Dragon Boat World Athlete: What Dragon Boat Taught Me About Life

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

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran


NAME: Alice Tran
BIRTHPLACE: Boston, Massachusetts
AGE: 34yo
POSITION: Paddler; Team USA U18 Assistant Coach
PADDLING SIDE: Left and Right
HEIGHT: 165cm
WEIGHT: 63.5kg
STATUS: Single

IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2011, 1 Bronze, 2 Silvers – Premier Women, Standard Boat, 500m, 1000m, 2000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2013, 2 Bronzes – Premier Women, Standard Boat, 500m, 2000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2013, 1 Gold, 1 Silver – Premier Mixed, Standard Boat, 1000m, 2000m
IDBF 1st World Cup 2014, Silver – Premier Men & Women, Small Boat Pursuit Race, 1000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, 1 Gold, 3 Silvers – Premier Women, Standard Boat, 2000m, 200m, 500m, 1000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015, 2 Silvers – Premier Mixed, Standard Boat, 1000m, 2000m

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran
Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

Dragon Boat World Athlete, Alice Tran, grew up knowing about the sport but that little girl didn’t know she would be partaking in it someday and become a World Champion. “I knew about dragon boat ever since I was a little kid.” she said. “I grew up in Boston and the Boston Dragon Boat festival is one of the first and oldest Dragon Boat races in North America. My parents used to take us to the Charles River to watch the races and experience the festivities.”


Like most of us paddlers, we get introduced to dragon boat by paddler friends—very very convincing paddler friends. Alice was recruited by Raymond Lem, a friend and co-worker of hers. Her first try at dragon boating was with M.A.D., a dragon boat team in New York. She went for that ‘mad’ practice with her sister who used to paddle with Boston YMCA. She shared: “My sister moved back to Boston. I stayed and got addicted to the team work and competition of the sport.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

National Team Tryouts

Coaches are gifted to see, smell and feel their athletes’ talent, spirit and potential. Keith Tsui, Alice’s coach at M.A.D., got it right when he asked her to try out for the national team. “I was hesitant as it was only my second year of paddling and had just switched paddling side.”, she said. Alice trained hard for it and she got a call from Coach Bob McNamara congratulating her for making it to Team USA. Alice recalled: “That was the longest two weeks ever but indeed worth the wait and all the hard work paid off. I’ve been trying out for every World Championship since.”

Knowledge Transfer

On her 8th year of paddling, with multiple IDBF World Nations medals on her neck, Alice left Catch22 Dragon Boat NYC to venture on giving back to the (dragon boat) community. “After five years, I left Catch22 at the end of 2015 to pursue something entirely different.”, she said. “Catch22 will always be my legacy. I was there from the beginning and watched the team grow but at that point I felt like I needed to do something for the community and that was to transfer my skills to the next generation and develop new strong paddlers.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran
Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

Juniors Program @ DCH Racing

DCH Racing New York has a very large juniors program and when Alice had gotten to know DCH, she instantly knew that this was the team she needed to be part of. “They welcomed me with open arms and I have found my new family, too.” she remarked. “I’m looking forward to learning from my new DCH Coach, Randy Ng.”

Life outside of Dragon Boat

Trying out for the National Team also introduced Alice to outrigger canoeing; so when she’s not on a dragon boat she’d be out in the water with her OC1. She loves travelling and so her being in the National Team has fulfilled that–compete and explore. “My favourite part of travelling is exploring other cultures. I try to look for things that locals do.” she said. “I love being outdoors. This is why I love paddling so much. It gives me the opportunity to travel to the most remote locations. I’ve never even heard of Hódmezővásárhely, Hungary until I went to race there. I still can’t pronounce it.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

Q: In the span of your dragon boating career, was there a time when you had to take a sabbatical leave either from studies or work for the purpose of becoming a full-time athlete?

A: Unfortunately, paddling is a very expensive hobby/sport. In order for me to be the athlete that I am, I need to work. I have a full-time job as an IT project manager. I have to time manage really well in order to train hard. You’ll find me at the gym during lunch time and out on the water after work.

Q: Aside from the training techniques and knowledge you gained from your coaches, do you develop your own personal strategies and resources in keeping up with your teammates in the National Team? 

A: To be honest, Facebook is the best way to keep up with my teammates on the National Team. We are scattered all over the country and have our own lives. We do have things that we rag on each other about. In Welland, Canada, we were driving back to the hotel and we saw a chicken cross the road. I screamed out, “OMG, there really is a chicken crossing the road!” Now, you’ll see chickens plastered all over my page. We do randomly text each other to see how we are all doing and if we will be trying out again. We post our paddling sessions and workouts to motivate and encourage each other.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran
Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

Q: Speaking of National Team, when the race/training season is off, do you ladies hold a fun-forget-the-training-let’s-party-party? We’re curious to know how the Team USA Women’s crew party?

