Paddlers get ready to take to the water

An exciting season of paddling awaits the local dragon boat community.

Vernon Rowing and Paddling Centre has been offering programs on Swan Lake for 13 years, and 2011 promises huge growth for its dragon boat program.

VRPC manager Lisa George said thanks to the generous support of the City of Vernon, and Go Rowing and Paddling Association of Canada, an additional dragon boat and new lifejackets and paddles will be arriving at the centre in the spring.

“The timing for the arrival of this new equipment is perfect, demand for our programs are at a record high, and this allows me to build on the enormous paddling potential of our centre,” she said. “The local community has certainly discovered that rowing and paddling on Swan Lake is the perfect fit for water lovers. Rich in bird life, tranquil, breathtakingly beautiful and serene, Swan Lake is a little jewel in Vernon.”

Dragon boating is perfectly suited to all ages and abilities. Each team consists of up to 25 paddlers and the sport is renowned for creating teams with strong spirit and a sense of fun. It is ideal for school paddling sessions that can be themed to include the environment and history, competitive teams can focus towards training for festivals, and corporate teams have access to team building. Also, for the first time, Vernon is putting together a mixed dragon boat team to participate in the 2011 BC Seniors Games in Nelson in August.

“We paddle from May to mid-September, all equipment and coaching is provided and have a centre that offers perfect access to the water,” said George.

Breast cancer survivor teams have become synonymous with dragon boating. Ground-breaking research by Dr. Don McKenzie, a sports medicine physician at UBC, proved that breast cancer survivors avoided associated medical complications through the repetitive upper-body exercise of dragon boat paddling.  Survivor teams are now established in communities world-wide, including the Buoyant Buddies in Vernon. Formed in 2003, the team has competed at three International Dragon Boat Festivals and numerous local events.

“Being a breast cancer survivor and taking up a sport like paddling can feel like a very daunting idea at first, but you soon learn that the sport is extremely good exercise and fun,” said team manager Jennifer Drozda. “There is a great feeling of camaraderie within the team and we’re always there for each other.”

Suzann Worth, coach of Vernon’s Dragon Riders, said her team is looking forward to the new season.

“Dragon Riders has an incredible team who has been competing for over five years and look forward to the coming season. Dragon boating is a great sport for all skill levels. It gets people out and having fun while getting a great workout. Each season brings new opportunities and challenges and we are always looking for new faces.

For more information, see www.vernonrowingandpaddling.com or come to the free open house May 14 from 10 a.m. to noon and see what all the fun is about.