Dragon Boats turn Hot as Ice

When the Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival opened its registration in November last year, it had a spectacular 10-minute sell out. The organising committee then had to make a decision to open another block to give chance for more teams to enter the competition.

This mirrors the ever growing popularity of the sport of dragon boat; and in this case, it’s on ice. Various dragon boat teams from California, Florida, New York, Ontario and Quebec have entered to join the festivities that’s happening on 17th – 18th February 2017 on the Rideau Canal Skateway at Dow’s Lake in Winterlude, Ottawa, Canada.

Ice Dragon Boat Canada Ice Dragon Boat Canada

It’s Canada’s 150th Anniversary and this adrenaline-filled dragon boating fiesta will surely bring more excitement and colour to the historic year-long celebration.

Haley Ritchie of Metro spoke with John Brooman, CEO of Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival, to know more about ice dragon boating. Read the full interview HERE.

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Dragon Boat World Athlete: Flexing Extra Power for A Worthy Cause

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Christine Pezzulo, National Athlete – Team USA.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Christine Pezzulo
BIRTHPLACE: Inglewood, California, USA
AGE: 49yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-Time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Both; Racing Left
HEIGHT: 170cm
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, Welland, Ontario, Canada, GoldPremiere Women 2000m; 3 SilversPremiere Women 200m, 500m, 1000m


Christine Pezzulo from Team USA, only heard about Dragon Boat in 2008 when a friend invited her to join for training. “When I moved to Portland, a friend of mine from the gym invited me to try dragon boating and then later on I competed for Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat Race.”, Christine shared. She first joined a corporate team called Dragon Rose and she paddled with them for two seasons.

Christine is currently paddling with Wasabi Paddling Club and it’s been an amazing ‘dragon boating ride’ for her since she first held on a paddle back in 2008. “I took a year off from paddling to train for an Ironman race.” she said. “It’s been seven years of paddling but aside from dragon boat and triathlon racing, I also enjoy hiking, hitting the gym and quality time with my cute dog, Molly.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo
Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo

This amazing Dragon Boat World Athlete also enjoys competing in the World Police and Fire Games. “I have been a firefighter for twenty two years (since ‘94) and I’ve been with Wildland Hot Shot Crew for seven years now.”, Christine said. She’s been very involved with the Firefighter Stair Climb as well, a noble event that was started by a retired Portland Firefighter whose two grandsons have Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Christine has been the top fundraiser of Firefighter Stair Climb for the last five years and became two-time first place winner which made her one of the top five female climbers in all of seven years. Let’s get to know more about our fellow paddler, Christine, and let’s be inspired by her continuous pursuit in helping raise funds for CF treatment.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo
Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo


Q: You’ve been with Team USA for quite a while now and have been fondly dubbed by some teammates as “Mama Hen”, why is this so?

A: I’m not aware that I’ve been called “Mama Hen” but being the oldest in the team, it doesn’t surprise me. 🙂

Q: In the many years of experience in a team sport like dragon boat, how do you define teamwork? What is that crucial thing that makes ‘teamwork’ work?

A: Teamwork is something that I’ve been involved in, in every aspect of my life (Work, play, sports). I define it as two or more people coming together to accomplish a common goal, by applying their individual skills and talents in such a way that it successfully blends with the rest of the team. That one crucial part is for members to leave their ego at the door. You can have a team full of the best athletes in the world, but if they can’t check their egos and blend with humility, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo
Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo

Q: You have maintained your Premier status in the team for quite a while now, we want to know how does it really feel like to be paddling for one’s country?

A: It’s a great honor and a pleasure to be representing my country. Each paddler earns their seat and the competition is fierce, so to be on that final roster is a feeling of accomplishment. I take great pride in being chosen as a member of this amazing team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo
Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo

Q: As you stand in the World Championship podium, listening to your National Anthem being played, what goes on in your head?

A: The feeling of standing on the podium and hearing my national anthem is exhilarating! Major goosebumps, tears and the overwhelming feeling of love for my teammates, because we got there together.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo

Q: We understand that one of your hobbies is firefighter climbing and you have helped two little boys to raise money for research on cystic fibrosis, can you tell us a bit about it and how was the feeling post-fundraising?

