With paddles slicing the water as one, the Westshore Warriors are working hard to best last year’s eighth-place, platinum finish at the Victoria Dragonboat Festival.
Of course, out of 80 teams, eighth place was pretty good!
But when the final race is done, no matter what the outcome, expect plenty of smiles and laughter from this group.
Originally drawn from West Shore Parks and Recreation staff and their families, the mixed Warriors team today welcomes members from all over the community, at all experience levels. The common factor is a will to work hard on the water, and share a laugh or two after, agree long-time teammates Bob Mitchell and Barton Dennis.
“On the water, we paddle hard and off the water, we have fun,” Mitchell says.
Under the expert guidance of coach Jennifer Loo, who brings to the team 16 years of paddling experience, the Warriors practice twice a week from mid-April to mid-September at the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club and compete in several festivals throughout the season.
“They’re a cohesive team and a great group of people,” says Loo, also a long-time Victoria Dragon Boat Festival volunteer. “I work them quite hard, but they seem to enjoy it and they like to have fun. They seem to thrive on my tough workouts. They never complain and they have a really good sense of humour.”
The Victoria festival, set for Aug. 15 to 17, is next on the competition calendar. Designed to bring people together through dragon boating, the popular celebration of Asian sports and culture fills the Inner Harbour with thrilling competition, inspiring stories, food and entertainment, with close to 80,000 people expected to take part as participants, volunteers and spectators.
Also competing will be Loo’s Westshore Warriors women’s team, entering the festival for the first year with paddlers of all ages and experience levels.
The Warriors’ philosophy is one of hard work and competitiveness, but also inclusion. “We want everybody and anybody – that’s why we have a coach,” Mitchell says with a laugh.
Paddlers on the mixed boat range from age 25 to 65 and include both newcomers and long-time paddlers, but all come together under the common goals. “We take our racing seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Dennis says.
As for this year’s Victoria festival? “We’re bringing our A game,” Mitchell says.
“We always do!” adds Dennis. “As long as we feel we’ve done well in the boat, and as long as we did better at the end of the year (than at the beginning), it’s been a success.”
Community leaders to be honoured
The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival Society’s 20th anniversary gala tonight (August 13) will see three community leaders receiving lifetime memberships to the society.
The recipients are: Don Yuen, founder of Fairway Market; Mel Cooper, president of Melco Management; and Captain Cedric Steele of the Royal Canadian Navy.
The recipients were chosen based on their support, either personal or financial, of the Dragon Boat Festival and the dragon boat community over the past 20 years.