Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dragon Boating

Every year around this time I start gushing about Dragon Boat practice.  How I can't wait for it to start, how much I love it.

And every year I have one or two people ask me yeah, but what IS dragon boating?

Here is the definition of Dragon Boating from WikiPedia:

dragon boat (also dragonboat) is a human-powered boat (Paddled Water Craft) traditionally made of teak wood to various designs and sizes. It is one of a family of Traditional Long Boats found throughout Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. It is now used in the team paddling sport of dragon boat racingwhich originated in China over 2000 years ago. While competition has taken place annually for more than 20 centuries as part of folk ritual, it emerged in modern times as an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976. For competition events, dragon boats are generally rigged with decorative Chinese dragon heads and tails. At other times the decorative regalia is usually removed, although the drum often remains aboard for training purposes.
Dragon boat races are traditionally held as part of the annual Duanwu Festival or Duen Ng observance in China. 19th century European observers of the racing ritual, not understanding the significance of Duen Ng, referred to the spectacle as a "dragon boat festival". This is the term that has become known in the West.
Dragonboat festival racing, like Duen Ng, is observed and celebrated in many areas of east Asia with significant populations of ethnic Chineseliving there e.g. SingaporeMalaysiaRiau Islands and Greater China. The date is referred to as the "double fifth" since Duen Ng is reckoned as the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, which often falls on the Gregorian calendar month of June, but also rarely May or July. This is because Dueng Ng is reckoned annually in accordance with the traditional calendar system of China, which is a combination of solar and lunar cycles, unlike the Gregorian calendar system.
In December 2007, the Chinese government added Duen Ng, Qingming and Mid-Autumn festivals to the schedule of national holidays observed in the People's Republic of China, such is the importance of dragonboating to the Chinese today.

Here are some photos I found on the internet of Dragon Boating:

See how forward you have to lean your body, and how far out over the water you have to position yourself?  It is one of the most physically demanding activities I have ever participated in.

Dragon Boat races in Hong Kong.  Oh man, it is my DREAM to go to a dragon boat festival there!

For the races they mount a drum and a dragon head on the front of the boat.  The drum is used to help the team stay in cadence.  Timing is one of the most important aspects of paddling.  If your paddles aren't all hitting the water at the same time your boat is not moving through the water efficiently.  The dragon heads are taken off for practices.  They can be very ornate and they would get wrecked if they were used for daily practices.

The team I joined is a mixed team of men, women and children.  Our common denominator is that we(they) are all families with children from China (although anyone is welcome to join our team).  When I started four years ago we had people in all different stages of China adoption.  People who were waiting.  People with small children(3-4 years old), people with teenagers adopted from China, and even some relatives of people who have adopted.  Joe and I are the only family who are still waiting. The other waiting families went the special needs route and have been home for over a year now.  We have bee assured that whether this adoption pans out or not, we will always have a place on that team.  Love the people we paddle with.

Teams usually have one thing in common with each other.  There are teams made up only of breast cancer survivors.  One team is made up of LAPD women.

Panda Express has their own team.  

Last year there was even a team made up of blind people.  They rocked.  So inspiring. 

I know I have mentioned before that we are a non-competitive team.  As far as I know, we are the only team that holds that title(it's not official, it's just a title we gave ourselves).  We are the only team that has adults and kids in our boat together. All the other teams are either all kids, all female(or male) adults or mixed adults.  Our team is unique.  It also means that we rarely place in the races.  Most of the time we come in last.  We aren't "in it to win it".  We are in it to participate in a an activity that ties into the birth culture of the children we love.  We are in it for the teamwork.  We are in it for the exercise (paddling is HARD work).  It also means we only practice for nine weeks out of the year, leading up to the races.

Some teams practice for 12 weeks.  The more serious teams actually practice year round.

If you are fortunate enough to have Dragon Boat races near where you live, I suggest you go and check them out.  The races are fun to watch and they usually have a festival to go along with them.
You can check out some of my other posts about past Dragon Boat festivals here.  Also, here.  
If you are local, this year the Dragon Boat Festival will be held July 30 and 31 at Marine Stadium in Long Beach.  You can check out the website here for more information.
Here is a pretty cool video that shows what dragon boating is like from a paddler's view(which is pretty cool actually.  Aside from these paddlers being a more serious team than ours, this is pretty much exactly what it's like to be in the boat).


If you live near me and have any interest at all in joining our team, e-mail me at chinaadopter(at)gmail(.com) and I can give you more info.  It doesn't take a huge commitment(you have to attend at least 3 practices and be available for the races the last weekend in July).   Practices are held once a week, on Saturdays through June and some some Sundays in July, for 3 hours  each practice.  Half an hour warm up, then an hour and a half of that is actually in the boat paddling and the other half an hour is spent cleaning the boat.   If you can't paddle for the whole hour and a half we switch out people half way through.  Joe usually gets out half way due to a shoulder injury. I usually stay in for the whole time because I just love it so much.  Kids as young as age 7 can paddle too.

It is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.


Pam and Jeff said...

I just think it is so cool you do this every year. If I was close, I would join. You have inspired me to look at what we have around me. Happy Memorial day weekend!!

Carrie said...

Have a great time-but I have one question what if you have to pee?

Julie said...

Count me in as another person who is impreessed you participate. We have a festival here and I root for my company's team, we always have a team through our Asian employee organization.

Michal said...

I am sooo jealous of your Dragon Boating! I wish we lived close to you so I could do it too!