By Jill Koskitalo
Imagine months of intense training and rising at dawn to plunge your arms into the icy waters of the nearest waterfront.
Or pulling a paddle through the polluted sludge of the Humber River, never stopping even though your eyes are stinging and your heart is pounding.
Now imagine doing it all for only two and a half minutes of glory. This is what dragon boating is all about.
A dragon boat is a long wooden boat that seats 20 paddlers, one drummer at the front and a steerperson at the back. The team members use short canoe paddles to propel the boats. Using a variety of special strokes while moving in unison to the beat of the drum, the boats can reach the speeds of a small motorboat.
Janice Wang, a second-year science student at University of Toronto, got involved in dragon boating about four years ago.
Wong says the best thing about being in a dragon boat is the “adrenaline rush”.
“The fact you’re in this huge boat and you’ve got a paddle and there’s nothing much you can do unless you work together as a team…it’s really fun.
Wong competed in a dragon boat race this past Saturday at Ontario place. It was one of the last races of the season.
For the past 15 years, dragon boat racing has steadily grown in popularity throughout the world. Canada hosts a race every year at Toronto’s Center Island. Teams from all over the world compete for the chance to go to the finals in Hong Kong.
The sport originated more than two thousand years ago in China as a religious event. There are several legends surrounding the origin of dragon boat festivals. In one story it’s believed holding dragon boat races would guarantee bountiful crops. In another myth dragon boating is said to have originated when an exiled statesman drowned himself in river and his beloved citizens paddled up and down it, beating drums to scare fish and water dragons away from his body.