Dragon Boat World Athlete: The Man Behind the Paddler–My Coach in the Boat, My Dad at Home

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete Robin Eschbach, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Germany.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Robin Eschbach

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Robin Eschbach
BIRTHPLACE: Bad Säckingen, Germany
AGE: 22yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler, Captain of Thunder Dragons
PADDLING SIDE: Right and Left
HEIGHT: 1.83cm
WEIGHT: 82kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldPremier Open, 1000m, 2013
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, SilverPremier Open, 500m, 2013
EDBF European Championships, GoldPremier Open 200m, 2000m, 2012
German National Championships, GoldPremier Open 200m, 500m, 2000m, 2015


Our next featured Dragon Boat World Athlete, Robin Eschbach, hails from Bad Säckingen, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. When Robin is not busy training and competing to represent his country, he works as a climbing and a Stand Up Paddling (SUP) instructor. He’s been doing Kayaking as an alternative competitive sport for 16 years now.

In 1999, when he was still a member of his Kayaking club, that was when he was introduced to the dragon boat world by no less than his own father, Matthias Eschbach. Ten years of hard work and a huge breadth of experience later, he competed in his first Dragon Boat Premier race; but this time, in the same boat together with his dad.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Robin Eschbach

During that time, Robin said, “Dad was my teacher and also the Captain of the club– Thunder Dragons. He was and still is my strongest influence in my dragon boating career and through him I learned a lot about the sport’s techniques and race structures, including sportsmanship and lessons in losing and winning races.”

Let’s get to know more about Robin, his passions and what other sport he does aside from Dragon Boat.


Q: How long have you been with the German National Team? How long did it take you to qualify in the team?

A: It’s my 5th year now and I’m proud to be able to get in the team during my first shot. 🙂

Q: Aside from Dragon Boat, what other sports do you do to maintain your fitness level?

A: In the summer I’m also doing Kayaking, Canoeing and Stand Up Paddling and during winter I’m doing cross country Skiing and training units in the gym to keep my fitness level up.

Robin Eschbach Dragon Boat World Athlete

Q: How long do you prepare for a competition like World Championships? Which major race are you preparing for next?

A: I always try to train a lot but then on the last three to four months before the competition I would increase the intensity of my training. The next race I’m preparing for is the European Championships in Laghetto dell’EUR, Rome, Italy, 27th-31st July 2016 and the upcoming German Nationals where I will be paddling with my club team.

Robin Eschbach Dragon Boat World Athlete

Q: Any personal ritual you have before you get in the boat before racing? If none, how do you keep your focus on the race?

A: I have no personal ritual before the race; but I just try to keep my focus on the race and still keep in mind the race structure and the technical details of it. I always look forward to the “silence” during the Starts. I believe it is important for a team to remain constantly motivated in reaching for their goals.

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

A: That would be Martin Johnsrud Sundby. He is a Norwegian Cross Country Skier and I admire him because he trains more than any other Skiers in the World Cup (and they train a lot). With a lot of hard work that he put in his training, he has dominated all the male Skiers in the World Cup this year. So I admire his attitude to train more than everyone else in order for him to reach his goals.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Robin Eschbach

L-R: Matthias Eschbach, Robin Eschbach, Felix Stortz, Jörg Kaltenbacher

“Two years ago, while my dad was still paddling with the team, I took over his place as the club’s Captain. I am very proud to have become a successful paddler and Captain because of him—my Coach in the boat and my father at home. I would say that I owe him most of my success in this sport; especially when I first went for tryouts for Team Germany in 2011.”, Robin ended.


 
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Dragon Boat World Athlete: Road to World Championships. What are the sacrifices?

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita, National Athlete – Dragon Boat Team Canada.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Kiyoshi Morishita
BIRTHPLACE: Guelph, Canada
AGE: 22yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler, Captain of the Waterloo Vikings
PADDLING SIDE: Right or Left
HEIGHT: 183cm
WEIGHT: 95kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldU24 Mixed, 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m, 2015
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldU24 Open, 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2000m, 2015
Pan Am Club Crew Championships, GoldPremier Open, 200m, 500m, 2000m, 2015
Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, BronzeUniversity Mixed, 2015
Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, GoldU24 Open, 2013
Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, SilverU24 Mixed, 2013
Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, SilverUniversity Mixed, 2013


Our first featured Dragon Boat World Athlete, Kiyoshi Morishita, was in his freshman year in the university when he was first introduced to dragon boat by a friend of his. He has been paddling for four years now and was part of the University of Waterloo Dragon Boat Team and then later on with the Waterloo Vikings, where he eventually became the club’s Captain.

“Over that time, we have transitioned from an Under 24 team to a Premier level team, making it to the “A Final” at the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival in 2015. A triumph that is first ever in club history.”, Kiyoshi shared.

