This year marks 11 years of me dragon boating. As I was on the water last night, freezing my butt off and listening to my coach talk I decided to reflect on what that means to me. 11 years is a LONG paddling career. It also represents some of my best memories and it’s a sport has blessed me with some of the best friends and most wonderful people I have ever had the privilege to meet and train with.
I have cried, laughed, been in pain, celebrated and faced defeat in this sport. I have gone to Florida to train, watched my fellow teams members get married and have children. Paddlers have come and gone but the core group of us still remain either on the boat on in touch. I met my husband in the first two years of dragon boating and we still paddle together today, although I keep saying I am going to retire.
I have paddled on highly competitive teams, women’s only crews, drummed, coxed and sat in every seat on the boat at least once. I have also had great coaches over the years all with differing styles and approaches to the sport. It’s a sport that can allow you to be as competitive as you want or as recreational as you want. It has ego’s and ringers’ and races can come down to a photo finish.
I have paddled in the rain, the heat, in snow. I have done 200 meter to 2,000 meter races. I have been frozen on the water, been soaked and boiled. But, I have never capsized (for which I am GRATEFUL).
But the most beautiful part of the sport is that anyone can do it. I have paddled with breast cancer crews, and these ladies work hard. They have all been through traumatic health changes and all carry a resounding spirit of hope and health. The support network is unlike anything I have ever seen in a sport.
My body has broken down over the years. I started as a left side paddler and am not on the right side. But, despite the hiccups and aches and pains, the tears I have had on my butt from the seat I still keep coming back. You adapt, you weight train and learn new ways to deal with the less than pleasant sides of the sport.
Like any team sport, there are negatives and politics. But, I choose not to focus on that and keep with me the memories and medals, the relationships and stories that the sport has brought to my life.
I keep saying this is my last year, but every year I am still drawn back to the water. I think I am sucker for punishment.