Since the season I did crew in high school, I have always wanted to try Dragon Boat, and this year I have the opportunity to be on the AACA (Asian American Civic Association) 's team "Blazin Paddles."
Some people will think that if you do crew, you can do Dragon boat... but the muscle groups are different. and the paddles are different too. What is the same is the idea of team work. Also I feel like the Dragon Boats paddles and boat are so simple, that I almost feel like I could make a crude paddle and a crude boat even... where as the crew boats (which cost like $30,000) seem very complicated to make. I mean a Dragon Boat is basically a canoe.
I showed up to the first practice and saw that some people even brought their own paddles.
"How much are those?" I asked
"There like $100." I mean that's not cheap.. but they are lightweight... a far cry from the wooden paddles. But I found out later that we all got to use the fancy light weight paddles anyway.
I am not likely to buy one, but my Kung Fu side really like the idea of people carrying their paddle like a samurai sword around. And I immediately wanted to do Kung Fu moves for a short paddle.
My first day.. I think crew actually hindered me because I was trying to feather the oar and all that when I really should have been keeping the oar vertical the whole time. You also take the oar out at mid thigh. The second practice we began to move a little bit more as a team.
I guess I also can't help but compare progress to that high school team where even our slackiest members were still young and we all practiced everyday. Groton was actually competitive at crew so even though I was on the last boat... it was still kind of serious.
But I really enjoy this sport because unlike Kung Fu, or lion dance, where a lot of the technique is somewhat theory or ritual... if you don't paddle... the boat doesn't move. There is beauty in the simplicity of the practice.... to make the boat go. And the competition as well... it's a simple race.
We haven't been drumming and there is no flag catcher in the Boston Dragon Boat and you can see how the sport is changing with the times or trying to go back to the traditional way as well.
Most amazing though, is to see Coach Irene, an Asian female, coaching and calling out orders to a boat that has Asians and none Asians. Why is this significant to me? Well you see at Groton, although asians did crew... well it;s not the same as having strong Chinese Americans figures in charge of the whole sport and also being very AMERICAN in their lingo and cadence. If I had had those sorts of role models in my youth I might have a different outlook. Even now in my 30's it is somewhat eye opening... or broadening.
I'm looking forward to the future practices and hope to remain involved in Dragon boat after I move to New Jersey.