What is Dragon Boating?
For those unfamiliar with the sport, dragon boating simply put, is a boat of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steers person paddling to cross the finish faster than their competition. It’s a team sport in its purest form that encompasses the elements of power, speed, synchronization and endurance.
With its beginnings in Southern China, dragon boating today is the fastest growing international team water sport. Each year, race festivals are held around
the world in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States, one of the largest festivals in the North America is held right here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The appeal to dragon boating is mainly contributed to the sport’s ability to accommodate a wide spectrum of skill levels ranging from novice to competitive. At the novice and recreational level, teams often form as a means of social outlet, team building and an alternative means of exercise.
For the spectator, the true display of the sport’s intensity and skill is witnessed in the competitive ranks. Competitive paddlers rigorously train to condition themselves in the areas strength, endurance, form, mental focus and most importantly timing. Teams with well conditioned paddlers in near perfect synchronization, fueled by competition, provides an impressive event of a cascade of boats exploding through the water. At this level dragon boat racing becomes a sport of inches and an exciting event for its spectators.
The Origin Of Dragon Boating
Dragon boat racing is one of the earliest known forms of boat racing and is celebrated at festivals and races throughout the world. This annual celebration is a symbol of Chinese culture and spirit and is one of the three largest festivals in China. The roots of dragon boat racing go back over 2,000 years to the southern provinces of China.
Legend has it that Qu Yuan, a scholar and advisor to the emperor of the Chu Kingdom, jumped into the Mei Lo (Mi Luo) River in despair and protest against government corruption. Local fishermen raced out in their boats to save him. They beat drums and pounded their paddles on the river’s waters and threw rice dumplings wrapped in lotus leafs into the river to distract the fish from eating from Qu Yuan’s body. Dragon boating evolved from the re-enactment of this legend at annual festivals.
GCD Alumni Newsletter
Author: Crystal Chung
“Paddlers are you ready? Attention please, GO!” The horn sounds. We take our first four strokes and our boat launches forward, blasting away from the starting line.
Established in 2002, Galileo Celestial Dragons is one of the top high school dragon boat teams in the Bay Area, and is constantly growing. To put it simply, we paddle. Although not recognized as a school district sport, dragonboat is a water sport in which a crew of 20 paddlers is on a boat consisting of 10 rows, with 2 people in each row; the crew on the boat works together and paddles for certain distances, for the best time. In the past, GCD has been privileged enough to paddle against and even with the best college, adult, and high school teams in Vancouver, Long Beach, Macau, and also here in the Bay Area.
Within these 13 years, GCD has improved immensely through consistent intense training, without neglecting fun and bonding together as a family. In 2009, GCD dominated the Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival, taking 1st place in both the High School A&B Divisions, becoming the first youth team to be in the Grand Championship two years in a row, and placing 2nd in the whole competition. Last season (2013-2014), we placed 3rd in High School A division and even raced against our own coaches in mixed A division in the Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival. This season so far, we placed 3rd in High School A division at the Treasure Island International Dragon Boat Festival, and were the first Galileo crew to ever medal in A division at this particular race.
Training together, getting faster, as one team, with emphasis on doing so together, is one of our main goals this year. One of if our alumni coaches, Michael Wang, once told us, “a crew is only as fast as its slowest paddler”. With that in mind, our alumni, and coaches, Andrew Young, and Frederick Au, devote their own time in helping our team improve as paddlers and grow as people. Throughout this season, we strive to live by #2015THEDREAM, dedicating ourselves and giving our all to becoming one of the best, if not the best team, in all our races of the 2015 race season— starting with the San Francisco International Dragonboat Festival at Treasure Island in September, to the Vancouver Rio Tinto Alcan Dragonboat Festival in June, and ending with The Long Beach International Dragonboat Festival in July. At these events, we are privileged to race against some of the top adult and youth international dragonboat teams and gain valuable race experience. On another note, these races and trips are great opportunities to form new bonds with other teams, and lifelong memories with fellow teammates.
As our our first race of 2015 approaches in April, we are continuing to train hard with three water practices a week and daily dry land workouts. We strive to work hard together, support each other, and push ourselves past mental and physical barriers to become stronger, faster, all to work towards being the best and closest crew out there.
As one of our sophomore paddlers, Claudio Aldag says, “The most successful teams don’t ever have it easy; they constantly push themselves to their limit because they know success is EARNED, not GIVEN. I want us to have an inseparable bond with each other so we can succeed as one, not many, and so that we can truly call this team a family. A family sticks together because they support each other, no matter what they go through.” Aldag’s words are strongly supported by his fellow teammates who all share the same dogma. Because we devote a majority of our time training as a team, GCD is not only a high school dragonboat team, but for most paddlers, GCD is a second family. “Each and everyone of us can rely on each other as brothers and sisters. Along with that, I strongly believe paddling with someone you know that is going to back you up is better than paddling with someone you don’t know, which is why I strive for the team to become one and paddle as one,” says Mia Fung, Junior paddler, and team historian. Together, we have endured tough practices and losses, cherished memorable dinners, and achievements. GCD is not restricted to a team of current paddlers, but is a family– a community, of past, present, and future paddlers. Being surrounded by some of the most supportive, motivating, and positive people has encouraged many paddlers to grow as people and leaders.
Upcoming 2017 races:
Youth Race: TBD, Lake Merced, 1 Harding Drive, SF
Sprint Race: TBD
Long Beach Dragonboat Festival: July 29-30, Marine Stadium, Long Beach, CA
Northern California International Dragon Boat Festival: September 23-24, Lake Merritt, Oakland