Gung Haggis dragon boat team: Tuesday Practice – we race two boats with 7 first-time paddlers!

7 first-time paddlers came out on the dragon boats with the Gung Haggis team, and found themselves doing 3 sprint races.

Dragon Boat racing is always more fun, when the boats are racing close together.  This picture features Gung Haggis dragon boat team racing against our friends GVRD 44 Cheeks in blue behind us at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival back in June. GVRD has quit paddling for now, while the Gung Haggis team continues paddling for exercise, fun and voyageur canoe regattas until November. – photo Ray Shum

What is the best way to introduce first-time paddlers to dragon boat racing?

Give them a race!

On Tuesday night, we had six students and one teacher from Killarney Secondary join the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  For the past two years I have coached the Killarney team, with teacher sponsor Stuart Mackinnon, who is also a paddler on the Gung Haggis team.  I
asked Gung Haggis paddlers to be good role models and to help mentor
the Killarney paddlers.  We had the newbies sitting in the back, and
matched with experienced paddlers.

Each boat had 16 paddlers per boat including coach + steers.  I coached one boat with 3 first time paddler students, 1 first-time teacher, 3 experienced students, + 7 experienced Gung Haggis paddlers.  Gayle coached the other boat with 3 first time student paddlers + 1 experienced student + 11 experienced paddlers.

We each circled The North Side of East Basin, then headed towards Cambie St. Bridge, and caught up at David Lam Park.
did a mini race piece with Hon's Won Ton team.  They only had 8 paddlers in a
6-16 and were very surprised they stayed even with our lead boat, especially since they are a first year team.  But a
lighter weight in a 6-16 against heavily loaded Gemini boat that sit deeper and heavier in the
water… is what happens.

We paddled almost to the Granville St. Bridge,then turned around and came beside the house boats on Granville Island where our paddlers switched sides, to help exercise both sides of their bodies.

After the races, I asked some of the experienced students, if we ever had races like that on their first day in the boat.

“Nooooo….” was the answer. 

Did the first-time paddlers enjoy the race?

“Yesssss…..” was the answer.  I think they are still shy.

Trying to coach 20 brand new paddlers at the same time, can be a very frustrating experience, as much of the time is spent trying to teach people how to put their paddle in and out of the water at the same time.  But by introducing the first time paddlers onto boats where they were partnered with experienced paddlers, they could watch the paddlers and feel how the boat surged with each stroke of the paddle.  With only 3 paddles going out of time on each boat, the boats really flew much faster than any of the earlier Killarney practices back in the Spring.  Hopefully we have inspired the new paddlers to tell their friends to come join the dragon boat team at Killarney.  And after the students graduate, they can join the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  Hmmm… maybe we now have a dragon boat farm team!

After a brief warm-up, we did another
race piece… to the Cambie St. Bridge.  The other team won again, by
about 3/4 boat length.  same as before.  We picked a paddler off their
team… Dan Seto.

Another Race… switch sides… back on the good side for most.
We won by about 4 seats…. VERY CLOSE!!


NEXT Practice Sunday 2pm (not 1:30pm)
Because lunch at Hillary's + Terry Fox Run Day….

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