H²0 Open: Back on the Water!

Paddling season has started back in full force (pun intended ;)) with the Verdun Dragon Boat Club’s four competitive teams gearing up for the first trifecta of the Triple Crown; the H²0 Open!

Group pic

As weather forecasts fluctuated between inclement weather, rain showers and sporadic clear skies, we all crossed our fingers that the dragon boat deities would smile down some sunny weather.

Alas it was not meant to be, and the full first half of the races were competed in the pouring rain! Ah, such is the reality of an outdoor sport.

Alex pic - group

Paddlers valiantly warmed up between the raindrops, boarded their boats, and set off to break some new timings for the 500m races of the day, cheered on by their comrades huddled under the Verdun DBC tent.

Moving to Smaller Boats

Verdun’s competitive Force team has the Pan Am Dragon Boat Federation races (March 2019 in Trinidad and Tobago) on their radar, so with the recent shift to small boats instead of the standard 20-paddler boats, opted to race in the 10-paddler vessels. What a difference that was! Balancing in precarious smaller boats which are more susceptible to changes in waves or wind, it took a lot of preparation on the part of Coaches Ira E. Lax and Sheri Cameron to find the optimal paddler line-ups.


And these races were against some pretty serious contenders, many of whom had either competed in or were prepping for Nationals in Hungary. The fact that Verdun’s teams held their own against such top athletes said a lot about boat connection and paddler effort.

Verdun Women: “We May be Pretty, but We’re Tough!”

New Force Captain Marie-Claude Brassard noted how the Verdun Women’s sports team demonstrated incredible cohesiveness as they raced in the pouring rain.

With fierce former Nationals paddler, Coach Sheri Cameron, at the helm, they sliced a full 70 milliseconds off their best timing, going from 2:37,89 in their first race to 2:37,19 in the final heat. And as we know in racing, every second counts.


While Verdun Women didn’t place in the final heat (although they came in first place for the first race!), the final race was elegance and athletic prowess personified! Video footage shows a strong start and steady creeping up on the other teams, matching them, and then shooting ahead with power and connection, finishing a full boat length’s ahead! As paddler Petula Jurasek commented, “We may be pretty, but we’re Tough”.

Verdun’s competitive men’s team, Brute Force, showed some true stride in cutting a full three seconds off their best timing, incorporating Coach Ira Lax’s feedback of “Slower, but longer strokes”. Improving their race results from 2:34,11 to 2:31,86, the blue and white team colors of Verdun were worn with pride!

The Epic Race- Force Vs…. Force?

And speaking of blue and white…

With the challenge of trying to fit Force paddlers into smaller boats, it was decided to register Two teams of Force, Division White and Division Blue, to allow more to have a chance to paddle. Each mini-team cheered one another on…until the second race.


Verdun Force: Two Crews, One Team

The  sun surprised all by arriving mid-day, just in time for the second heat. And that’s where the drama began.

Due to their comparable timings, Verdun’s two Force crews would be racing…against one other!

Brute Force

Eyeing each other with mock aggressiveness, the two divisions warmed up together. But once they boarded their respective boats, it was all business.

Steered by Coaches Sheri and Ira respectively, the Verdun White and Verdun Blue each beat their timings from the first race. From an initial 2:35,43 to a respectable 2:33,08, the lighter Verdun White boat jutted out from the start line with an impressive start, maintaining a good lead relative to the other teams. Verdun Blue kept pace, and at the end, shot ahead, pushing ahead of their teammates at the final buoy.

What a dramatic race! As Coach Ira said, Verdun Force: Two Crews, One Team.

Alex pic2

It was a great bonding experience for Verdun’s paddlers, many for whom this was the first race.

United once again as Verdun Blue&White, the club engaged in their second favorite past-time after paddling: some serious chowing down at the post-race club potluck.

Competition, Comaraderie – and Community

Community is the name of the game at Verdun, and the sense of camaraderie, support, cheering on fellow paddlers, and exchanging tricks of the trade can be seen at all practices and races.

