DRAGON BOAT CLUB BUILDING A DYNASTY AT RYERSON

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By Amanda Cupido

Joe Chen doesn’t take dragon boating lightly. Although the sport only became a club last year at Ryerson, the team takes their time in the water very seriously.

“There is a rush you get when trying to beat a rival,” Chen says, a second-year business student. “People who paddled before know the feelings, the emotions.”

Chen has competed in dragon boat racing since his senior years in high school where he was on his school team. For him, there’s a cultural connection and true love for the sport.

“Once you get hooked on to the sport, you never let go,” he says.

The club had their first practice at the RAC pool on Sept. 20. Last year, the team was one of the best in the university division. With YouTube videos promoting the “Rye-D-Boat” team and a slew of posters decorating the halls, the club is making a name for itself at the university.

Head coach and Ryerson graduate, Alex Yang worked to build the club and promote the sport on campus.

“We are going through a growth process and we’re happy there’s a lot of support,” Yang says. “Once there are people caring about the team it’s easier to get others to join.”

Dragon boat racing originated in China and consists of a long, narrow boat powered by 20 people paddling. Dragon boat racing is one of the oldest organized competitions dating back to over 20 centuries ago, when the sport was part of an annual folk tradition.

Randy Pipher, the intramural and camps co-ordinator at Sports and Recreation, is excited to have dragon boating as a club at Ryerson. After renting the pool to the group for two years, he realized there was potential for something more.

“We are always looking for clubs that are committed and dedicated,” Pipher says.

“They always have a team and are ready to go.”

Since the dragon boating group is now officially a club, this means there are no fees to rent the pool, they can use the Sports and Recreation logo and there is more support from administration.

Yang has been working with Pipher to build the club and he says that dragon boating allows for students to network, travel and exercise in a unique way.

He also realizes a lot of people might not understand what dragon boating involves until they try it out.

“It’s one stroke but a million things go into it,” Yang says. “There’s a lot of strategy.”

To allow new students to experience dragon boating, Yang worked to keep the fees low. This year, there is no charge for students who want to sign up. With about 60 people attending the first tryout session last week, it looks like the team is shaping up to be better than ever.

“My goal is to keep it free,” he says. “I want to make it as easy as possible. That will help us build a better team.”

Lindsay Paget, a third year photography student, has been paddling since she was 17. Paget enjoys paddling because it’s a way of meeting new people and making friends. She decided to join the club after her father started paddling at the age of 52.

“It’s a very social sport because you spend the entire day, often a full weekend, with your team,” she says.

“It’s a sport you can get involved with at any age. It’s the fastest growing sport in the world.”

Yang has high hopes for the future of the club. Last summer, they attended four festivals and competed in the B division. After coming in first place at the Toronto festival, they set their sights higher.

“We want to go to the A division to take some medals from there,” Yang says. “Twenty years down the road, I want to see medals hanging in the RAC.”

The dragon boat team’s season will begin next summer, where they plan on attending festivals, like the Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival. For now, the club is training once a week and hoping to work on their overall fitness.

Team member Chen is excited for the upcoming season. He expects the team to do well this summer since they have more people coming out. And with a growing love for the sport, Chen knows that he will be part of the club for the rest of his time at Ryerson.

“As long as I’m paddling, I’m happy,” he says.

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