Monthly Archives: March 2004

Dragon Boat practices start April 4th, Sunday, 1pm

The Gung Haggis Dragon Boat team will start practices on Sundays at 1pm, beginning April 4th. 10 practices and then we will race June 19 and 20, at the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival – held at Science World / Creekside Park on the East End of False Creek, Vancouver. To join the team, contact me – coach and Director – Todd Wong 604-987-7124, cell 604-240-7090 or e-mail

20 paddlers + Drummer + Steersperson are required for the races, and we usually have 2 or 3 rotating spare paddlers so that everybody gets to race. the team has an inclusive philosophy that ensures that every person feels a part of the team and has the opportunity to race and evolve as a paddler.

We also focus on multiculturalism, as I take the team to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens each year for a tour to discover the harmony and balance of Chinese Philosophy + demonstration and lesson of Tai Chi, that we integrate into our dragon boat practices.

This is a team that emphasizes fun and comraderie over winning at all costs. We have developed many special friendships over this past year and have supported each other in our other activities.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner is our major fundraiser and emphasizes arts, culture and multiculturalism. It has grown from 40 people in 1998 to 550 people in 2004.

There are many opportunities to race throughout the summer now, all through July, August and into September. Team members are able to pick and choose which events best suit their schedules. Cost is by event with a team membership. Some events cost more than others so members can choolse to go to Victoria and Kelowna or stay to race in Richmond and Vancouver.

I love dragon boat paddling and have been involved since 1993, when I joined the Hamazaki Wong sponsored Headliners. We won the novice division in our first year. The second year we moved into the recreational category, and I wrote a story about our dragon boat experiences for the Vancouver Sun.

In my third year, I was asked to coach a team for Fiesta West after taking courses at SFU in sports psychology and Athletics. Good coaching is very important. I have learned so much from Dr. David Cox, sports psychologist at Simon Fraser Universitiy. David has worked with the best athletes, tennis star Grant Connors, Steve Nash and the Canadian National Basketball Team coached by Jay Triano, the national ski programs, Kelly Law and her curling team, Emmanuel Sandhu.

I have taken Levels 1, 2 & 3 for the theory components of the National Coaching Certification Program. This is the best coaching program and is recognized globally, as other countries have copied this. There is currently no technical recognition for dragon boats in NCCP, but the equivalent is offered by False Creek Racing Canoe Club.

Alan Carlsson has put together a very good course, and he has recognized me as a good coach and asked me to give two seminars in dragon boat history and sociology at the 1st Dragon boat Coaching Conference in 2002. I called my seminars Team Tribalism: the history and sociology of Dragon Boats.

In 1997, I started Celebration Dragon boat team for the Celebration of Life Centre and also coached the Mad Paddlers. That summer I started paddling on recreational and competitive teams to expand my dragon boat knowledge, training and racing with The Coasters who won 2nd in Competitive in Victoria. that year. This is the best way to learn – try out more advanced teams and coaches. Finding a good mentor who can explain the things you otherwise learn slowly on your own by experience.

In the subsequent years, I have coached many corporate and community teams for Electronic Arts, Unipharm, Nokia Dragons, Civil Serpents, Shaw, GVRD. Starting in 1999, began a string of medals in every competition I entered for either coaching or paddling with teams. Novice B Silver with Unipharm at Alcan, Novice Silver in Victoria with Civil Serpents, Novice Gold in San Francisco with a San Francisco team.

In 2000, we moved into the recreation brackets with Gold in Rec B with Nokia Dragons, Gold in Diamond Division in Victoria with Civil Serpents. For 2001, it was Comp B Silver with Civil Serpents at Alcan, then I raced the rest of the year with Greg Lamb's GM dragon boat team, in Victoria in Diamond and Kelowna where we came 1st in Platinum B, before winning Silver in San Francisco, 2nd in Mens, and 1st overall for best visiting team.

For 2002, and 2003, I changed by priorities and spent more time working with Asian Heritage Month and less time with Dragon Boats, focusing on rebuilding Celebration Team into Gung Haggis. We had about 4 returning paddlers and we raced in Alcan and Kelowna, I integrated many of the things I had learned from racing with the GM team in terms of travel.

A significant development for Gung Haggis was inviting Coach Bob Brinson to steer with us in Kelowna when I was lucky enough to find him in Kelowna spectating without a team to race with. All these ideas really came to fruition in 2003, as Bob coached together with me, and we build the 2003 Gung Haggis team into a Rec D medal contender at Alcan, raced in Kent WA, won Rec B medals in Portland, won medals in Victoria joining up with Ken Hong's Dieselfish team from San Francisco and contended for medals in the Brand new Vancouver Taiwan Dragon Boat races that both Bob and I helped organize.

GHFC “dragon boat float” in St. Paddy's Day parade one of the best!

The Gung Haggis Fat Choy “float” rolled magnificiently down Granville St.  Cheers would go up as the crowd would see the big Dragon Head coming towards them.  A Taiwan dragon boat was pulled on a trailer, as muscians sat in the boat and played, and as paddlers “paddled” the boat along.   People read the banners on the side of the boat trailer and exclaimed “Gung Haggis Fat Choy“as they tried the words out over their tongues.

