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Dragon Boat racing coming to Vancouver Island following international success

The growing sport of dragon boat racing in Canada just reached international success and will be celebrated in Comox next month.

According to VI Paddling president Tom Arnold, it is a very intense sport that requires a lot of coordination, timing and teamwork.

“Dragon boating is basically a giant canoe, and there’s two styles that are raced most in the world. There’s what’s called ‘standard boat’ which is 20 paddlers plus a drummer and a steer person and then there’s what’s called ‘small boat’ which is 10 paddlers, a drummer and a steer person,” he said.

“It’s a sprint sport, so our longest races are two kilometres, but we also race one kilometre, 500 metres, 200 metres.”

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The sport began in China and is very popular around the world but is not very well known in Canada, according to Arnold. However, he says the feeling of racing the boats is very addicting and it is growing fast in Canada.

That was made evident in the recent world championships, where Arnold says the Canadian team “swept” the competition. He added that 30 Canadians from Vancouver Island were selected to join the national team and compete in Thailand.

“At the competition, Canada absolutely cleaned up. We took 52 gold medals, we won the overall cup, we won cups for best winner, best junior team, best senior team,” said Arnold.

“It’s exciting for us not only to have 30 Vancouver Island paddlers named to the national team, but to get to stand on top of the podium in that moment, having ‘O Canada’ play for them knowing that they’re the best in the world is just exciting.”

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The growth is also signified in its roots, which Arnold says started in the mid-1980s to end racism and later became popular for people fundraising for breast cancer research.

Following the success of the international competition, VI Paddling is hosting the Comox Dragon Boat Festival on Sept. 16. at the Comox Marina.

It has been held before as a part of Nautical Days, but Arnold says it is an all-new event this year and will feature 24 teams from all over the Island and the mainland. The action will comprise of 200 metre races, which are the shortest distance, but Arnold says that is not a letdown.

“It’s one of the hardest races. If you think about sprinting all out, everything you’ve got and trying to do that for 40 to 45 seconds, that’s what this race is,” said Arnold.

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Races will be done in both the standard and small boats and they encourage you to come out and experience what the sport has to offer.

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