The Anatomy of a Dragon Boat Team


The Anatomy of a Dragon Boat Team- Fateh K.

A calm and temperate Saturday Morning, light wind, the water at Mission Bay glistening a steel blue, and hundreds of warriors armed with paddles preparing for aquatic battle in one of the world’s oldest sports tradition, the Dragon Boat Race.  After a moment of peace, the sound of the primordial yells of the racers resonated in the air, each cry synchronized with the thundering drums leading them followed by a powerful whooshing noise as the racers propelled the boat while vying for position, such an exhilarating experience. And I was only a spectator

On May 4th, the atmosphere was electric as teams representing various local schools, companies and cultural organizations convened on Playa Pacifica at Mission Bay for the 9th Annual Dragon Boat Festival.

I was so astounded by the display of team spirit, grit, camaraderie, and athletic acumen showed by the competitors, that I felt obligated to interview one of the racers to get an understanding about what it takes to be a part of a Dragon Boat Team.  This Is my interview with Mr. Tenshing Honda, Captain of the  San Diego Chinese Historical Museum Musing Dragons.

1. Team Name (Nick Name)?

Musing Dragons

2. What Group Is Your Team Representing?

San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

3. What Inspired Your Team Name?

Not quite sure. I’m a graduate student at UCSD who was asked to coach the team.

4. Why Did You and Your Group Decide to Join the Dragon Boat Race?

I’ve paddled for 6 years (high school and undergraduate at UCLA) so I’m extremely passionate about the sport. A classmate at UCSD in the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies told me about the Musing Dragons and jumped at the offer to paddle. The San Diego Chinese Historical Museum is an important donor to our China Focus club and so to show our thanks we try to fill up boats for the Musing Dragons.

5. How Does a Team Prepare for a Dragon Boat Race (i.e. breakfast, group exercises, superstitions, pep-rally)?

Since our team had never practiced or raced on the water before, I had our team do simulation drills. I broke down the race to starts, powers, and finishes. I taught basic strokes and form to each individual paddler. As for “team spirit”, we definitely had fun with it. I had our team re-use an old high school chant I had: “who are we? _____. What do we do? Stroke it. How do we stroke it? Longer, harder, faster, all night long”. Also, coming off the boats, I had our team form tunnels to congratulate everyone on their effort. Everyone seemed to enjoy our team spirit.

6. What Attributes Must a Team Possess to Win a Race?

Timing, focus, energy, and cohesion. When all four come together your boat glides and there’s nothing like that feeling in the world.

7. What Makes Your Team Unique?

With the exception of two paddlers, no one on our team had ever paddled. We practiced for the first time paddling out to the start line. Even with this challenge we managed to win one race and our times got better by every race (1:25 to 1:14 to 1:12).

8. Lessons Learned from the Competition?

Have fun. I’m a very competitive person but it’s important to enjoy the sport. I hadn’t paddled for 4 years and I forgot how much I missed the sport

9. What Is the Most Rewarding Experience of Participating in the San Diego Dragon Boat Festival?

Seeing my team grow right before my eyes. As I mentioned before, my team had never paddled before. And yet we were very competitive. The time of our last race would have beaten half of the teams at the Festival…very proud moment. Finally, it was incredible to see the selflessness of many of our members. We had about 22 paddlers but people were quick to offer up their seat so their friends could paddle. Very unselfish team.

10. Advice for Future Competitors?

You are only as strong as the weakest person on your boat. Timing is everything and so do all you can to be in sync with everyone on your team, on and off the board to build team chemistry.

Team Musing Dragons

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