Northern BC paddlers launch new competitive team

Dragon boaters in northwest B.C. formed a new team this year and are practicing to compete in the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival in July 8-10.

The Lakelse Dragon Boaters launched their boat on May 14

Northern dragon boaters are launching a new competitive team this year, steering for the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival in July 8-10.

Called the Northwest Wave Riders, the team has eight Terrace paddlers as well as five from Kitimat, two from Prince Rupert, and eight from Smithers.

“We don’t have a lot of chance to compete in this area any more. There used to be yearly regattas in Prince Rupert and Kitimat and Terrace but for the last two years, Terrace has been the only one. Some of us were just wanting to get a chance to compete at bigger venues,” said Pam Bibby, president of the Lakelse Dragon Boat Society.

The idea of forming a northwest team was sparked at the senior games last year, as the northern group was chatting around drinks. Several of the Prince Rupert paddlers had competed in Nanaimo and said they really enjoyed it, so this January, Bibby sent out invitations to paddlers in the north to see if there were enough paddlers interested.

The team formed with 23 paddlers, who practiced on the Prince Rupert harbour May 8 and on Tyee Lake near Smithers May 15.

“It’s been great. It’s a really nice group of people,” Bibby said. She added that they are pleased with the commitment from the paddlers, who are willing to travel between communities and committed to the time and cost involves in the Nanaimo competition.

The northwest team plans to practice once a week in June to get ready for the races in Nanaimo at the beginning of July.

On another front, the local Lakelse Dragons team launched their boat onto the water for the first time a few weeks ago, paddling it from Water Lily Bay to their moorage location. Bibby said they enjoyed “a lovely paddle,” gliding through glassy calm water with the sun on their backs.

Paddling from May to mid-September, the Lakelse Dragons hit the water every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon and are offering an introduction course on May 29 for any new paddlers interested in joining the team. Bibby said the team also paddles for Relay for Life and Riverboat Days, and if community groups or businesses want to try paddling for a team building exercise, they can rent the boat and a few seasoned paddlers during the season. The season wraps up with the Lakelse Dragon Boat Regatta at Furlong Bay on Sept. 10.

Bibby said that the teamwork and camaraderie is one of the aspects she enjoys most about dragon boating.

“It’s very much a team sport,” she said. “Unlike a lot of sports where everybody has a different position on the team, if you are on a dragon boat team, everyone is doing the same thing and that is paddling. You very much work as a team together, rather then relying on a good pitcher or a good thrower.”

Last year the Lakelse Dragons had 39 paddlers and they hope for more this season, including men. Those interested in the introduction course on May 29 can contact Terrace Leisure Services at 250-615-3000.