Group pic

This sense of community spirit was also symbolically present during the H²0 Open itself, as for the first time, five humanitarian teams were given the chance to race. Representing the Old Brewery Mission, Mission Bon Accueil, Dans La Rue, and other homeless shelters, groups were given the chance to engage in the incredible team bonding sport that is dragon boating.

Paddles Up!



Verdun goes Blue…and Green! Adventures at Montreal’s 195th St. Patrick’s Day Parade

What do you get if you put together yoga mats, plastic fencing, election posters, old CDs, and, oh, two golf carts? Why, a dragon boat, of course!

Marc holding up our makeshift dragon boat clubs while sporting the Verdun DBC Hoodie.

The Verdun Dragon Boat Club won the hearts, admiration, and quite possibly, People’s Choice Awards (still to be confirmed), at Montreal’s annual St Patrick’s Day Parade, with an elaborate and painstakingly created replica of a dragon boat!

But back it down, as we say on the boat, and let’s take it from ‘Paddles Up!’…

Let us Set the Stage…

While discussing the upcoming summer competition schedule and ways of increasing visibility in the community, the Verdun exec team had a brainwave; why not take part in the largest St. Patrick’s day celebration across North America? That would be sure to turn a couple of heads (and potentially recruit us some new paddlers).

While originally it was to be a modest affair (a couple of festive balloons, some business cards, a paddle or three for kicks), a crazy idea emerged: why not instead of just talking about dragon boating, we demonstrated it in an actual boat?

This was just too crazy an idea to pass up, so a couple of brave souls accepted to take on the challenge.

And so the collection of random building materials began, because honestly; how does one even begin to build a portable dragon boat?!

Assembling the head for our Dragon Boat! Saint Patrick Day Parade
Scene 1: The Build

On a chilly Sunday morning in February, a valiant group of paddlers-slash-imagineers (including power couple Beatriz and Emir and the formidable rightie-leftie team of Marian and Randy) reported for duty at Forewoman Tammy’s garage-turned-boat-building-studio. We surveyed our amassed assortment of repurposed silk curtains, wooden dowels, CD-ROMS, plastic netting, swimming noodles, election posters, and old yoga mats (shout out to Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) as well as Tammy’s artistic daughter, Dominique, for her insight and assistance).

Tammy admiring our brand new Dragon Boat tail!

Much calculating, painting, cutting, calculating, constructing, evaluating, and did I mention, calculating?, and hair drying painted sections led to ferocious dragon heads and tails being crafted. Side panels laid with meticulously measured and laid out reams of CD-ROMS doubled as scales (Tammy’s husband Matt, peeked in on occasion, but then wisely withdrew when he saw what was taking place…).

Five long hours later, something broadly resembling a dragon boat was starting to take shape!Using CDs to create the scales of the boat.

After evaluating countless options (Plans C through F to balance looks with portability over 6 kilometers in unpredictable weather), we finally settled on Plan G. The final result boasted a dramatic dragon head and tail formed of painted yoga mats reinforced by corrugated election posters, and separated by a silk curtain body ornamented by scales and waves, connected by swimming noodles. Does Verdun know how to go green, or what?

The volunteers at the Dragon boat workshop.

The structure was bolstered by shoulder straps for those ‘paddling’ in the boat and was quite the impressive sight! Appropriately clothed in lab coats and making use of Tammy’s vast array of art supplies, from double-sided tape to super-glue and sparkly paint, the boat was beginning to come alive!

Carrying the boat to the Saint Patrict Day parade

Scene 2: The Assembly

A follow-up meeting was dedicated to the IKEA-like assembly of the boat which had to be both portable and collapsible; no small feat! Many tweakings, run-throughs, evaluations, and endless supplies of tiebacks and humankind’s greatest invention, duct tape, later… and behold! We had ourselves a veritable, bonafide dragon boat!