A: We talked about a reunion at some point but because we all have busy lives it’s really difficult to organise. When we are together there’s a lot of jokes, laughs, and dancing!

Q: How do you obtain satisfaction in the sport in terms of the Coach’s leadership and your personal athletic performance?

A: A trusted relationship between a paddler and coach will make me a better paddler. Being a better paddler and being able to achieve your goals is the ultimate satisfaction. Honestly though, the people that surround me on each team I’ve been on and all the friends I have met around the world is the kind of satisfaction I have obtained in the sport. Nothing can replace that.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran
Dragon Boat World Athlete Alice Tran

Q: Having competed in several World Championships, at what point can you say that you have reached everything in your dragon boating life?

A: I already have two gold medals from World Championships. I think that’s every paddler’s dream. I’m definitely satisfied but there’s always a part of you that itches for more. If you’re young and still able, just keep doing it, right? The fact that I’m working with juniors now, it is opening a new chapter in dragon boating for me. So have I really reached everything? Or is it just the beginning?

Photo Credits: Fernando Huh, Ed Nguyen Photography, WIFC

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Dragon Boat World Athlete: It’s Important to be an Intelligent Paddler

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Marc Rößler, National Athlete – Team Germany (Deutschland).

Dragon Boat World Athlete Marc Rößler


NAME: Marc Rößler
BIRTHPLACE: Berlin, Germany
AGE: 30yo
POSITION: Paddler; Social-Media-Manager
PADDLING SIDE: Left and Right
HEIGHT: 1.86cm
WEIGHT: 80kg
STATUS: Single

IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2013, Gold – Premier Open, 1000m
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2013, Silver – Premier Open, 500m
EDBF European Championships 2014, Gold – Premier Open, 200m
EDBF European Championships 2014, Gold – Premier Open, 500m
EDBF European Championships 2014, Silver – Premier Open, 2000m
German National Championships 2015, Silver – Premier Open 200m, 500m
German National Championships 2015, Gold – Premier Mixed 200m

Dragon Boat World Athlete Marc Rößler

They say athletes have better physical and intellectual abilities. Well, this Dragon Boat World Athlete definitely personifies this notion. Marc Rößler from Team Germany is one of those amazing athletes who combines physical strength and intelligence.

Marc started with Canoe Flatwater Racing sport in 1996 and had been successful during his participation in the Junior World Championships and U23 European Championships. “In 2003, I bagged two Silver Medals from my two Junior Deputy-world Championships in Kayak (K2 and K4).”, he said.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Marc Rößler
Dragon Boat World Athlete Marc Rößler

“In 2009 I started to work at an IT systems company”, Marc shared. “That was when my sporting world became a bit more quiet.” In 2013, he joined WannSea Dragons and from there he was asked by a teammate, Uwe Heidler and by Ronny Keil (Team Germany’s Coach) if he wants to try out for the dragon boat national team. He did and he’s been competing in dragon boat races with his club and with Team Germany since.

In this rare interview Marc shares with us his intelligent view on an athlete’s success, his other hobbies when he’s not paddling and some very useful tips on how to be prepared for races.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Marc Rößler

Q: How do you envision success?

A: Success is a question of the physical and the mental attitude. A good training session is just half as good if your mind is not concentrating.

Q: What’s the role of the Coach’s leadership in the National Team’s unity?

A: The coach is the thinker and visionary. Apart from the fact that he paddles with us, it is also his responsibility to plan and develop the training for his crew. Also, he is open to suggestions and opinions from experienced athletes.

Q: How intense does your training go nowadays now that it’s only a few weeks until the European Champs?

A: From this time up to this year’s European Championships we have created a master plan which would become more and more intensive up to the championships. Thus, every athlete can also prepare pertinently at home. I train as a rule from 5 to 6 times a week and align the training intensity and distances in relation to the respective competition.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Marc Rößler

Q: What are your other hobbies?

A: Aside from dragon boat sport, I take part furthermore in competitions in the canoe racing sport. It makes me more calm and relaxed when I take photos and make my own ice cream creations.

Q: Given the tight training schedule, do you still have time for these hobbies? If yes, how do you spend your rest time? Who do you spend it with?

A: Sure, I find the time to do my other hobbies. Friends and family time are important just as the sport is to me and I’m happy to share my hobbies with them.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Marc Rößler

Q: Do you sometimes play a ‘mental video’ of a race with your toughest competition?

A: Yes, I do make it run in my mind before the race starts. I think about what to do in a particular moment and how to beat the planned target for any race distance. Dragon boat sport is also a tactical sport so it helps very much if one is mentally prepared for the race.

Q: How does it help your determination when you relive some of your winning moments in the past?

