no chance that one would give in. Same goes with teams who have two boats in a particular heat. A rival is a rival. Nothing personal; and the competition is on! This is also true with paddlers who have sons, husbands, wives, parents or even siblings in the competing boat. Forget the family ties: ‘We’re gonna burn and beat you!’
11. They’d never leave a soldier to fall in the cracks.
There is a motivational atmosphere in the dragon boat community and teammates would encourage one another to attend all practices. If one had stopped paddling even for a short period of time, there will be non-stop invitation, morale-boosting, and hope for you to come back. For siblings or partners, especially those who belong to the same team, expect that there will always be someone who will ruin someone’s sleep and be dragged to practice.
12. They are always out for battle (in the water).
Being with a dragon boater is neither all about cheering for them on top of your lungs, nor just about having high hopes for them to win. It is often the worry that consumes a dragon boater’s partner, wife or even the entire family–for anything may happen to them as they go for practice or even during races. As they battle it in the water, more than rooting for them and being proud of them, first and foremost, you hope and pray for their safety.
To sum it all up, more than the support and the cheers, what is more important to them is the recognition of how much they have improved as athletes, how much fun they have doing it; and, most significantly, the appreciation of the time, energy and sacrifices they have invested in the sport. To truly understand dragon boaters, the partners must genuinely embrace all the great reasons and desires as to why they love dragon boat in the first place.
Author’s Note: All images used with permission from Photographer Anthony Gallaccio. These were taken from the recently held 12th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Welland, Ontario, Canada.