A: I climb in the name of finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. My friend and fire brother’s grandsons, who live with CF, have become my extended family. I’ll continue to climb and raise money for this very worthy cause. Carson and Brandon are the boys I climb for. They call me “Auntie Pezz.” The feeling I get helping these boys, and all the others living with CF is very good. I’ve raised several thousands of dollars over the past seven years and I’ve seen great advancements in better treatment; leading to more tomorrows for my boys and many others. The average lifespan for those living with CF used to be on their teens; and with all the advancements in better treatment, people are living into their 40s. I look forward to the number increasing.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo
Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo
Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo

Q: You have been a great value in the dragon boat community because of the noble acts you’ve done, on the other hand, how did dragon boat affect you as a person?

A: Dragon boating fulfills me with the competitive edge and camaraderie. The sense of community is huge for me and some of my closest friends come from dragon boating. Training together, competing together and celebrating together is priceless. The fulfillment I get both on and off the water brings great joy to my life.

Q: Finally, who is the athlete that you admire most and why?

A: I admire any athlete who works their ass off and maintains a humble attitude, regardless of the sport or their experience.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Christine Pezzulo

 
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Dragon Boat World Athlete: Are you too young to start Paddling?

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Paul Alex Kandler, National Athlete – Team Germany.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Paul Alex Kandler
BIRTHPLACE: Neustrelitz, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
AGE: 20yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Part-time
POSITION: Paddler (Occasional Pacer/Schlagmann)
PADDLING SIDE: Right
HEIGHT: 186cm
WEIGHT: 85kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
German Championships 2014, Schwerin, Bronze – Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m
9th IDBF Dragon Boat Club Crew World Championships, Ravenna, Bronze – Mixed, Small Boat, 500m (Uckermark U18)
Vize European Master 2014, Silver – Mixed, Standard Boat, 2000m
Vize European Master 2014, 2 Bronzes – Mixed, Standard Boat, 2000m, 500m
Vize European Master 2014, Bronze – Open, Small Boat, 200m
11th EDBF European Dragon Boat Nations Championships, Racice, Bronze – U18, Small Boat, 200m
Vize Weltmeister 2015, 2 Silvers – Open, Small Boat, 2000m, 500m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, Welland, 2 Silvers; 1 BronzeOpen, Small Boat; U24 Small Boat, 200m

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler


It’s beneficial to become athletic at a young age. Though it’s not set in stone as to what age is ‘too young’ for one to start, it certainly helps to be exposed to sports early–it keeps the body active and it also helps improve self-esteem and physical health. Experts say that athletes tend to develop their mental abilities better than non-athletes.

According to results of a study by Jocelyn Faubert, “It is clear that a remarkable mental processing and learning abilities should be acknowledged as critical elements for world-class performance in sport and potentially elite performance abilities in other dynamic contexts¹.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

While it doesn’t matter what kind of sport you’re leaning to focus on, starting young gives you more room for discovery and finding your true passion. Just like our next featured Dragon Boat World Athlete, 20 year old, Paul Alex Kandler from Germany.

As a kid, Paul grew up to be fond of any kinds of sports. He played football for several years until the time came when he found his passion in water sports–Stand Up Paddling (SUP), Outrigger Canoeing (OC) and Dragon Boat. He was introduced to the Dragon Boat world through his school team, Carolinum Dragons, and from there he had fallen deep under the ‘spell of the dragon’.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

From his school team in 2013, he joined a local competitive club called: Strelitz Dragons. That’s where he became more and more serious with the sport. He began to join large-scale dragon boat competitions and have clinched several medals with his home team. From then on he was determined to enhance his paddling skills and join major races like the Nationals, Continental and Worlds. He’s been competing for four years now and at his young age, he’s had shown exceptional potential to arise in Premiere level in the near future.

So for those of you who started paddling in your teens like Paul, keep doing what you’re doing and if you aspire to one day represent your country in the World Championships, the right time to start working for it is now. Let’s read on Paul’s experience being with the National Team and what’s the best lesson he has learned from it.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler
Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler


Q: Who was your first coach in dragon boat? Who was your first coach in Outrigger Canoe (OC)?

