Novice Dragonboat Competition in Lake Merritt (2019)

Dragon boat in Lake Merritt in Oakland, California
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Since I had so much fun in 2018 Dragon Boat festival, I decided to join for a second year on my workplace's team in the novice dragon boat competition at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. The team practiced only twice after work in the Foster City lagoon, teaching first timers proper form, verbal commands, and paddling in unison as one team. The basic concept of rowing is easy to learn, but much more practices is required to mastering advanced techniques. The corporate teams are led by leader who drum and steer that are from one of more professional teams.

Dragon Boat Practices

We practices a bit on shore to learn the commands. Learn how to properly sit on the boat with your side flush against the edge of the boat. Learn when your paddle should enter and exit water and the ideal angles. Then the rest of the time is confirming the team fully understands the verbal commands and can paddle together as one team. As a novice team, we only get a couple of practices. Those two practices both led to sore arms the day after, but there was clear improvement in how well the team paddled.

Also, gives a basic idea of what dragon boating is like. Such as you will get wet. It is a water sport. So wear appropriate fast drying clothing.

Competition Day

It's a long day, with many teams competing for medals. Based on my observations, there were at least 50 novice teams. Each team has at least 20 rowers and a drummer and steerer. So there are at least 1000 individuals on the dragon boat crew plus friends and family, all at Lake Merritt. Our teams drummer and steersman are experienced dragon boaters, borrowed from a competition team.

The races are done in heats, with 6 boats (the same boat with different crew) to determine which teams race in the final. Each team races three times, with the final race being the medal placing race to determine first, second, and third place for each heat of six teams. Each team needs to paddle out to the start line where the race starts. This year, the wind was fairly strong, so a couple of races required multiple tries to properly align the boat. They drift, especially with novice teams that don't all respond to the commands. Overall, it's a great experience on the water.

The main thing is that race day is much faster than practices. Also much noisier with commands, drums, and yelling from all the other six boats. It's much more difficult to hear the commands on the boat.

Dragon Boat Festival

In addition to the dragon boat races, there is a stage with cultural presentations, food stalls, vendors, and information booths from companies. Between races, there is plenty of time to both grab a bite to eat, check out the booths, and buy some merchandises. This year, there was a photo booth with photos taken from a photographer on a booth and from a camera mounted on a drone flying around the lake.

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