I drove the rental pick-up truck, and I could hear and feel the crowd's reaction as we approached each crowd sections.  “Dragon Boat!” or “Taiwan Dragon Boat!” they would call out to their friends and family, to be the first to identify the float. 

“One of the best floats,” said Celtic Fest organizer and founder, Warren Purchase, when he found out I was the organizer of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat float.

Our drummer/paddler Tracy Wong would wave the DBA flag. Joe McDonald played his bagpipes and Andrew Kim played his electric guitar as the featured musical group Brave Waves. Highland dancers in sailors outfits and traditional Scottish costumes paddled from the back of the boat,  There was great joy and excitement from the dancing students of Angus Mackenzie.  My dragon head puppet was also passed from person to person, as it listed parade participant to all the dragon boat races and festivals it has attended including Portland, Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver.

Then after 3 blocks – the trailer tire went flat.

We sent somebody to London Drugs to find tire inflator/sealer but to no avail. The boat wobbled from side to side. as it bounced on the one remaining tire, as the right tire floppily ran on the deflated rubber.

We rolled on up to Georgia St.  The older dancers and some of the paddlers dismounted from the boat to walk beside the boat with their paddles.  Our dragon boat paddlers all wore our tartan sashes that we had created as a team uniform for the dragon boat races.  Even guitarist Andrew Kim was wearing one along with his “bear hat” from China that he got from the Brave Waves musical tour in Beijing last October.

Some friends of my brother recognized the Gung Haggis name and called out to me in the truck cab.  I called John over and gave him two plastic St. Paddy's Day hats.  “Choice! and Thanks!” he excalimed.

And then we came to the end of the line… I informed the parade officials that we had a flat tire, and they directed me to the part of Granville St. North of Pender, where the trailer sat for a bit before moving across to Hastings St. to avoid the buses.

It took 2 hours to get the tire fixed, as BCAA and Drake Towing were unable to help. Finally Fountain Tire came out with replacement tires and a hydraulic jack.

All in all – it is worth putting the dragon boat as a float entry.   I look forward to organizing more float entries for future parades such as the Chinatown New Year parade.

Cheers, Todd

St. Patrick's Day Parade… getting ready

 The 1st annual Vancouver St. Patrick's Day parade takes place on March 13, 11am to 1pm on Granville St.  Starting at Drake St. and proceeding North to Hastings St.  We are parade entry #33 of 60+.  This will be the 1st dragon boat ever in a parade in Vancouver, that I know of.  For more information, check out

The Taiwan dragon boat is on the trailer – all set to go.  The banners are being painted with Gung Haggis Fat Choy and featuring Brave Waves in big bold letters.

Joe McDonald with his band Brave Waves will be riding in the dragon boat playing their wonderful brand of ethnic fusion music that is so uniquely Canadian.  Joe, of course, plays bagpipes, Andrew Kim plays guitar.  I am not sure who is playing tabla drums… and LA LA (Sharon Hung) will be joining them on vocals. – 3/5 of the group featured in the CBC television special Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  Check out and

Miniature Highland Dancers will also be coming out in their dance costumes.  The “little people” are actually aged 7-10 years old and are dance students of Angus MacKenzie.  “The kids are really excited to come join the parade,” beamed Angus, the former World Champion now turned dance instructor and mentor for Cameron and Vincent Collins who were both featured at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.

Paddlers from the Gung Haggis Dragon Boat Team are coming out to sit in the boat and “paddle.”  As well, they will walk alongside the boat with their paddles.  I will give the mini-highland dancers all paddles and “leprechaun hats” – I think all the kids deserve to have something to go home with after walking in the parade!  If you would like to join the Gung Haggis dragon boat team – Call me Todd: at 604-987-7124 or send me an e-mail at

The Taiwan dragon boat arrived in Vancouver in late August – 10 days before the 1st Taiwan Dragon Boat race in Canada on Saturday, September 6, 2003.  Taiwan Dragon Boats are unique from the Hong Kong style dragon boats, in that the heads are much larger.  This is to support a person designated as the “flag grabber” who must position their body on top of the dragon head and reach out with their hand to grab a flat upon crossing the finish line. 

If they grab the flag before the other team – they win.  If they miss the flat, they have to go back for the flag.  This adds another level of skill to dragon boat racing other than just going fast.  You have to be able to steer the boat accurately towards the flag, and have somebody grab the flag.  Both require good athleticism and eye hand coordination.  Check out and



We're featured on Friends of Scotland Web page!

Canada and Scotland is featured in the March 4th edition of Friends of Scotland.  Check out their web page at:

It is a verra informative site that ken many innerestin' tidbits relating Canada and Scotland such as Sir James A. MacDonald – Canada's Glasgow born 1st Prime Minister and Sir James Douglas – the Father of BC.

And omigosh there is even plenty of mention of Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  See below for a sampling of what can be found.

Each year, Gung Haggis Fat Choy sees Chinese men donning kilts and Scots tucking into haggis wonton.

A date for your diary – Toddish McWong’s Annual Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner
Gung Haggis Fat Choy
  Simon Fraser University
  Gung Haggis Fat Choy
  Mòd Vancouver
  Annual Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans
  BC Highland Games
  Scottish Design


  Bear Kilts
  Celtic Empire Collection
  Canadian footballers
  The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra
  Zoom Airlines
  Air Canada
  Passport to Cowichan
  Scottish Studies Foundation