A: The victories in the past give self-confidence of course and also the necessary composure for the upcoming challenges. However, one shouldn’t relax on the victories from the past; there will always be new aims, new opponents and therefore also new duties. I think this is what makes the sport more fun and meaningful to me.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Marc Rößler

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

A: Ronald Rauhe. He was a successful paddler before I started my own career in Canoeing. He is still one of the best athletes with multiple Olympic medals and World Championship titles. His world-class talent and longevity in the sport is simply very impressive.

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Why should Dragon Boaters care about Breast Cancer?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Why is dragon boat often identified with this cancer type? Why should we dragon boaters observe this awareness month and why must we end the apathy?

Knowing the Numbers

According to American Cancer Society, “There is an estimated 1,676,600 new breast cancer cases among women worldwide in 2012. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in both developed and developing countries.” [Cancer.org¹]

“Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000. Breast cancer in men in the United States for 2015 are: About 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed; About 440 men will die from breast cancer.” [Cancer.org²]

World Health Organization reports: “Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.2 million deaths in 2012. The most common causes of cancer death are cancers of: lung (1.59 million deaths); liver (745,000 deaths); stomach (723,000 deaths); colorectal (694,000 deaths); breast (521,000 deaths); oesophageal cancer (400,000 deaths).” [World Health Organization³]

Awaken the Dragon

Birth of Breast Cancer Paddling Movement

It started in 1996 when a Sports Medicine Physician, Dr Donald McKenzie, from the University of British Columbia in Canada discovered that by following a special exercise and training program, women could avoid lymphedema and enjoy active, full lives. The 3-month dragon boat training program was carefully monitored by a sports medicine physician, a physiotherapist and a nurse. Dr McKenzie’s theory was proven correct. No new cases of lymphedema occurred and none of the existing cases became worse. [IBCPC⁴]

It was in that year that Abreast In A Boat was established. Its membership grew and involved more and more breast cancer survivors; and then later on inspired new teams to be formed. Its journey lives on until this day with a mission: “We paddle to raise breast cancer awareness and to demonstrate that women living with breast cancer can lead full and active lives.”

Inclusivity and Participation

The International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission or IBCPC holds a seat in the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) Commission Chair under Protocol, Culture and Heritage Commission (PC&HC). IBCPC governs the BCS Participatory Festivals and the Combined Racers Division in the Club Crew World Championships (CCWC). This division is open for entry for Breast Cancer Survivors Crew (BCS), All Cancer Survivors Crew (ACS), and Paradragons/Adaptive Paddlers Crew (APC).

It is such a comfort and joy to know that these breast cancer survivors are enjoying the sport of dragon boat and while they promote fitness and health benefits of the sport, they also relay a beautiful message of hope for recovery to those who are currently fighting the disease and those who may have just been diagnosed. IBCPC now has over 150 member teams from all over the world with most teams from Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and the United Kingdom.

IBCPC Participatory Dragon Boat Festival

The International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission Participatory Dragon Boat Festival or IBCPC PDBF is being held every three or four years. The first race took place in Vancouver, Canada (2005). The succeeding venues were: Caloundra, Australia (2007), Peterborough, Canada (2010), and Sarasota, Florida, United States (2014). The next event will be held in Florence, Italy. It is scheduled to happen between June and September in 2018.

Awaken the Dragon Sunset

Remembering and Honouring

In our quest to help campaign on the awareness of the disease, we’d also like to embolden everyone, survivors and supporters, to join or support any breast cancer dragon boat team in your area. Let us help one another in promulgating awareness, early detection, prevention as well as the treatment of breast cancer.

This October, as we go to our team practices or for competitions, let us remember our dearest friends, family members and teammates who’ve lost their battle against the disease. It would be good to have a brief moment of silence in the boat and rekindle those days when they were still paddling with us.

To all dragon boaters, please have yourselves checked and encourage everyone to do the same. Yes, this disease is more common to women, yet men can develop breast cancer, too. We are in this battle together.

Are you ready.. Attention! GO GET SCREENED!


¹ “10 Must-Know 2015 Global Cancer Facts.” American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 4th February 2015. Web. 28th September 2015.
² “Cancer.” Media Centre. World Health Organization, February 2015. Web. 28th September 2015.
³ “Breast Cancer in Men” Learn About Cancer. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 26th February 2015. Web. 30 September 2015.
⁴ “History of BCS Dragon Boat Paddling” The Origins of Breast Cancer Paddling. International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission, 2008. Web. 28 September 2015.

*Photos used with permission from Liz Oakley, Filmmaker of the Award-winning Documentary, “Awaken the Dragon.” Are you a survivor or do you love someone who is? Share your story of survivorship or of dragon boating HERE.

12 Things to Keep in Mind if your Partner is a Dragon Boater

Dragon Boat
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.

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat

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!

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat

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.”

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat

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

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat

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!’

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat

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.

Dragon Boat World Championships

Dragon Boat

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.

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Photo of the Day | Welland


Subject: 12th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2015
Location: Welland, Ontario, Canada