Jun 27, 2012 / 5:00 am
There was much laughter, shouting and words of encouragement as members of Penticton’s newest dragon boat team dipped their paddles into the choppy waters of Skaha Lake Tuesday afternoon.
For those standing on the shore watching the Flying Dragons in motion it was an equally happy moment.
“That is a lot of joy that just happened here,” said Tanya Behardien, executive director of the Penticton and District Community Resources Society. “Their teamwork is remarkable.”
The team, comprised of youth and adults with developmental disabilities, is the first of its kind in Penticton and possibly in all of Canada.
It came into being thanks to a donation of $2,500 from HSBC Bank Canada and is supported by the resources society.
The coaching is provided by the Penticton Paddling Center of GO Rowing & Paddling Association of Canada.
Representatives from all three showed up at the Skaha Lake boathouse, where the team trains, for the Tuesday check passing and to watch them in action.
“One of the things we hear from persons with disabilities is they want to do the things other people are doing,” said Behardien. “So this is an opportunity for them to do just that.”
Currently, there are 21 paddlers from throughout the Okanagan and more than 20 volunteers involved
Many of them had never been on the water, let alone in a dragon boat until a few weeks ago. Now they are professionals, said their coach Don Mulhall.
“I am inspired and in awe of the enthusiasm and resilience of the Flying Dragons,” he said. “These paddlers are keen, strong and eager to learn.”
Dragon boat racing is a team event in which paddlers ride in long canoe-like boats with a carved dragon head prow. Each boat has a drummer to keep the team paddling in unison and the winning team is the first to cross the finish line.
The new team joins several in the city made up of breast cancer survivors, seniors, women and other groups.
To improve their skills they practice every Tuesday and Thursday at 4 p.m. at the boathouse. The training involves working on lots of technique, race starts and how to make the boat work as a team.
If the weather permits, they will participate in an exhibition race on Saturday, after about 400 athletes participate in the Okanagan Super Sprints, dragon boat racing sprints on the lake.
By the end of summer they will be ready to compete in the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival, Sept. 7 to 9.
Team member Christine Blanchard knew dragon boating was something she wanted to try after watching it on TV.
"I heard about it and wanted to learn more about it,” she said. “And I like meeting people that have the same thing I have.”
While Tyler Zanatta likes getting exercise and being out on the water.
“I feel like I want to fish or jump in the water and swim, when I’m out there,” he said. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”
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Town of Oliver
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School District 67 - Okanagan Skaha
School District 53 - Okanagan Similkameen
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