What is Dragon Boating? It is the fastest growing sport in Australia and rapidly becoming popular across the world. It draws equal numbers of males and females from a diverse demographic an occupational backgrounds and age groups.
[ADVERT]Dragon Boating with Naga Spirit is a fun and exciting sport where you will get fit, meet new friends, and, of course, spend fabulous time on Sydney Harbour's waterways taking in some fantastic views. This team is one of the few who also has great team social outings.
I rocked up in the 'kind of fit' category and knowing very little. I met some of the very friendly team members in the car park and performed several stretches to warm up those back, shoulder and arm muscles, which do the paddling work, and your legs and feet, which have some purpose, although on a smaller scale. Prepped with the safety do's and don'ts and paddle how to's, I was set.
We headed to the water ramp and climbed into a twelve seater Dragon boat. Newbies get to sit in the back seats. I thought this was a good move, no one could see if I couldn't keep up my end of the paddling. Wrong! Ian, our coach, stood right behind me steering the boat and calling out commands.
In the first 15 minutes, I couldn't keep up with the pace of the team's rapid paddling strokes, so I just did my best. Ian gave me very helpful tips and corrected my sometimes wonky strokes. It wasn't difficult and I soon got the hang of it.
I think this was 'very fast' paddling. OK so I was bludging. My excuse was "I needed to take a photo", it was valid!
We paddled in short series of speed strokes, 'fast, very fast and incredibly fast' - or so I thought. Then I was told they reserved the 'all out ballistic super fast' strokes for races. I kind of liked the occasional 'stops and drifts', it gave me time to rest my weary arms and take a few pics of the scenery.
A stop and drift moment helps rest your arms, for a while at least
Ahh, the 'stops and drifts' were to practice 'super human explosive starts'. And so the routine began all over again. All the time Ian told us our strokes per minute and cracked a few jokes for frivolity.
Ian is an Australian level Dragon Boat participant and one of Naga Spirit's coaches
In the end I learned to pace the amount of effort I put into each stroke and was just able to keep up with the 'very fast' and 'incredibly fast' strokes.
We were on the water for about an hour and a half, which went 'quite fast'. Some more stretches and I was glad I could feel some tightness in my back muscles as I knew I put in real effort. We placed the boat back on the racks for another day of fun on Sydney's waterways.
Off to a cafe after some serious paddling
I was invited to have a well deserved brunch with some of the team members at one of the local cafes. We chatted about their races and social events, and I got to make some brand new friends.
Mmmmm, food, sustenance
Yes, I slept very well that night exhausted and with a huge smile on my face.
Now if you like the odd bit of competition, you can participate in their monthly races which are held all over Sydney and outer regions, and possibly to Hamilton Island.
Naga Spirit in competition
With a bit of smugness and a bit more effort, you can aim for the State Championships. Then onward and upward to enter the National Championships to try out for the Australian team. Last year, this team bought back that colour we all love - gold!
Within her first season, pocket rocket Catalina got the opportunity to try out for the NSW State team, where she trained 6 days a week
Another fantastic opportunity is the colourful Chinese Dragon Boat event held on Sydney Harbour each year. The boats are decked out in all their regalia and Dragon Boat teams celebrate the origins. An added person stands at the front with a big pounding drum which adds to the excitement. This event is held around the beginning of the year in accordance with the lunar calendar.
Naga Spirit Club is well balanced with a healthy social aspect. Their monthly (sometimes twice monthly) Team Social events are orgainised by the unofficial social organiser, Phalika. She is always on the look out for fun stuff to do. There are karaoke nights, paintball days, lawn bowls, burlesque show, and dinner or lunches at some cool and interesting venues.
Naga Spirit's unofficial Social Director Phalika at the after brunch. Oh the clock at the back is a warped arty type, nothing wrong with your eyes!
History of Dragon Boats
Chinese Dragon Boat Festival originated in China and is celebrated each year by many teams with all the colour and sound they can muster. It commemorates the death/suicide of Qu Yuan, the minister in the kingdom of Chu.
It began around 475-221 BC in the Warring State period. Qu Yuan was falsely vilified by a corrupt prince, disgraced and dismissed from his position.
Being loyal and highly esteemed, he realised there was no way he could return to his position, so he leapt into the Mi Lo river holding a large rock ensuring his demise. Nearby fisherman rushed out in their boats to save him, yet could not find his body. This is why the paddling of this sport is 'super fast'.
Qu Yuan was held in high regard by the local people of Chu, so in his honour, each year they throw rice into the river to feed his hungry ghost. A practice that continues to this day, it is held on the fifth day of the fifth moon each year.
The Dragon Boats are decorated in Qu Yuan's honour in red, green and blue scales, edged in gold. Rice is tossed into the water and the firecrackers are now replaced by the loud beating drums, giving the impression they are looking for Qu Yuan's body.
The Fifth Moon Festival is now celebrated by eating glutinous rice dumplings with various sweet and salty fillings.
Paddle your way around the iconic waterways of Sydney Harbour
Introductions and Membership
Introduction course is $20 for three morning sessions, a bit of try before you buy. Very reasonable for great mornings on the Harbour.
When you want to join,, it costs around $290 per year which includes:
Training sessions - three times each week
Lunch at race meetings
Subsidised uniform - costs you only $30
Recruitment for 2012 season begins in September, although you can join at any time during the year.