Interview Series: Coach Bryan Kieu (Men’s National Team)

This Q&A was with Coach Bryan Kieu, National Coach – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s Team)

Coach Bryan started paddling at an early age. He was only seventeen years old then when he first paddled the waters of Singapore. The year was 1997 when he first competed at an inter-school dragon boat race where he represented Hwa Chong Institution.

This very passionate Dragon Boat Coach loves to collect Transformers collectible figures and he loves joining Marathons, too.

Coach Bryan Kieu


NAME:Bryan Kieu
BIRTHPLACE: Johor Bahru, Malaysia
AGE: 34yo
HEIGHT: 165cm
WEIGHT: 68kg


Dragon Boat Team Singapore National Coach 2011 – Present


National Coaching Accreditation Programme (NCAP) Level 2
Asian Dragon Boat Championships (ADBC) 2012 – 3 Bronze Medals
Asian Dragon Boat Championships 2014 – Grand Finalist
SEA Games 2011 – Grand Finalist
SEA Games 2013 – Grand Finalist

Q: How long have you been the National Coach for the Men’s Dragon Boat Team Singapore? Do you like the life of a coach? For that matter, is it easy or tough for you?

A: I have been coaching the Men’s Team since 2011. I can say that I like the life of a coach but the main reason behind it is really because of the passion–the dream to raise the Singapore flag high in the podium finish. That is the main reason why I want to be a Coach. Back then, I could stay on to be an athlete but the community at that time needed a coach to look after the N-Team so I stepped up. In other words, I just filled the gap. I wouldn’t say that I was the best person back then but I felt that there’s a need to impart the lessons learned from the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010 and could be carried forward from there and not start from zero again. At that time, I thought that there is a great need for knowledge transfer to carry on the legacy. The life of a coach is tough; but I guess the reason why I like the life of a Coach is mainly because I find meaning in it.

Q: How important is the motivational climate to you in leading the National team?

A: I think a lot comes from within me–I want to do it–I should want to do it. Other factors which constitute a good motivational climate are your resources, whether from the association or from the sports council; and, of course, your paddlers. You have to have enough resources for the team; that includes having enough paddlers, to be able to achieve the high performance you’re aiming.


Photo Credit:

Interview Series: Coach Naiang Naiang Htoo

This Q&A was with Coach Naiang Naiang Htoo, National Coach – Dragon Boat Team Singapore (Men’s & Women’s Teams)

Born in 4th December 1976, Coach Naiang Naiang Htoo began his sporting career in 1992. Prior to dragon boat, he was part of the Myanmar National Rowing Team. In 1997, five years later, it was a dream come true for him when he became a part of the Myanmar Dragon Boat Team. He shared that it was considered to be the more elite sport in Myanmar during that time.

Apart from Dragon Boat, Coach 992 (as he is fondly called) is also into Swimming, Volleyball and Bodybuilding.

Coach Naiang Naiang Htoo


Name: Coach Naiang Naiang Htoo
Birthplace: Pathein, Myanmar
Age: 38yo
Height: 177cm
Weight: 90kg

Myanmar Dragon Boat National Team Coach 2010-2013
Dragon Boat Team Singapore National Coach 2014-2015

SEA Games 2011 – 9 Gold Medals
SEA Games 2013 – 14 Gold Medals

Q: How and at what age did you start dragon boating? How is the sport different now from what it was like then?

A: I was seventeen years old when I started in dragon boating. The training methods and techniques have become more different. Nowadays, there are more techniques used; and, quality wise, a lot has changed as well. These are all positive changes in terms of improvement of the techniques. I can say that quite a lot has changed since then; like for example, with my Myanmar athletes, the training hours have tripled as compared to before.

Q: How did you feel when you first learned the news that you are coaching the Dragon Boat Team Singapore?

A: Firstly, I felt very proud that I was invited to coach a team of another nation—a new National Team; and, this is exciting for me as I have been coaching the Myanmar team for quite a long time already. While it is a ‘new ground’ for me, I felt very confident as well. I just need to make sure that the team will do well; and, I will be there to help them achieve their goals.


Photo Credit: SDBA Facebook Page

live to the point of tears

Live to the point of tears.

Camus, Author, Journalist, Existentialist Philosopher

This was hand sketched in pencil by Jay Valentine and it perplexed us a bit when we saw it the first time, yet it also reminded us again to continue to create and appreciate life’s precious treats and pleasures: literature, art, food, fitness, friends and family.

“Live to the point of tears”, for us is living this colourful panorama of life ‘fully’, from end to end. Different realms of emotions and situations do move us humans to burst into tears: pain, frustration, suffering, sadness, loss, illness, misfortune; and so as joy, elation, happiness, gratefulness, love, victory, et cetera. Hence, in whatever situation that we are experiencing, we must usher to establish the balance (both internal and external elements) in this life that we create and live.

It opened up not just our eyes, but also our mind and heart to what the meaning of life really is to us–to live it fully; to be good and do good to ourselves, to others, and to the surroundings.

And while we strive in fortitude to embrace, absorb, process, and learn the Universe’s natural design (sometimes bittersweetly), here’s hoping that one day, when we do trace on our life backwards, we can aspire to only see one that was well lived.

Thanks Jay Valentine for sharing this with us before your submission. We can’t wait for the digitised version.

