Now if you haven't paddled in many years, or if you haven't paddled at all, have no fear., Andrew, October 2015
I first started dragonboat back in 2009, when I was 17 and a senior in high school. I had the great fortune of paddling with Ross as head coach, Tony steering, and in my first and only race with the Balboa team, we took first place in the D division at the Lake Merced youth race, beating out the team from Alameda High (sup Jimmy).
And then I stopped. I couldn't compete with the team at Treasure Island after graduating, and it seemed like I had left my paddling days behind. I enjoyed four fantastic years in college, and didn't look back. I had completely forgotten about dragonboat.
Fast forward to June of 2015, and out of the blue, my mom asked if I wanted to join the Wells Fargo dragonboat team. I hadn't paddled in years, and I was nowhere near conditioned enough to race, but I could still remember the rush of adrenaline from my high school days. And so I answered with an emphatic YES!
I was looking forward to getting back on the water, to race, to paddle, to compete, and to win. I wanted to know more about their team, so I asked for practice times and contact info for the coaches. My mom got back to me with the details. They were a novice team, meaning they could only practice 3 times before racing. I gave my mom the "are you serious?" face: -__-
At that point, I was having second thoughts. I told her I wanted to think about it, and in the meantime, started looking for other, non-novice teams to paddle with. I work for the City and County of San Francisco, so I figured to ask around there first.
Of course, nobody knew anything.
A little over a week later, as I was losing hope and really considering joining the Wells team, I had the great fortune of reconnecting with some high school friends, friends who had also been part of Balboa's dragonboat team. One had apparently become one of the coaches for Balboa's new team. We agreed to meet at the lake, and suddenly I was right back where I had started, so many years ago. I was quickly reintroduced to Tony and Coach Ross, who, of course, said I should come back and join the Kaiser team. And I, instead of joining Wells' corporate novice team, dove headfirst into Kaiser's competitive team. I quickly made arrangements to come out to one of their practices, just to get my feet wet.
On that first practice, the boat pushed out something like 6 race pieces. My feet were wet. Very wet. And sore too! Well, I was sore all over.
But still, I felt like I had never stopped paddling. I had so much fun that I started going out to the lake more and more. One practice per week soon became two, which quickly led to 3, and while I joined too late to compete at Long Beach, I was amazed at the team I had joined. They were fun, quick with their jokes, and hypercompetitive, and I wanted a place on the team. I recruited two friends to the team, one with no experience, and one who hadn't paddled since college. They were both immediately thrown into the fire. Or boat, if you will.
And we all came together to race at Treasure Island. I had never paddled there, so I had no idea what to expect. Actually, I hadn't paddled any place other than Lake Merced, and I was surprised to see that water could somehow be clear enough to see through (lol).
In any case, we fought through two tough days and several races, and ultimately came away with a gigantic silver medal for our second place finish in the Competitive Rec B division. It's been over a month, and I still don't know what to do with it. Do I frame it? Should I hang it on my dog? Wear it to work? These are some of the questions I ask myself when I wake up.
Now if you haven't paddled in many years, or if you haven't paddled at all, have no fear. The Healers are an amazing team that takes any and all comers, and I am lucky and grateful to be a part of this team. Next year can't come soon enough!