Verdun Dragon Boat at the Saint Patrict Day parade 2018 in Montreal.
Scene 3: The Reveal!

Donning our fashionable new blue Verdun hoodies celebrating fifteen years of athleticism in the community, boat engineers arrived on-site two hours early for assembly and our maiden voyage.

We were soon joined by curious onlookers (including Captain America himself!), who wondered how an assortment of (extremely random) materials would somehow assembly themselves into a 3D vessel on land.

Captain America came and joined us!

And they were not disappointed as we swiftly stapled, glued, tied and strung everything together (All that was missing was the bubble gum and dental floss!)

Boat assembled, we then endeavored to steer our vessel, running through various scenarios of: Synchronized marching! Downhill navigation! Uphill navigation! And the one that struck fear in all of us;  the dreaded left turn on McKay street…

Coach Sheri Cameron immediately shifted into steering mode, bellowing “Paddles up!” “Double time! “Bring up the pace, bring up the pace!”, “Easy does it, around the turn”, and finally, to our great relief, “Okay, back it down.”

After three hours of waiting and listening to a cacophony of bagpipes mixed with Jamaican reggae tunes, we were off! Running through some mock paddling drills, we collected our green balloons and lined up behind our impressive Verdun banner.

The paddlers are ready!
And the crowd went wild! Shamrock-bedecked kids with big eyes and open-mouths stared and giggled as we ‘paddled’ past. Sports enthusiasts let out loud and appreciative “Verduuuuun!” calls to encourage us on. And cheerful but slightly inebriated parade participants poked eachother and happily yelled, “Hey, it’s a boat!”

And what was perhaps our best response ever: “Four More Years!” from someone who recognized our sport and was hinting at Olympic stardom.

Heck, if we could put a dragon boat together from paper and string…who knows? 

How to stay motivated during the winter months

With spring almost here, it gives us a perfect opportunity to reflect on the winter and how to stay motivated. For a lot of people, the winter months in Canada (and elsewhere) is a tough time to train. With temperatures easily plummeting below -30 degrees Celsius, and the limited daylight hours of sunlight, even the most focused, determined athlete among us will find training to be daunting at times. So, what can you do?

There is no special potion or spell you can chant in the morning to fix everything, but here are some suggestions that athletes from the Verdun Dragon Boat Club use when it’s all too tempting to curl up and watch Netflix instead of train 😉

Thrive for a challenge and turn everything into a game
Training has as much to do about your Mental strength and endurance as it does with your physical prowess. So, if Mother Nature throws you a ton of snow, then make snow angels, forts, go skiing, snowshoeing etc. with friends and family. Here’s a tip: use the winter months as your mental training! It’s going to be tough, maybe as tough as it will be on race day, but if you can turn whatever is sent your way into a game and have fun with it, then you are that much further ahead of everyone else. In time, you will conquer everything that Mother Nature sends your way and laugh in the face of snow, ice, and training in the pitch dark… as it’s just another day to have fun and train hard.

Set a target objective: Long-term goals will keep you focused!
Training in the winter with no set goal or target to train against is like sailing around the world with no destination in mind. No wind will be favourable, and as you mindlessly move about doing the motions, you will never get anywhere. Without a goal, you won’t be particularly eager to do any training, and you will find yourself in the same position as you were at the beginning of the winter.

Don’t just challenge yourself – help others reach their goal!
One of our mottos at Verdun is “We lift our paddlers up” and it is paramount/the guiding principle in the way we train. We love to compete, to push each other beyond our own limits at practice, and what we love even more is helping each other reach their objective. Either it is nailing that first pull-up, shaving 2 seconds off their 1000m row, or simply helping them get more active, it brings you great joy seeing those around you improve and hit their goals.  All in all, a great motivator.