POST UPDATE: The black and white version of this typography was considered in the Typism Book 2. Jay Valentine had two other works published in Typism Book 1. Here’s the coloured version below and more of his amazing works here:


22 Lessons and Things You Learned from Dragon Boat

Dragon Boat

1. The first and the most essential lesson you have learned from dragon boat is synchronicity. Paddling in perfect synchrony will give your team the edge against your competitor. #fact

2. You learned that whether you win or lose in the race, the most important thing is that your team is intact; and that everyone is safe and happy to be racing together. You also learned #humility. You then #moveon and get ready for the next race lined up.

3. You have learned to always remain focused in the boat, to block the pain, breathe properly, and keep up with the stroke rate of your pacers or what you have practiced as a team for a specific race distance. #teamworkworks

4. The knowledge and skills that your Coach has imparted to you can be easily learned if you learn it by heart. The quick (and quality) development of the paddlers/crew may be one of your Coach’s measures of satisfaction. Learn the technique quickly but forget it slowly (or forget it never).

5. Apart from the physical skills you’ve learned from your President/Team Captain, you also learned that the unconditional trust and respect you have on their leadership is reflective of your commitment to the ‘team’. You appreciate their inspiring words before, during and after the races.

6. While dragon boat is a tough sport to learn and to be at, you have learned that apart from the camaraderie it fosters, there is so much to smile and laugh about (at trainings or in races). Yes, dragon boaters are tough yet fun-loving athletes, too.

7. While in your business attire, you carry a sports bag filled with a seat pad, board shorts, a team jersey, compression shorts, changing clothes, bananas, power bars, recovery drinks and other DB stuff. #innerdragon

8. When you see a boat (any boat in fact) you associate it with a dragon boat. You imagine a scenario of you paddling in it. That’s right: ‘paddling’, not rowing.

9. When you see someone carrying a paddle, you feel happy. It’s like you’ve seen a brother or a sister. (In your mind you say, ‘Keep it up, we’re in the best sport ever!’)

10. In a massage session, you will kindly instruct the masseur/masseuse to go gentle on your ass. You mean your fresh blister from training or race.

11. After each heat (and you’re still panting), it is a joy for you to cheer and shake hands with other teams in the embarkation area. That’s real sportsmanship!

12. Majority of the content in your laundry basket are clothes made with Dri-Fit fabric. You have several batches of those week after week after week.

13. Flip-flops are considered to be ‘very formal’ footwear in the ‘dragon boat culture’.

14. You know a fellow paddler when the shoulders and the upper limbs are suntanned. When naked, there’s a visible tan line in the shape of a jersey or a sports bra for ladies. Yeah, the dragon boater’s legs are two-toned too.

15. After paddling, all your stresses are gone (or at least eased up). On the contrary, if you can not paddle because you have classes or you need to work or travel, you are stressed.

16. Your weekends are spent in the water. You’d like to have more sleep but you need to show up on time for practice. It taught you #discipline.

17. You have saved on gym membership as the land trainings alone already make you too shattered. If you have a gym membership, you might have not visited for a long time or you’re not utilising the monthly fee being charged on your credit card.

18. You instantly know what to do when you hear the command: ‘Brace the boat!’ or ‘Brace! Brace! Brace!’

19. You know that the command ‘Hold water!’ means that you do not actually hold the water with your hands. You hold your paddle perpendicular to the water to stop the glide of the boat.

20. In your email ending or personal email signature, you would use ‘Paddles Up!’ instead of ‘All the best!’ or ‘Yours faithfully’. It actually means to signal the paddlers to get ready to paddle or to assume the catch position.

21. Carb-loading. You have learned that it is important to start carbohydrate loading, 3 or 4 days before and in the morning the actual race. Experts say, “it’s good to have a small portion of carbs for about 3 to 4 hours before the race.”

22. It is normal to feel a little bit nervous before the race (not scared, because there is nothing to be scared about). That nervous feeling has taught you how to be brave. You know that it goes away right after your first heat. #TrueStory

Dragon Boat

These are only 22 of the things and lessons you have learned as a dragon boater; surely, you have a tale or two to tell about your own paddling life. We chose to list down 22 as this number significantly represents the Standard Racing Boat or DB22, which is composed of a minimum of eighteen and a maximum of twenty paddlers, one steersperson and one drummer.

Dragon Boat

Another integral lesson that dragon boat as a competitive pursuit or as a recreational hobby¹ has taught the crew (paddlers, drummers, steerspersons), is to not resort into any threat of violence or actual physical violence² at any period of a race or a regatta. Dragon boaters know that this can be grounds for disqualification of a crew or everyone involved.

Dragon Boat

Finally, everything you need to know about dragon boat: its history, bye-laws, competition regulations, rules of racing, calendar of international races, et cetera, can be found here:

¹ “Technical Definitions,” IDBF Bye-Laws Edition 6 (2012): p6
² “IDBF Disciplinary Code,” Rules & Regulations (2014): p3

Photos: Kelvin Pao
Race & Venue: Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival, Boracay Island, Philippines

On Winning and Losing

“On Winning and Losing” an inspiring story by Jen Macapagal. Thank you for all the positive reinforcements you would deploy to always keep us motivated in our pursuit of goal achievement. Mabuhay ka!


Jen is a Dragon Boater, Triathlete, Poet, Creative Writer, Photographer & Graphic Designer.
Follow Jen on Twitter: @jenmacapagal

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