Before Kiyoshi became a full-time dragon boat paddler, he played a lot of ice hockey. Aside from his athletic skills, on ice and in water, he’s also fascinated with the sciences. This coming September, he will soon start with his Graduate Studies in Functional Polymer Chemistry at the University of Tokyo.

Let us get to know more about Kiyoshi.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita


Q: Tell us a briefly about the selection process in the National Team? How long did it take you to qualify in the Canadian National Team?

A: The selection process began in the summer before Worlds. There were regional camps in September and February with fitness testing, erg testing, and paddling evaluation. There was a central final selection camp in May with fitness testing, erg testing, OC1 time trials and a lot of dragon boat paddling.

Q:Was there a time when you did not make it to the cut?

A: After the February camp, I was the 31st ranked male paddler. I worked hard to improve my fitness and trained a lot on the paddle ergs and in the paddle pool at Afterburn Fitness.

Q: What made you decide to be in the forefront and join the National Team?

A: I wanted to prove to myself that I had the determination and drive to make the team. Having supportive teammates going through the same tryout process helped a lot. I’m very glad I decided to try out, as representing my country on the world stage, with the best dragon boaters from across Canada is an experience I’ll forever cherish.

Q: As a seasoned paddler, you are aware that there is a profound motivational climate in this sport, how do you benefit from this as an athlete and as a person?

A: One thing that keeps me going when I’m tired during a race or in training is the knowledge that my teammates around me are hurting just as much and that my opponents are pushing themselves even harder. Through this sport I’ve grown much stronger as an athlete and developed leadership skills as an experienced paddler and captain of the Waterloo team.

Q: How long do you prepare in competing for the World Championships? Which major race are you preparing for next?

A: My preparation for trying out for the National team began a year before the competition. At the height of this preparation, I was training 10 times per week and following a strict diet. Immediately prior to the World Championships, the national team came together for 6 days of training and team bonding. I’m preparing most for the University Cup at the 2016 Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival. The New College New Dragons have won the cup in 9 of the past 10 years and winning it in 2013 was one of my greatest dragon boat accomplishments.

Q: In three words, what does Dragon Boat mean to you?

A: Honour, focus, fun.

Q: Any personal ritual before you get in the boat? Do you pray before the games?

A: I always take a few minutes to myself to go over the race plan. I visualize the race and how I’ll feel at each stage. I try to foresee the pain I’ll be enduring and tell myself that I can push through it. I never pray before races, but we always have a pre-race talk led by the coaches or captains.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita

Q: Serious question: What do you find so satisfying about paddling water? (HAHA)

A: That sound of paddles punching through the spray in the recovery phase.

Q: On Diet: How do you manage your pre and post training nutrition? Is it your own research or is it the one imposed by your coach?

A: Balanced meals and lots of water. In preparation for fitness testing for the national team, I went on a caloric deficit to lose excess weight. I make sure to eat enough before competitions to ensure that I’m feeling at the top of my game. My diet has always been self-imposed, based on my own research.

Q: The Gift of Life Dragon Boat Team wants to know how do they transition from a recreational team to a competitive one. What piece of advice would you give them to improve and climb up the divisions and win medals?

A: The main difference between a recreational team and a competitive team is how they approach training in the off season. The more time you spend on dragon boat specific training in the off season, the easier it will be to rise in the medal ranks. Teams should also focus on developing leaders who can teach and inspire less experienced teammates. Develop an environment where everyone encourages and supports each other and finally, keep things fun!

Q: Being in the elite level of this competitive sport, in your opinion, what does it require from the athletes? What should they invest in terms of the physical, social, and mental aspects? What are the sacrifices?

A: It requires a commitment to individual and especially team training. Missing paddlers during on-water practices hurts the entire team. This includes paddlers who are injured or who are not mentally ready to commit to the training. Elite paddlers will be forced to sacrifice time spent with their outside social circle, although dragon boat creates an entirely new social atmosphere. You might not have much free time. However, training at an elite level can be combined with a full school or work load with good time management.

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

A: Darren Helm of the Detroit Red Wings. He’s not an all-star player, but he’s a fast skater and consistently works hard, making him valuable to his team on defense and on the penalty kill. He has scored big goals in the playoffs for the Red Wings. He even scored 6 playoff goals before his first regular season goal!

Dragon Boat World Athlete Kiyoshi Morishita
 
Photos by Ricky Tjandra. Ricky is also a Dragon Boat World Athlete and is one of the pioneers in bringing the sport in the Waterloo region of Canada. He is a former President of the University of Waterloo Dragon Boat Team (UWDBC) and has been coaching the team since.


 
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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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Thank you, Dragon Boat World!

Photo of the Day | Welland

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