Be Colourful!
Be colourful! From adding additional colours to your daily wardrobe, to painting your face in multiple of colours (ok maybe not) as a way to fight off the winter blues (and blahs) and the grey drabby environment outside. Or better yet, sport a mini Parasol, put on some beach ambient music, and pretend you are basking in the heat. Once a week, or as needed should suffice. With the extra Vitamin D and bringing summer wherever you go, it will definitely increase your energy levels and determination to tackle any fitness goals you have in mind. Not to mention, help boost your teammates’ motivation as well.


Weekend adventure to break up the routine
No matter how self-motivated you are and determined to reach your goal, an occasional change of pace or scenery will help you stay on the right track. Why not go for a winter hike, snowshoe or go skiing in place of a cardio session? It will refocus you and force you to use your muscles in a different way and at the same time, you get to show off the progress you have made in the real world. For outdoor activities, the SEPAQ monthly newsletter is a great way to see what is happening in the provincial parks.

What do you do to stay motivated? Let us know!

Indoor training at Canal Fitness: Verdun Dragon Boat Club

What?! You still paddle in the winter?

Just imagine. It’s -30 degrees Celsius. You’re strapping on your boots, zipping up your parka, grabbing your paddle, and getting ready to face winter head-on… the canal?

One of the many misconceptions of dragon boating; especially in Canada is that once the outdoor training facilities closed up for the season we stop paddling. Though that is true for some paddlers, as they pursue another sport during the winter months, the vast majority of paddlers on the Verdun Dragon Boat Club use the time to ramp up their land base training and hone their paddling skills at the indoor training tank.

The two training tanks at Canal Fitness can hold about 22 paddlers in total; 11 left, and 11 rights. Unlike on the actual boat, paddlers have the freedom to get up, stretch, and even walk around between sets. This allows for 1-on-1 coaching by the coaches, more constant video reviews to see your progress from week to week and the opportunity to try paddling on both sides. You also don’t have to worry about bumping paddles or squeezing into a narrow row but you still get wet from time to time.

If you’re curious about dragon boating, and maybe a little nervous about your first time being on a boat, come join us at one of our 3 indoor practices. All levels welcome!

Brute Force (men) / Spice Forc (Women team): 8pm

Force (Mixed): 7 pm

Impact (Mixed): 7 pm

For more information:


Are there any winter competitions?

Growing in popularity, there is the outdoor Ice dragon boat festival based in Ottawa every February. The small 10 man champion boats are fitted with skates and are said to reach speeds of 40km an hour under the right conditions.

Sadly the festival this year sold out within minutes and we weren’t able to get a spot. Nonetheless, if you are in Ottawa on February 10th then I recommend checking the races out.


Hope to see you in the tank!

Quebec Cup Recap PART 3: Camaraderie, Competition and Community: Caravela at the Quebec Cup!

(Click here for Part 1 (Verdun Makes an Impact at the Quebec Cup!) and Part 2 (Grit, Guts, and Glory! Verdun Women make Dragon Boat History!)

Caravela, composed of blind and partially sighted paddlers (BPS), has been training as a team since the beginning of the season, and have officially been integrated into the Verdun Dragon Boat Club.

19989473_10159096630145615_466096577939428886_n(Photo Credit: Celina Gélinas)

Their first year ever competing in the Quebec Cup showed focus and guts!

Caravela demonstrated some serious mettle in their races! Captain Josh Simmonds proudly described the Quebec Cup competition weekend experience as “adding another layer of grit and chutzpah to our team. Congrats gang!”

Showing Focus, Perseverance, and Commitment

And indeed, courage and grit is what it takes for this team of blind and partially sighted paddlers to do what they do best.

Pic for Caravela1(Photo Credit: Randy Pinsky)

Imagine the cacophony of sounds that is dragon boating during regular trainings or in the paddling tank, and magnify that hundred-fold to levels in the competition! Distractions, yelling, splashing, coaches’ conflicting bellowed instructions creating added confusion to the already jostling on the boats.

Yet Caravela paddlers showed true focus and professionalism as they calmly boarded the boats, kicked some serious paddling butt out there, and improved their timings for their 500m races.

