A DRAGON'S TALE (1998 - 2018)
It all started with the excitement of Dragon Boat racing being introduced to the public at Vancouver’s Expo ‘86. A big push for dragon boating came from the former lieutenant-governor, David Lam, and his business partner, Milton Wong.
They envisioned the races as a way to celebrate cultural diversity and they initiated the first festival in 1989.
In 1998, Gwen Wong, niece of Milton Wong, began her work at Dogwood Pavilion, senior centre for Coquitlam. She enthusiastically proposed a dragon boat team from Dogwood and promoted this with the members.
Kate Zubick inspired prospective members to embrace the sport and helped organize instructional sessions for paddling technique and strength and flexibility training. Newsletters and community newspapers called for interested potential members and a team was formed by November of 1998 to start the season in 1999.
Dryland training started at Dogwood, followed by paddling practice on the inlet.
On the water training, with rented boats, was initially organized at Barnet Marine Park. The coaches were Charlie Wong assisted by Sharon Lum and Mike Younghusband with Gwen Wong as manager.
Of the original 40 members in 1998, three are still with the club; Anne Newsom, Pat Johnston, and Dan Strain! The club has remained as an over 50’s organization, partly to maintain the benefits of an association with Dogwood Seniors.
The club grew slightly in numbers over the next few years and by 2005 there were 55 members. Membership remained relatively steady until 2011 when the numbers rose to 66.
The paddlers have always been a close-knit group and organized many activities outside of just the training and racing:
“Dragon boating gets us outside in our community, together with a diverse group of individuals, keeping fit and learning to be a team”
“Good thoughts have much to do with good paddling. It isn’t enough for the muscles of a crew to work in unison; their hearts and minds must also be as one.” - George Yeoman Pocock (leading designer and builder of racing shells)
Over the years some members organized or participated in adventure trips not directly related to dragon boating. In 2012 a small group travelled to Tanzania, Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. In 2013 another group travelled north for a multi-day canoe trip on the Yukon river and in 2014 a small group hiked and biked the El Camino de Santiago, starting by crossing the Pyrenees into Spain. Other team members stay active and fit by participating in cycling day trips, hiking the local mountains and valleys or cross country skiing.
The “Dogwood Nothin’ Dragging” team entered their first race at the Alcan Regatta in June, 1999 and won gold in the master’s (senior’s event). This was followed by gold medals in 2000 and 2001 at the Alcan masters. Eventually the team name became “Dogwood Nothin’ Dragon” and then was changed to “Nothin’ Dragon Masters” in 2014.
For a number of years two teams were entered in the larger regattas with one team being a more experienced, competitive team and the other made up of more novice paddlers. This worked reasonably well until about 2011 when two equal-strength teams were formed for many of the practices and the larger regattas. The exception is the team entered in the Rio Tinto Alcan Regatta, now called the Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival, by selecting from the stronger, more experienced senior C paddlers who have demonstrated an ability to work as a team.
The Greystone Dragon Boat Races were held at Rocky Point Park in 1999 and 2000 during Golden Spike Days. As many as twenty teams took part in this local regatta.
After the first year the club entered teams in Richmond’s “Rip up the River” regatta and then the Victoria and Kelowna regattas were added to the racing schedule. The “Ladybugs” women’s team was formed in 2002 and raced for two years at Deas Slough before the event was moved to False Creek. The Lotus Club race (later renamed “Bill Alley Memorial”) was added to the racing schedule along with the “Cornucopia race in Kent, Washington. Kent is remembered by many team members for the fantastically clean toilets and the delicious salmon and pasta dinners (not necessarily in that order).
Nanaimo was added as a race destination in 2004 and the Harrison Lake regatta in 2005. White Rock initiated a regatta that lasted until 2007 when stormy weather capsized a number of boats and many paddlers ended up in the ocean. The Taiwanese festival started a dragon boat event in False Creek in 2006 using traditional wooden boats and unique race formats (for e.g. paddling backwards and capture the flag).
White Rock was replaced by the Deep Cove Race for Charity and one team was entered in the Kelowna regatta. In 2010 the team raced at Cultus Lake, but this regatta was short lived. In 2012, the club participated in the B.C. 55+ games at Burnaby Lake and the Penticton regatta replaced Kelowna. A team also attended the Seattle Dragon Boat Festival, which was a lot of fun due in part to the unusual format.
The Canadian Nationals were held at Elk Lake on Vancouver Island in 2013 and the team raced in a 2000 m event for the first time. Dan Strain steered the boat around the tight corners with keen accuracy and helped keep us ahead until the very last lap.
In 2014 the club started sending a team to the Steveston Regatta in place of Seattle. The next year there were enough members to enter boats in both men’s and women’s categories. The B.C. 55+ Senior Games came to Coquitlam in 2016 and both our teams held their own while helping to host the event. It was a great learning experience in preparation for hosting our own regatta in 2018.
We had a full racing schedule again in 2017 and achieved our best result in Victoria in years by winning the seniors race.
All these racing successes and challenges would not have been possible without careful preparation and training and a great deal of thanks goes to the coaches and managers who supported us over the years. The initial few years involved using rented boats with coaching by Charlie Wong, Sharon Lum and Mike Younghusband with Gwen Wong as the manager.
Jackie Webber joined us as coach in 2001 and was followed by Kate Zubick in 2003 with assistance from Jim McArthur. Jim took over as head coach in 2005 with Jack MacIntyre as his assistant. Henrietta Hamming started as manager and has been our greatest supporter ever since.
We needed a new coach in 2012 and were extremely fortunate to connect with Erica McArthur (no relation to Jim). Erica has national and international paddling experience and helped bring the whole team to a new level. She continues to coach the Riverside Rapids high school dragon boat team.
Our current coach is Pam Cornell who comes to us with a strong background of paddling and coaching experience.
With strong and consistent coaching some team members were encouraged to try racing at the national and international levels. In 2014, Brian Asselstine travelled to Ravenna, Italy to compete with a False Creek team at the World Club Crew Championships.
In 2015, Peter Newell and Roz Harrington travelled to Welland, Ontario to compete at the World Nations Championships. In 2016, Peter Newell, Terry Flynn and Roz Harrington travelled with the False Creek Senior C team to Adelaide, Australia to compete at the World Club Crew Championships.
Social events have always been a way to introduce new members to the club and help everyone get to know each other better. Some key events held over the years have included:
- Annual barbecues
- Mardi Gras party
- Hard times party
- Pancake breakfasts
- Christmas parties
- Pub nights
Over the years fund raising has been an integral part of club activities to support community programs and keep the cost of membership as low as possible, while also being fun events for member involvement. Direct sponsorships from individuals and local businesses have helped the club financially and connected us to the community.
Fund raising events have evolved over the years to adapt to the needs of the club and interests of the members. Notable events include:
- Casino nights
- Legion nights
- Plant sales
- Garage sales
- Bottle recycling
- Trivia nights
- Paddling experiences for clubs and businesses
Giving back to the community where we live, work and play has always been important and there have been unique opportunities for us to offer service by providing:
- Team building paddling opportunities for Kateslem (youth at risk)
- Paddling opportunities for foreign students
- Paddling experiences for community members
- Equipment and logistics support for Riverside High School dragon boat teams
- Coquitlam Crunch administration and logistics support
There you have it, the tale of a dragon boat team that is greater than the sum of its parts, passionate about an active, fun and competitive sport, and invested in our community.
We have been, and continue to be, a team that exemplifies that great quote from John Wooden:
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”