Vernon Morning Star: Vernon home-town girl steers Gung Haggis dragon boat team to gold medal

Vernon Morning Star: Vernon home-town girl steers Gung Haggis dragon boat team to gold medal

Deb Martin (far right) steers the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team to a beach landing.  Sitting in the boat Steven Wong  (hidden w/red hat), Cheryl McIntosh (yellow & black hat), Dan Seto (partially hidden), Jim Blathewick (big smile and blue pdf), Dave Samis (looking at camera), Jonas Ng (black sleeves), Gerry Black (partially hidden behind paddle), Leanne Riding (black hat), Richard Montagna (partially hidden with white hat), Emma Hopkins (green hair), Hyuma (black glove) – photo Ginger Snaps

The Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team gets some more media!  They liked the angle of home-town Vernon-raised Deb Martin, returning to Vernon and steering her dragon boat team to a gold medal in Mixed Adult B division.

Deb Martin grew up at her parents'
lakeside home on Kalamalka Lake.  She learned to canoe, kayak and
sail.  Every summer she looks forward to swimming in the lake, and is
happy to bring her dragon boat team along with her to visit her parents
and lakeside home.

Martin started paddling on the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team in
2003, shortly after dating Gung Haggis
dragon boat team founder Todd Wong. She now helps Wong manage the the team, and assists with the Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner annual fundraiser for the team which has attracted up to 570 people in past years.

Deb paddled dragon boats for her first two
years on the team, then quickly took to drumming.  Coaches Todd Wong
and Bob Brinson found her to be a quick study with a naturally inspiring
manner for the team.  This year Deb has taken over the steering job,
after spending lots of time steering the boats during practice over the
past two years. 

This was the first time she had steered a medal
finish.  On Saturday there were two 200m sprints, a 500m race and
a 1000m race with a challenging turn.   Deb steered the boat to 1st place in both the 500m semi-final and 500m final on the
Sunday.  The team has lots of confidence in Deb's abilities, and she
has even steered for other teams during races, such as last week's
Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Races held on Harrison Lake.

Todd Wong & Deb Martin, Clan Chieftain & Steers + organizers of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.

Dragon boat races make a splash

By Jennifer Dyck
Morning Star Staff

Behind a sea of paddles digging through the waters of Kalamalka
Lake was another record year for Vernon’s third annual Dragon Boat

The weekend-long event, which wrapped up Sunday, brought 1,090
participants to town (not to mention spouses tagging along to cheer
them on) from across B.C. and Alberta.

“We had double the teams from last year and the event may even
double again next year,” said Shawn Samol, president of the festival.

“A lot of the teams were very ecstatic, especially the ones that had never been here before. They said they’d be back for sure.”

While there was a high number of participants, the spectators on shore far outweighed those numbers throughout the weekend.

An estimated 10,000 people took in the three days of action on Kal Beach.

“The beach was pretty packed most of the day,” said Samol, who was pleased to see the community taking in the sport.

Those on board for the Sunday races were also in for a couple of events that made a big splash.

A Kelowna team capsized in the water during a race after hitting what one team member assumes was a wave.

“The drummer got dumped and the steerer fell off, and all the
women on the right side of the boat began sliding down, and then it was
a few seconds of body parts and paddles flying as the boat tipped us in
the water,” said Cheryl Wierda, from the team.

Another bit of Sunday action (a planned event) was the Good
Life Fitness Waterski Challenge. Twelve teams competed in the
challenge, with several showing their paddle power by successfully
getting a waterskier up out of the water. Calgary’s Top Made Plastics
took the winning title for that event.

Overall for the weekend’s dragon boat races, undefeated
champion Pacific Reach from Vancouver took the win for their third year
in a row in Vernon as No. 1 mix team.

In the mixed B division, Vernon-raised Deb Martin steered her team, Gung Haggis Fat Choy of Vancouver, to a gold finish Sunday.

Although Martin now lives in Vancouver, having been raised on
the shores of Kalamalka Lake gives her pride to see the dragon boat
festival reach such levels of success in her hometown.

“I am glad that Vernon has the chance to experience dragon
boating now, and I am sure it’s going to grow really big here too,” she

With double the number of participants, Samol estimates this
year’s event had a spinoff of well over $2 million during the weekend

“Plus talking to a lot of the teams they actually spent a
couple extra days in Vernon, some are still here now and some of them
are even staying for the rest of the week.”

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