Pic for Caravela2(Photo Credit: Randy Pinsky)

 From the Perspective of a Caravela Paddler

Ioana Gandrabur has been paddling with Caravela since May and has enjoyed the experience of being on the water and competing! In her words, “Loved the 2k with all the turns and sense of adventure being in the front of the boat avoiding buoys!”

Far from what most of us would imagine being a truly intimidating, overwhelming, and over-stimulating situation of noises, splashes, and the general mass chaos that is a race, Ioana reflects that the adrenaline of being in a 2,000 metre race with seven turns gave her “a moral boost and a kick.”

IMG_20170916_093753720_HDR(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

The fellowship among Caravela teammates, both non-sighted and “sighties” is evident in the easy camaraderie that is displayed both between races and on the boat itself.

It is truly a testament to the unique character and nature of the Verdun family when you witness so many volunteers offering to join in last minute at the Quebec Cup on a Caravela boat that is not quite full.

IMG_20170916_110548173[1].jpg(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

Being visually impaired can in fact heighten your focus in other areas, making you “grounded at the task at hand.” Working in collaboration with their sighted counterparts who are tasked with the responsibility of navigating around sloppily dumped paddles and life jackets, Caravela paddlers were able to focus on the race, competing against themselves and their own timings, as well as build cohesiveness as a team.

Kudos to you all, Caravela! You showed true heart and perseverance in what was a tough season.

21768027_10103350228137887_3983608031340247582_n(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

Speech! Speech! Thank you, Coaches Ira and Sheri, for a Terrific Dragon Boat Season!

Over ten races and a weekend of grueling competitions later, at the post-Quebec Cup celebratory potluck, Coaches Ira E. Lax and Sheri Cameron were presented with huge cards featuring a collage of photos capturing key moments in races and practices throughout the season.

IMG_20170917_154106263[1](Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)


Signed by every paddler, this was an important testament and tribute of our extreme appreciation for the guidance that they have given us through the season, who pushed, cajoled, encouraged (threatened, provoked ;)), and challenged just the right amount to bring out the best and strongest in us.

Messages revealed how the lessons learned, leadership shown, and gutsiness displayed translated far beyond the paddling tank, but have had real life implications in both professional and personal lives, as athletes, as community members, as paddlers.

A veritable community and family has been cultivated thanks to the efforts of our two dedicated coaches who have truly led by example.

Thank you Coaches Ira and Sheri!

IMG_20170917_154524063_HDR[1](Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

Presented by Verdun Dragon Boat Club President Suzie Ferland, toasts of champagne and calls for impromptu speeches were quickly followed by another Verdun tradition – the annual ‘Ira’ group hug pouncing on an extremely reluctant Ira!

IMG_20170917_154126150[1](Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

 Cheers Verdun! And here’s to another fantastic season.


(Click here for Part 1 (Verdun Makes an Impact at the Quebec Cup!) and Part 2 (Grit, Guts, and Glory! Verdun Women make Dragon Boat History!)

Quebec Cup Recap PART 2: Grit, Guts, and Glory! : Verdun Women make Dragon Boat History

(Click here for PART 1 of the Recap of the Quebec Cup)

But it was the exciting Women’s 2k in the Sports division that really stopped everyone in their tracks at the Quebec Cup!

Described by some as “roller derby on water,” “bumper cars,” “a multi boat tangle,” and “that Pacman race,” Verdun Women’s newly named Spice Force fiercely held their own as they were crunched, tossed, smashed, and crashed into from both sides, sandwiched between women’s teams determined to pass them, and jostled by the waves of ominously close boats. Spice Force took no prisoners!

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This is how it’s done, superwoman style!

Verdun Women (Alex) - 1(Photo Credit: Alex Boros)

Neck to neck, we will never forget the sounds of paddles clashing, the yelling, the strain to keep going, the suction of water drawing us alarmingly close to the neighboring boats…

Verdun Women - Alex - 2(Photo Credit: Alex Boros)

Dragon Boat History was Made!