A:My first dragon boat coach was my PE teacher Mr Pfitzner. Now my coaches are from the National Team. In OC, I’m my own coach.

Q: How long have you been with Team Germany? How is the experience so far?

A: I have paddled with the National Team for three years now and can only say that we (athletes) have no fear. Having said this, one just needs to believe in himself that he can do it. The National Team is very sociable and accepting of everyone who has the passion. In the training camp, the athletes give their best to master the training programme. It’s like everyone is racing against themselves. Although the training programme gets intense by the day, no matter what level or age group you are in, with the right workout there is no problem.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler
Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

Q: Will you be representing Team Germany in the upcoming EDBF Championships in June?

A: Yes. I trained hard to be selected and only recently I got the news from our trainer that I got in and I must be there to help the crew.

Q: How are the preparations for the European Championships in June in Rome, Italy?

A: The preparations run according to the training plan that the coach have designed. We have to fulfill it as planned and we have to attend the regular training camps in order for us to have achieve a common goal of having a strong, solid boat.

Q: We understand that aside from Dragon Boat, you also do Outrigger Canoe (OC), how does it benefit your paddling in Dragon Boat?

A: OC is a good alternative when I’m not training with my drachenboot (dragon boat) team. It’s also a great balancing workout so that you can paddle both sides and this is very good for the body.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Paul Alex Kandler

Q: How do you manage your time between dragon boat and OC? Can you share with us the similarities and differences of these two water sports in terms of paddling stroke? Does the stroke sometimes become confusing?

A: I manage it very well. Since dragon boat is a team sport, everyone needs to be there for training unlike in OC, when my team is not available to practice together, I do OC on my own. As for the force required, OC is more difficult because the OC paddle has a larger blade but paddling technique wise, for me it’s very similar. The confusion in the stroke is minimal. You just have to focus on which boat you are paddling in.

Q: As a National Athlete, what is the best lesson you’ve learned so far from the sport of dragon boat?

A: The best lesson I have learned is to not have fear of learning new techniques and strategies for the good of the team. Dragon boat is not just for one person, if everyone is training hard, it’s the team that gets better.


Reference

1. Jocelyn Faubert, “Professional athletes have extraordinary skills for rapidly learning complex and neutral dynamic visual scenes”, Nature.com, 31st January 2013, Nature Publishing Group, 24th May 2016

 
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Dragon Boat World Athlete: Positive Reinforcement – A Main Coaching Tool

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Dennis Wright, National Athlete – Auroras – Australian Dragon Boat Team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Dennis Wright
BIRTHPLACE: Nhulunbuy, Australia
AGE: 33yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler; Coach (South Australia State Coach – Premier Division)
PADDLING SIDE: Either
HEIGHT: 178cm
WEIGHT: 85kg
STATUS: Married

MEDAL RECORD:
AusDBF National Championships 2016, 2 Bronzes – South Australia Premier Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m; 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2016, Silver – Premier Open, Small Boat – Club Division, 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2016, Silver – Premier Mixed, Small Boat – Club Division, 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, Bronze – South Australia Premier Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, 2 Silvers – South Australia Premier Mixed, Small Boat, 500m; 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, Bronze – South Australia Premier Women (Coach), Small Boat, 500m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, 2 Golds – Premier Mixed Small Boat – Club Division, 500m; 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, 1 Gold; 1 Silver – Premier Open Small Boat – Club Division, 200m; 500m
AusDBF National Championships 2013, 1 Silver; 1 Bronze – Premier Mixed Small Boat – Club Division, 500m; 200m


It was during that warm Australian summer of 2008 when this bass-playing World Athlete, Dennis Wright, started in the realm of dragon boat. Grew up in Nhulunbuy, a small mining town in Australia’s Northern Territory, he shared with us his humble beginnings as a paddler-turned-National Athlete and his experiences as South Australia’s (SA) Premiere Class state coach. “I started paddling with Water Warriors, a local club in the South Australia state. I was introduced by family who had retired from the sport the year previously, after many years in paddling in SA.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

When asked if he has displayed his bass skills in front of his teammates, he responded: “I still play bass whenever I can in between paddling, work, and life commitments. Sad to say that I’ve not yet been able to do so with my paddling teammates as yet, but there is still hopefully plenty of paddling years left for me, so who knows?”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

Started as a hobby for Dennis, he then began to take his paddling stint more seriously in 2010 when the selection process has changed in qualifying for the Auroras, the Australian National Dragon Boat Team. “Back then, the winning State Team in the AusDBF Nationals competition becomes the representative Australian team.”, he recalls. “The change has opened opportunities for paddlers around the country to represent Australia in international races.”

