Cherry Blossom dragon boat public paddling regatta March 26

Cherry Blossom dragon boat public paddling regatta

Todd Wong gives
paddling instruction to one of two boatloads of people who showed up to
the inaugural Cherry Blossom Festival public dragon boat paddlings
event.  First-time paddlers were assisted by experienced paddlers
from teams: Gung Haggis Fat Choy, The Eh? Team, and GVRD 44 Cheeks. –
photo Dave Samis

The Creekside Park
cherry blossoms were not in bloom, but dragon boat friendships are
already developing as many paddlers hit the water with their
teams.  Wanna-be paddlers can try out paddling at the Dragon Zone
paddling club, organized by the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, located at
Creekside Park, at the South East end of False Creek, just south of the
Science World building.

The first Dragon Zone public paddling /
Cherry Blossom regatta went well.  About 17 people showed up for
Cherry Blossom paddling, and were assisted by experienced
paddlers.  5 people from Eh Team, 1 person from GVRD 44 Cheeks,
and 9 paddlers from Gung Haggis Fat Choy, all came to share stories
about their paddling adventures and friendships.

We started out
by having everybody meet inside the clubhouse, as the weather was damp
outside.  We did introductions, and I shared dragon boat history
(origins, local and international) with everybody.  Some people
had come to try the public paddling, advertised by Dragon Zone, some
because they had heard of the Cherry Blossom event.  All were
looking forward to trying dragon boats for their first time.

took two boats out.  I coached one boat with Shawn steering. 
Shawn is one of the staff members at Dragon Zone, working the docks and
clubhouse, ensuring safety and smooth management.  I have known
him for a number of years, in his role as a volunteer for the Alcan
Dragon Boat Festival, and also as a paddler and steersperson for
different teams.

Second boat coached by Dave Montrose with Ed
from Eh Team steering.  The friendship between Dave Montrose and
myself goes back years to 1998, when we first paddled together on a
Civil Serpents team competing in Victoria.  In 1999, we again
found ourselves on the same team – this time it was Spirit of Vancouver
competing for a race in San Francisco.  Dave joined me when Civil
Serpents team went competitive in 2001, and we also helped set up the
39th Brigade Army team, and some of their paddlers joined us in 2002
for paddling in Kelowna.

We split people into two groups and matched experienced paddlers with 1st timers. 
We did warm up exercises, paddle instruction, safety lesson – then loaded onto the boats.

Boats separated for paddle instructions, then met for a race towards Plaza of Nations.  Ending with a short race back to
Dragon Zone.  All races were kept short, to minimize stress and risk of injury to paddlers.  Having
the two boats out together was ideal, because we could have the mini
races.  It gave people a sense of dragon boat “racing”.

really enjoyed themselves, and many said they would be back.  We
had great compliments from the paddlers from the Eh? team – a
wondefully friendly seniors team.  I have known Bill Redhead and
his team mate Ed for a few years, since my father first painted a
unicorn on a paddle for Ed.  Dave Samis paddles on the GVRD 44
Cheeks team, and he has also joined Gung Haggis Fat Choy for races in
Victoria, Seattle, Harrison Lake and the Vancouver Taiwanese
Race.  I also taught Dave how to steer a boat, and like with Dave
Montrose, we have developed a nice frienship over the years.

is dragon boat friendships like these that inspired me to create an
event for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.  I have been
marvelling at all the cherry blossoms sparkling in Vancouver for the
past few weeks, and thinking that it is very cool that Vancouver now
has a Cherry Blossom festival.  Hopefully next year, we will be
able to have more paddlers out for our annual event, and that when
Vancouverites start to see cherry blossoms blooming, they will start to
think, “Time to get into a dragon boat for some paddling.”

you would like to try dragon boat paddling, come down to Dragon Zone at
Creekside Park.  For $2, on Sunday at 1pm, you can have a paddle
instruction session – until April 30th.

Check out the beautiful photos of Vancouver's cherry trees and also the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
website.  The following 2002 pictures are from the Sakura Diary
website, and the trees can be seen while paddling on False Creek.
Cherry Blossoms overlooking False Creek between Granville Island and Burrard Bridge.

Granville Island Cherry trees

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