Regional team launches boat in first competition

The northwest women’s dragon boating team launched its boat with enthusiastic shouts at its first competition in Nanaimo early this month.

The Northwest Wave Riders enthusiastically embraced the challenge at its first competition in Nanaimo early this month. The team formed in May this year and includes paddlers from Terrace

The regional women’s dragon boating team launched its boat with enthusiastic shouts at its first competition in Nanaimo earlier this month.

Placing 14th out of 40 competitive women’s teams, the Northwest Wave Riders has 25 women from Smithers, Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert, and stood out at the competition for their breadth and commitment.

Pam Bibby, one of the paddlers from Terrace, said a lot of competitors in Nanaimo were amazed that the regional team dynamics worked, with players from different communities across the north traveling large distances to paddle and practice.

“They were quite amazed that we could have a team like that, that would come from all those different communities and take the time and make the commitment to practice together and stuff,” Bibby said.

The team was also noticed for their shouts and cheers.

“Our crew tends to be quite noisy when we race,” said Bibby. “We do a lot of shouting encouragement to each other and stuff like that… We came off one race and the team that was paddling next to us said ‘Are you guys always that noisy when you paddle?’” she laughed.

Shouting encouragement helps motivate and focus the team, but it’s also a gust of life in another way.

“When you are paddling really hard, just yelling helps to make you breathe,” Bibby said, “because sometimes you forget and hold your breath.”

This was the first competition for the Wave Riders, a team that formed in May this year with a core of 15 Senior Games’ paddlers and a handful of others in the north who were itching to compete.

“We really came together as a team [at the competition],” Bibby said, noting that with a group of experienced riders it was not hard to gel.

“Lots of times dragon boaters are used to hopping into different boats and paddling with different people, because that’s the nature of what happens at regattas and fun events,” she added. “Everybody just adapts as needed.”

Still, the team had to find their race pace (how fast they stroke) and figure out their starts (the pattern of short quick strokes they use to lift the boat on top of the water).

But the team coach, Terri Taylor from Kitimat, provided strong leadership to organize the team, which practiced several times throughout May and June as they steered for the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival on July 8 to 10.

Bibby said the boats had to battle undercurrents from the harbour tide which made for an added challenge. They also faced quickly shifting weather patterns.

“We paddled in pouring rain, and wind and everything,” Bibby said.

But boaters enjoyed the challenge and made the best of it, and the atmosphere was fun and upbeat, she concluded.

There are two upcoming dragon boating events in Terrace: For those who want to dip a paddle and try out the sport, there are two free sessions at Furlong Bay at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m next Sunday, Aug. 7. The annual Lakelse Dragon Boat Regatta will take place Sept. 10.