“Since SA is a small density state with a large population spread, it typically meant that SA could not compete in a standard boat against the larger state teams. But since the selection process was introduced, SA has fielded a large number of Australian Auroras paddlers over the years, and I have been fortunate enough to be one amongst them.”, Dennis added.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright


Q: How did the Auroras fair at the recently held Asian Dragon Boat Championships? Was it the projected results?

A: I think the Auroras represented very well at the Asian Champs. It’s always difficult to project results in such a competition, but improvement is always sought after.

Q: It was a success, then?

A: The results helped define the success. It was a little difficult to back-up so quickly from the IDBF World Championships campaign in Canada, so it was very heartening to see the Auroras improve their results from last Asia Champs campaign

Q: In three words, can you describe to us what ‘Sportsmanship’ means to you?

A: Honour. Brotherhood. Honesty.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

Q: What is the most rewarding thing of being a coach?

A: The most rewarding thing for me is being a part of the improvement of my paddlers. Seeing the beginners advance to intermediate and from intermediate they advance to skilled and beyond. The experience of seeing doubt being expunged is proof positive of skill advancement.

Q: How important is the coach’s role in keeping the supportive and respectful climate in the team?

A: Paramount. The head coach (and division coaches too) are the prime point for setting the examples and structures by which the paddling team will be expected to follow. I do not believe it is possible for coaches neglectful of this reality to create supportive and respectful teams.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

Q: Can you give us some tips on how to maintain unity and respect within the team?

A: Positive reinforcement is my main coaching tool. This stems from the idea that once a person believes they can perform better, they will psychologically strive to perform in accordance with that belief. I always maintain a healthy respect for my paddlers of all levels, since I am often paddling in the boat with them too. I am aware that as a sole person I may not see or understand all things of all paddlers at all times. So I encourage healthy discussion and conversation from my paddlers. This two-way dialogue encourages respect and cohesion amongst the paddlers.

Q: Outside the dragon boating world, who is the athlete that you admire most and why?

A: This is always a difficult one. I’m probably going to go with Steve Waugh. From watching him play I always felt that he had good respect for the sport and the competitors alike. Sport is a microcosm of life in many ways, and as such I am still always motivated by love.


Photos: Michael Daniel Photography (Australian Auroras Squad); Instant Photos Publications Australia (Black Dragons DBC); Papillon Marcel; Audio Reign
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Dragon Boat World Athlete: How to Stay Physically and Mentally Energetic

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Carl Marco Wassén, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Sweden (Sverige).

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Carl Marco Wassén
BIRTHPLACE: Sollentuna, Stockholm, Sweden
AGE: 26yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Left
HEIGHT: 188cm
WEIGHT: 107kg
STATUS: In a relationship

MEDAL RECORD:
ICF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships Milan 2012, Silver – Open, Small Boat, 2000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships Szeged 2013, U-24, Gold – Open, Small Boat, 200m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships Szeged 2013, U-24, Silver – Mixed, Standard Boat, 1000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Szeged 2013, U-24, Bronze – Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m
ICF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Poznan 2014, Bronze – Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m
ECA European Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Auronzo di Cadore 2015, Gold – Mixed, Standard Boat, 200m
ECA European Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Auronzo di Cadore 2015, 3 Bronzes – Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m; Small Boat, 200m; Open, Small Boat 200m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, Welland 2015, U-24, 2 Bronzes – Mixed, Standard Boat, 200m, 2000m


Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

For this exclusive interview, Carl Wassén, our Dragon Boat World Athlete from Sweden, has shared with us a very interesting insight about the “dragon boat ecosystem” in his beloved country. His hopes are high that the sport will grow bigger in the near future and that it’s good to promote the sport by developing young athletes. Let’s find out more about this Dragon Boater-cum-Kayaker-cum-Power Lifter.

