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Dragon boat practices and races available in Kingston

The Limestone City Dragon Boat Club in Kingston holds practices on Monday to Thursday nights in the summer.
The Limestone City Dragon Boat Club in Kingston holds practices on Monday to Thursday nights in the summer.

Kingston hasn’t escaped from the growing national fascination with dragon boating. Local dragon boat competition culminates downtown in the annual Kingston Dragon Boat Festival at Douglas Fluhrer Park. Now in its 13th year, the event on Saturday was at capacity with 27 teams.

“It went through some difficult years but has shown some growth,” organizer Ross Cameron said. “[The festival] has survived.”

There’s not a steep learning curve among rookie boaters, he said.

“It’s not something where you need a whole bunch of rules.”

For Cameron, Kingston is one of the best places to paddle on the dragon boat circuit. During the festival, boats dock at the south end of Fluhrer Park and the Kingston Marina Docks.

An added bonus of the burgeoning sport is that it’s a fun way to stay in shape.

“These people get a really good workout, and [festival] races are all 500 metres,” Cameron said.

According to Cameron, competitiveness varies among dragon boating participants.

“We have a police team with people that take it very seriously and train year round,” he said. “But there are some people who come who just train once a year just to enjoy it.”

Small prizes are awarded to winning dragon boat teams in the local festival, with the top three teams receiving medals.

“The prizes are secondary,” Cameron said.

The tournament isn’t usually boring for spectators Last year one dragon boat team overtook another to win

by centimetres.

Kelly Walter, ArtSci ’11, is the captain of a dragon boat team in her hometown of Milton, Ont.

Walter began her career in dragon boating accidentally.

“It was just something my neighbour had started and needed people for,” she said.

Since her random introduction to the sport, she’s now been recreationally and competitively participating for six years.

“My mom was a captain, then I took over the team,” she said.

Walter appreciates dragon boat racing because it offers adventure that can’t be found in other sports.

“Races are only a minute but come the end of it, your arms feel like they’re going to fall into the water and you have this adrenaline rush,” she said. “You don’t normally get a chance to do something like that.”

This adrenaline rush might seem to appeal more to a younger demographic but Walter said this wasn’t always the case.

“When I [started], it was actually more common among the elderly but now there’s more young people doing it,” she said. “All my friends are addicted.”

Dragon boating doesn’t necessarily have to be very difficult.

“I find it challenging because I make it challenging, but it doesn’t have to be,” she said. “You can paddle leisurely ... it really depends on what you want to get out of it.” Of course, a leisurely paddle is completely inappropriate for a short race, Walter said.

“If you want to do the best in a race you do a fast-paced technique but you can also do lengthier and slower strokes. You can’t keep up a sprint in a 2,000 metre race,” she said.

Dragon boat racing’s rising popularity can ultimately be attributed to its uniqueness.

“In our culture now people get creative with their fitness, and people like a different form of exercise,” Walter said.

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