It was Full Body Contact in the Women’s 2k! In the endeavor to pass each other and ride the waves, boats were overtaking one another right, left, and center, in a level of competitive and determined aggressiveness you have never seen! The sounds of paddles smashing, boats crunching together, paddlers yelling obscenities, as well as some intimidating curses and gestures.

21950133_365297030557311_6646925290071489431_o(Photo Credit: HM Photography)

Verdun Women refused to yield, even to the stronger teams. We may not have been first, but we were sure as heck not going to be passed if we could help it, and subsequently gained notoriety for successfully scaring half the teams on the water with our ferocity!

Pic to add (women's)3(Photo Credit: Donna Pinsky)

Holding our own against some incredibly strong women’s sports teams in what Captain Mélanie Desjardins called “that rocky road race that felt more like a fencing competition at times,” clarifying that it was not profanity and intimidating proximity that was being thrown at us from angry boats and angrier coaches frustrated at Verdun refusing to yield, but “boat hugs”. Sure, Melanie, sure 😉

Pic to add 2 (women's)(Photo Credit: Donna Pinsky)

There’s a race the judges won’t forget for a while, and will most certainly go down in dragon boat history. Check out the video!


21762297_365296193890728_6492971868624389742_o(Photo Credit: HM Photography)

And to make a perfectly dramatic exit, we were still so pumped on such adrenaline and pride for Coach Sheri Cameron masterfully navigating us through that traffic jam, that our cheers overshadowed her bellowed directions, meaning we plowed right Into and ONTO the dock, effectively hooking the boat on at such an awkward angle, that human chains were required to help each paddler disembark!

Us Verdun Women believe in leaving an impact, making a perfect ending to an already hair-raising day 😉   

Verdun Women - Alex - 3(Photo Credit: Alex Boros)

Back on shore (and twenty seconds of penalties for our lawlessness later- but what a race! The excitement and statement we left more than made up for that), Coach Sheri debriefed the women with “That was truly a GUTSY race! A race which showed sheer Guts, Grit – and determination,” and acknowledged that it was one of the craziest 2Ks she’s ever been in (and Sheri has competing in Nationals!).

She commended Verdun’s female warriors for having the courage to compete and hold our own against very high performing teams.

And indeed, the announcers and race marshals agreed it was quite possibly THE most exciting race in the history of the competition!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Quebec Cup Recap to read more about team trust and how our Blind and Partially Sighted (BPS) team Caravela experienced being on the water!

Quebec Cup Recap, PART 1: Verdun Makes an Impact at the Quebec Cup!

Quebec Cup: Here we Come!

Verdun wrapped up an impressive dragon boat season with the Quebec Cup, the final competition in the Triple Crown Circuit at the Olympic Basin, in an intense race weekend! (The other two races are the H²0 Open in May and Montreal Challenge in July).

21640864_10155683415436197_8153498901806631819_o.jpg(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

Taking place during the heat wave weekend of September 16-17, Verdun Impact, Women’s, Men’s and Caravela geared themselves up for a grueling set of 500m races, 200m sprints, and a whopping 2km race with those dreaded seven turns!

21558791_10212547859105173_135658205980429763_n(Photo Credit: Mélanie Desjardins)

(If any of you dear readers are wondering how the 2k race works, it is exactly what it sounds like – one 200 metre sprint followed by a tight turn around designated buoys, followed by another sprint, turn, sprint, turn, rinse, wash and repeat- seven times!

Oh – and did I mention you are on the water with around 13-16 other boats, each with their own race plan, coach bellows, boats clashing in the endeavor to overtake one another, split second decisions of how to take advantage of a boat’s wash while shaking off incoming boats off your tail, the splashing and yelling compounding the already distracting distractions on the water?