Carl was a Sprint Kayaker before he got immersed into the fiery world of dragon boat. “I first came to try dragon boat in spring of 2012”, he shared. “Prior to that, I did sprint kayaking and I had no idea about dragon boat at all. I got a call from Thomas Lundblad, the Head Coach of Team Sweden at that time, asking me to try dragon boating.”, Carl recalls. “In the beginning I was not so keen to join due to the fact I wanted to focus on kayaking alone but Thomas managed to convince me and then later on, I found out that dragon boat really suited me.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

After months of intensive training, Carl became a part of the National Team who competed in Milan, Italy, for the ICF World Championships in the fall of 2012. His first dragon boat team was Örnbergs KK, a Stockholm-based sports team and in 2013 he started competing with Kajakklubben Eskimå, a dragon boat team from Karlskrona, Sweden.


Q: We’re aware that aside from Dragon Boat, you also do Power Lifting as a sport. What benefits do you get from both sports?

A: Yes I do compete in power lifting (squat, bench press and deadlift) on a national level. In fact, if I may share, I hold the National Record in Deadlift in the -105 category during the year 2014-2015. I guess the mix of kayaking and power lifting made me a good dragon boater. That raw strength you get from power sport is beneficial and the basics of kayaking helped me a lot in dragon boating. I think dragon boating is more of a power sport than kayaking due to the heavy boats that the crew needs to paddle and push to go faster. If you can transfer a 700 pound deadlift into your stroke, it would certainly be beneficial to speed up the boat.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

Q: What can you advice athletes who are doing multiple sports that are, in a manner of speaking, of much different discipline?

A: Well of course it’s difficult to be doing both elite level sports at the same period of time. I can do them separately due to the fact that the competitions fall on different seasons. Anyway, I think it’s good to have a break after an intensely competitive season and focus on something else. It’s mentally and physically beneficial to the athlete. I think the key to success in sport is staying physically and mentally energetic by staying motivated and free from physical obstacles like injuries and illnesses. I believe that having a one-track mind on something can be counterproductive in a way, so it’s good to have a quick interval or shift of focus.

Q: What drives you to keep on with being at the elite level of dragon boating?

A: Basically it’s about the joy and excitement that I get from the competitions and the sport in general. I like the atmosphere around the competitions and the pursuit to go as fast as possible on the water is another pleasure that I get from it. Also, you get to become closer with your teammates and because of the time you spend together, you become good friends.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

Q: In your journey to becoming a World Athlete in dragon boat, can you share with us who are your greatest supporters?

A: A friend and trainer who always pushed and supported me in my paddling is Johan Stridh. He’s a teammate from my home club and he’s a former athlete in sprint kayak and dragon boat, both on elite levels. He’s been very supportive and very keen in keeping me on the water especially during periods when the motivation had been poor. My parents have also been very supportive in everything that I do, including dragon boat.

Q: If you are not competing or training, what does Carl do in his free time?

A: I study to be a teacher in Physical Education. Apart from this, training is the biggest part of my life.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Carl Wassén

Q: When you retire as a paddler, do you see yourself coaching dragon boat in the future?

A: For the moment I am not so interested on that part of the sport. It’s especially hard to be a coach when you only get very small economic support from the federation. Dragon boat is still a very small sport in our country and most people see it as a non-competitive sport. We are not really welcome in the Swedish canoe federation and we don’t have a proper Swedish Championship due to the low amount of practitioners. This is understandable. It’s a difficult task to change people’s attitude and perspective on the sport (dragon boat); but due to the international success in the last five years and the establishment of the U-24 team, the sport is growing in popularity for the first time in many years, especially among young paddlers.

Q: Outside the dragon boating world, who is the athlete that you admire most and why?

A: Johan Olsson, a World Champion in Cross-country Skiing. He’s a genuine person who remained to be humble despite being a multiple Olympic medalist. I admire his skills in both the physical and technical aspects in his discipline.


*This interview has been edited and condensed

 
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