The Lakelse Dragons at Waterlily Bay following a sunny paddling session Wednesday

The Lakelse Dragons at Waterlily Bay following a sunny paddling session Wednesday

Lakelse Dragons let it ride

The public is invited to try dragon boating tonight at Waterlily Bay

People who live along the banks of Lakelse Lake may have noticed a curiously chipper voice echoing across the lake last Wednesday night.

“Paddles up!” “Take it away…” “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…” “Stroke, stroke, dig deep!” “Let it ride…”

That’s not an army regiment or an unconventional tour guide, that’s Carole Marcellin, coach of the Lakelse Dragons dragon boating team, leading her crew in drills and endurance tests across the lake with the help of a new PA system and her sometimes sassy husband Bob on the steer.

Dragon boating sees 18 to 22 athletes sit side-by-side in a large canoe, with a coach/drummer at the bow and a steersperson in the stern. Races run 200 to 1,000 metres and take between two and four minutes to complete.

Forty women and men are officially on the dragon boat roster, with about half of the team meeting twice weekly to get out on the water for fun, teambuilding, and exercise.

And it is a workout. Veteran paddler Anne Dopson says that people usually think dragon boating is “a piece of cake,” and while it is an accessible sport, learning the proper technique takes practice and focus.

Pam Bibby, another leader on the team, laughs talking about a group of young men who recently paddled with the team who were shocked at the crew’s strength – and had a hard time keeping up.

On a clear day like last Wednesday and with a full boat, the team was averaging a speed of about 12 kilometres an hour when going all in. Sessions alternate short one-two minute adrenaline-filled bursts, with cruising sessions and fun drills – like paddling backwards, which is harder than you think – in between. Each team has a different style of training, and the Dragons appear lighthearted, spirited fans of healthy competition.

Typically there are a handful of regattas a year that allow northwest dragon boaters to test their skills, but this year a number of events were cancelled or altered, meaning the 9th Annual Lakelse Regatta at the end of the summer at Furlong Bay is the go-to northwest dragon boating event.

The team is always on the lookout for new members – the Dragons hosted a beginner session earlier in the summer that resulted in a flock of new members and will be hosting a “Get Dragon Boating” Riverboat Days event tonight, Aug. 6, at Waterlily Bay for those who want to try it out.

Experience isn’t necessary and all ages and skill levels are welcome and encouraged. And if you can’t try it out tonight, get in touch with the team, they’re happy to take out new recruits or host team building events for groups or workplaces.