N.B.: This is different from the usual 2km race format, like at the Montreal Challenge, which are four 500m sprints across the water factoring in three turns)

123(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

Verdun shows Teamwork

The vast majority of Verdun paddlers competed over 10 times, joining multiple teams. Crazily tight overlap in the mixed community schedules for Impact and Caravela resulted in many demonstrating incredible camaraderie and teamwork as paddlers came off the water, got debriefed from their race, and then about-faced for yet another turn on the water for a back-to-back race with a second team!

Pic to add 1(Photo Credit: Randy Pinsky)

(One cheerful warrior teammate, who shall remain unnamed 😉 persisted in his commitment to the teams despite painful tendinitis, resulting in him paddling on his opposite side, returning from each Brute Force, Impact, and Caravela race having accumulated yet another paddling-related injury and visit to the first aid tent – sore wrist, locked hip, chafed rear… That shows true loyalty to take one for the team! Marc, you are our hero!)

345(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

Paddling as the Sun Rises

The weekend started off very early, paddlers sleepily but excitedly greeting the dawn with a spectacular view of the sunrise overlooking the Olympic Basin, the Montreal Biosphere, and the Champion boats, waiting patiently on the water.

IMG_20170916_074831771[1].jpg(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

Trudging over to the Basin, we are in the good company of other paddlers laden down with paddles slung over their shoulders, and sporting a colorful array of impressive jerseys. Cautiously non-committal friendly conversations ensue, as we try and assess which teams hail from. As we part ways to join our respective crewmates, we nod and give a curt, “good race – see you on the water.”

IMG_20170916_091514905_HDR[1].jpg(Photo Credit: Randy Pinsky)

Verdun took up residency in a prime location just alongside the dock and behind the viewing tent, providing some incredible and unobscured views of the dramatic races! (Well, until we were blasted out by an overly keen race marshall, that is…). We took up shop alongside our friends (and sometimes rivals) RBC, coached by none other than the “other” Lax brother, whose paddlers often join forces with Verdun for competitions.

IMG_20170916_091337971_HDR[1].jpg(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

Getting debriefed by Coach Ira, Impact started the race weekend with clear outlines of the objectives we set out to focus on – paddle with Intention, be cohesive as a team, respond to the Coach’s directives, and keep in pace with the pacers.

IMG_20170916_113425990[1].jpg(Photo Credit: Marian Pinsky)

And this streamlined focus on key pointers paid off!

Verdun Makes an Impact at the Quebec Cup!

Coming into the Quebec Cup, Impact was ranked fourth in cumulative points in the Triple Crown, relative to over 51 mixed community teams in our division! This means that points accumulated in the first two competitions (H20 and Montreal Challenge) set the ranking as we entered the Quebec Cup.

With the teams that ranked third and fifth not competing in the Quebec Cup, it was up to us to defend our ranking against the team placing sixth for that coveted third spot…

With Coach Ira E. Lax’s encouraging cheer of “We’re aiming for podium, folks. Let’s do this!” in our heads, Impact, joined by some members of Verdun Force, truly gelled together and shaved off a full five seconds from their 500m race timing in the Montreal Challenge to an impressive final timing of 2minutes 18seconds!

The end result? Verdun left the Quebec Cup with an impressive 479 points, reaching our objective of ranking Third overall in the Triple Crown, relative to over 63 mixed community teams!

21687180_365291403891207_9138656098799998786_o(Photo Credit: HM Photography)

When asked for his overall impressions of the season, Coach Ira reflects, “Impact showed its mettle this season by racing hard in all three Triple Crown events, one of the few Community (Division 3) teams to do so!

The boat was full at practice all season long, and you could feel the positive vibe from the crew. A full boat plus lots of racing equals a faster team.

Heading into Quebec Cup, the crew was optimistic about its outcome, having gelled as a team throughout the season.

I am proud of the team for finishing 3rd in the Triple Crown against so many other crews and I am looking forward to another amazing season!”

It’s also revealing to note that Verdun Impact, having competed in Mixed Finale B for the Montreal Challenge 2km race, competed in the Mixed Finale A division for the same race in the Quebec Cup. Bravo Impact!

