So have you ever seen those long boats, with what appears to be way too many people furiously paddling away, out on the water? You know the one with the drummer at the front keeping time and the steerer in the back trying to keep the boat from veering off course or tipping over? Well here in the Okanagan we see these “Dragon Boats” out on the lake practicing all Summer long. I thought to my self one day “Self...that looks like fun! Wouldn't it be neat to get a Century 21 Dragon Boat Team out on the water!” I figured it would be a great excuse to do some team building, get out on the water, enjoy the sunshine, get some exercise and do one of the activities which our area has seemingly embraced. Even if we only do it for one season...
Shortly after having the thought...literally 4 minutes later I was asking around the office to see who would be up for the adventure. To my surprise I had an overwhelming response! Within a week we had our first every Century 21 Dragon Boat Team and “Century 21 Dragon You Home” was born. We were made up of REALTORS, Lawyers, Notaries, Legal secretaries, Mortgage specialists, family and spouses...Needless to say a lot of ‘A’ types;-)
We met once a week to practice and a few times had issues getting the required 14 people we needed to get the boat on the water. Its sometimes hard for business professionals to get out of the office so that was no huge surprise. That being said we got out there as often as possible and made our best efforts to paddle our hearts out. It was pretty tough going. For a lot of us typing is our idea of physical exertion but we did our best. We learned the proper techniques for paddling a Dragon Boat, which is nothing like paddling a canoe or like anything we had ever paddled before. Our coach Deb quickly made us realize that timing was the key. After eight weeks of practice we were ready for the Kelowna Dragon Boat Festival...or were we?
We arrived looking fairly out of place with our hodge-podge of paddlers next to the color coordinated, uniformed, chanting and exercising in unison ‘teams.’ We did not have a tent set up like everybody else nor did we really know what we were doing or what we were in for...we learned quickly.
When it came time for our first race, a quick 250 meter sprint, we found out the hard way that we were under prepared. We did not have a drummer or a steerer....we had issues organizing ourselves into the boat...we were like a scrambling flock of sheep. Finally one of the organizers saw our plight and got us situated and paddling out to the start line...where we totally flubbed our start. We really had our butts handed to us. That made the most amazing thing happen! We absolutely rallied from our defeat and everyone started coming up with ‘plans’ and ‘strategies’ to have things fixed for the next race. It was amazing! We got our little stretching routine going and figured out a cheer; which we started shouting every chance we had. We got our tent up and ourselves organized. We tracked down our drummer, found our steerer and realized we even had more then 20 paddlers. Too many people to fit in the boat!! What was going on?! Did we just become a....team?! YUP!
For our next race we were stretched and paddling to the start line before any other boat pushed off the shore. Chanting our cheer and ready for battle our motley crew was itching for redemption. When the start whistle blew for our 500m journey we were off like wet lightning! Then before we knew it and likely a few seconds before some of us passed out from exertion, we heard ‘Let it run’....meaning we had crossed the finish line and could stop paddling...thankfully. It was then that we realized we had actually not come in last! WE BEAT SOMEONE!!! We were elated and very proud of our little team of newbies!
We paddled back to shore feeling proud and energized. The day was over and we would have some beers and regale each other with our own personal tail of what the experience meant....careful not to drink too so many cheers that we cheered ourselves right out of the next days potential victories.
The following day we were even more excited and we got out there and won our first race against one other boat and beat our best time from the day before by a whole 12 seconds! Between races we started planning for next years team and how we would practice more and get team shirts and all that fun stuff...the consensus was to ‘be more serious’ about the sport...while maintaining the fun of course.
Our final race of the day was a four boat 500m dash. That race saw us beat one other boat, beat our best time again and come within 3 seconds of taking the whole race! It was a close one for sure! We were all very please and very proud and paddled ourselves back to shore. We lingered around the beach talking about the following races, the other teams and our team’s plans for the following year. We dismantled our little camp then we headed off to the beer gardens for our much deserved reward.
While sitting in the beer gardens cheers’ing and chatting we watched some great races on the water and then we watched some amazing teams receive their accolades and awards. While engrossed in our conversation someone shouted out our team name...we looked around and saw that we were being called to the awards area. Did we win something? In our first year?! NO WAY!! We sure did! We proudly and a little sheepishly accepted our Mixed C Division 3rd Place ribbons:-)
Who would have guessed that our little crew of 1st year paddlers would take a prize? Who would have thought we would have had so much fun and felt the pull of the water, the boat and the team experience. Who would have known that the drum from the front of our Dragon Boat would have really been the sound of our 22 hearts beating as one
See you next year!