Oliver & Osoyoos  

Dragon Boaters make a splash with flag race on Osoyoos Lake

Paddlers race for the flag

The Osoyoos Lake Paddling Club held its fourth annual Flag Race last weekend with close to 250 paddlers making a splash in the waters off of Legion Beach Park.

Ten visiting teams joined this year from Penticton, Kelowna and Fort Langley, “so we’re Okanagan plus,” says Jill Palmer from the Osoyoos Lake Paddling Club.

She says the whole point of the creating this event was to have it on the shoulder season and to “bring people into town for two night stays at the hotels in their shoulder season.”

She says the aim is to try and “give back to the town,” something that wasn’t possible during the pandemic, but did resume last year.

She adds that special room rates are secured at Watermark Beach Resort, Richter Pass Motel and Safari Beach Motel where the event is hosted.

Palmer notes that this event is unique in the country as it is the only “flag race” in Canada.

She explains that it’s not about crossing the finish line first, it’s about grabbing a flag. “There’s a flag catcher in the boat that actually has to grab the flag,” as the boat crosses the finish line. The first team to raise their flag is the winner.

She says this was actually how dragon boating started. “So we thought it would be something unique to ask us.”

She adds that these are short 250 metre races and after they are done, they hold two kilometre races which she says are more popular in the sport.

Once the racing finishes the paddlers retreat to the beach where wineries from the Similkameen offer tastings and dinner catered by Oliver Eats. “So it’s a full day event,” she says adding there is entertainment in the evening. “It’s not your typical race where you race and then go home.”

When it comes to the sport Palmer says amateur recreational, is very popular in Canada. So too is “survivorship” where women’s breast cancer teams are very predominant in both Canada and the US but not so much elsewhere in the world. One such team competed in this year’s racing.

And then there are elite levels that are run through Dragon Boat Canada. There are two certified coaches in Osoyoos of which Palmer is one of them.

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