Dragon boat paddling on Sunday morning in sunshine – before the snows fell.

Snow was predicted for Sunday morning, March 8th… and we were scheduled for 2 sessions of dragon boat practices.

2009_March 011Ernest leads G-Force through some practice starts. – photo T. Wong

Dragon boat paddling is always fun when it's sunny.  Teams that want to do well at the big Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival start practicing early.  March is a good time to start.  The weather is warmer, the sun comes out. Except Vancouver got yet another big dump of snow Sunday and Monday.

We got out early on Sunday morning to paddle, as Ernest Wu and myself helped to coach and steer G-Force Winds dragon boat team, while their coach and founder Gayle Gordon is on holiday.  Gayle joined the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team last year as a veteran lead stroke… and WE LOVE HER!  So we will do anything to keep her happy – including coaching her team while she is away.

2009_March 013 Ernest and G-Force Winds smile in the sunshine on Sunday morning – photo T. Wong

We like G. Force Winds.  They are a very friendly group of paddlers who paddle for the fun and exercise.  We helped them at some races last year with extra paddlers.  It's an all women's team that emphasizes fun, friendship and fitness.  Just like Gung Haggis without the haggis… or men.

2009_March 015 G-Force paddles on False Creek for the their 4th practice of the season. – photo T. Wong

It's still early in the season and the roster isn't settled.  Some paddlers probably find it too cold to paddle yet.  But there were 5 rookie paddlers learning the art of paddling along with 7 experienced paddlers.  Athena is wearing the blue hat and it was her second time in a dragon boat.  Salome was a bit anxious for her first time in the boat, and worried if the other paddlers would like her, even if she wasn't any good.  No worries.  Everybody was happy, welcoming and supportive.

2009_March 017 Canada geese brave the cold waters of False Creek and avoid the ferries. – photo T. Wong

When G.Force finished their practice at 11:30 and Ernest and I joined our regular team Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team where I am the coach and founder, and Ernest is one of our team captains.  He was born in Beijing, China, so I lean on Ernest to fill in lots of things about Chinese culture that my 5 generation Canadian history doesn't know about.  Ernest paddled a year of dragon boat before joining the Gung Haggis team.

2009_March 016 Tzhe and Wendy, are two of our possible lead stroke paddlers – photo T.Wong

“Gung Haggis is like family,” declared Wendy last year… or was it the year before?  Wendy really embodies the social cameraderie of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  We are happy to have her at many of our social events – but this year, she gets to plan some of them!  This will be Wendy's 4th year as a dragon boater.  In her 2nd year, we became lead stroke.  Tzhe also became a lead stroke in his second year of paddling dragon boats. He now enters his 3rd year of paddling dragon boat, after pulling a Ken Dryden by racing voyageur canoe with us in Fort Langley after joining the team at the end of  2006.  Sitting behind Tzhe is Alissa, our rookie of the year, whom we had doing some lead stroke work in her first year of dragon boating!

2009_March 021 Lots of smiles in the sunshie, it's one happy team on the water! – photo T.Wong

We paddled out to David Lam Park, and worked on building good technique by addressing different foundations of dragon boat paddling.  We worked the core muscles.  We practiced entries.  We practiced timing.  We worked in small groups.  And the team really developed quickly and impressively.

Steven Wong and Stephen Mirowski took turns steering the boat during practice.  We rotate steers so that everybody gets a chance to paddle and learn steering responsibilities.  We also rotate captains from race to race.  This way we also share leadership responsibilities.

2009_March 019

I've been paddling since 1997, and it's really given me an opportunity to witness the growth and development of False Creek.  It's amazing to see these buildings going up at the corner of Beach and Pacific Blvd.

2009_March 018

It sure looks like they are building these new buildings crooked!  But believe it or not – it's supposed to be good for stabilization in case of an earthquake.

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