DragonFlyers Keep Flying High
DragonFlyers Keep Flying High
“Paddles ready!” was the command. We all held our paddles to the side, ready to move the boat forward.
On Aug. 13 and 14, I had the opportunity to practice with, and then watch, our local dragon boat racing team, the Alameda DragonFlyers, in action. The practice session took place on the Oakland Estuary near Bridgeside Shopping Center; the race was held on Lake Merritt.
I met many enthusiastic and welcoming team members, including Carol Beaver, the team’s captain and founder, and Corinne Spingarn, my paddling instructor.
I first noticed that a positive attitude is an essential element of the team. After each race, every member is highly supportive of one another’s performance. Beaver said the DragonFlyers promote “fun, fitness, and friendship” to all members and are “a recreational team with a competitive edge.”
Spingarn, who has been a member of the team since 2004, said that she “likes the friendly, welcoming and inclusive environment.” She also said that she “loves being on the water and the camaraderie of a team sport. It’s a great workout.”
Practicing with them was a great experience. Since I knew little about dragon boat racing, it was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the sport and the team.
As I was paddling, Spingarn emphasized the importance of proper technique and form. In addition, since one boat comprises about 20 paddlers (10 on each side, with a coach/ drummer in front and a steersman in the rear), teamwork and having a synchronized stroke is equally as important.
Besides being introduced to the sport, I became more familiar with the team as well. The DragonFlyers practice three times per week (Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:45 to -10:15 a.m. near Bridgeside Shopping Center. The team also provides a flexible schedule for members who cannot meet the time commitment. The DragonFlyers welcome any person over 14 years old to join practices during the novice recruitment period during the late fall and spring.
The team began as one of the city’s recreation programs and evolved into a community team 13 years ago. It currently has about 60 members and occasionally participates in excursions, such as watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July and getting involved with community service projects. Many members also travel to various places across the country and world to participate in international races and to enhance their interactions with the dragon boat community. Anyone who would like to attend a practice may visit http://www.meetup.com/alamedadragonflyers/.
Dragon boat racing has an extensive history dating back to ancient China. Many agree that the dragon symbolizes strength while the paddles represent the dragon’s claws. Today, many dragon boat races occur worldwide in a multitude of leagues and associations.
“I encourage all community members to come out and see what dragon boating is all about," Beaver said.