 789.pngPaddlers watching the play back of the races – Photo Credit to Marian Pinsky

 “One, two, three – BRUTE FORCE!”

Verdun welcomed three new teams this season – inaugurating Verdun Men (Brute Force), Verdun Women (Spice Force), and integrating the previously independent Caravela team into Verdun’s ranks as an official member of the Verdun Dragon Boat Club.

The Men’s finished fourth in the Open division, demonstrating some impressive timings in the Triple Crown Circuit for a new team!

IMG_20170916_104217549_HDR[1].jpg(Photo Credit: Randy Pinsky)

Timings of 2.16 and 2.17 minutes in the Montreal Challenge were replaced by 2.13 minutes for both 500m races in the Quebec Cup, showing true cohesiveness as a team! Captain Emir Moreno gives a special shout-out to the women who joined on Brute Force races, especially Kim and Sheri who often steered.

21688224_365311823889165_3644224988380573238_o(Photo Credit: HM Photography)

Grit, Guts and Glory: Verdun Women Make Dragon Boat History!

But it was the exciting Women’s 2k that really stopped everyone in their tracks. Find out more in Part 2! An epic adventure!

Paddling by the Light of the Moon – and Fluorescent Wrist Bands ;)

There is truly nothing quite like paddling at night.

Aliyah sunset pic

When everyone else is (sanely) warm and inside, we valiantly stay on the water and are usually the only brave boats out, paddling by the light of gorgeous sunsets – and then the moon.

It is truly a spectacular sight, so serene and still, the water shimmering like glass, the dip of the paddles in the water the only sound obscuring the silence of the evening, our shadows gliding past the walls of the Canal, illuminated only by our coach’s headlamp.

Pretty special and awe-inspiring.


Takes a pretty unique set of athletes to do this, but then hey, we’re Verdun 😉


As the sun starts to set earlier and earlier, our dragon boat practices have become no less rigorous, especially with the Quebec Cup, the final series of competitions in the Triple Crown, being just around the corner!


With Coaches Ira and Sheri tacking on additional practices for the men and women’s teams, paddlers can be found on the water as late as 9pm!


To help keep us synchronized, we don fluorescent bracelets on our top arms. What an incredible sight that makes!


Blinded by the piercing white light of the headlamp, all you can see are top arms lit by bracelets in an array of fluorescent greens, blues, oranges and purples, churning away in a smooth and continuous motion of fierce strokes ripping through the water.


In the absence of any visual cues, you hear, rather than see the huge boat silently approaching, its presence being made known by the “shok- shOOOOsh, shok shOOOOsh” and blinding headlight indicating another boat approaching. (Unless you’re an OC – outrigger canoer – that is, who doesn’t believe in wearing headlamps. As Coach Sheri warns, watch out, OCs! If we crash into you, it will hurt. We’re just two tons of charging force, is all).


The water all glassy and calm, it parts a path for the boats coming through, wristbands reflected in the waters below in a distorted but hypnotic and mesmerizing way.

 With the recent addition of the extra practices in preparation for the Quebec Cup, Verdun paddlers are ever on the ready! Calmly unloading from our Impact practice boat to our respective women’s and men’s ones, we’re in it for the long haul. Bringing aboard water and energy drinks, stashing a change of sports clothing in the hangar, or changing into long-sleeved merino shirts mid-practice, we embark on the second set of practices with energy and good spirits!

Good-natured ribbing takes place between the women’s and men’s boats as it soon becomes apparent that we are the only ones on the water…

Cold, wet, and hypnotized by the dark, dark, water and the feeling of camaraderie, we put our backs into each stroke and “empty the tank” as we prepare for another exciting and adrenaline-inducing weekend of competitions!

Join us some evening on the water – you will leave changed…

 See you at the Quebec Cup!


Photo credits go to Aliyah Jessa, Randy Pinsky, and Jane Xie

Verdun Rocks on at Rawdon!

“Paddles to the Left, Paddles to the Right!”

This past weekend, the dragon boat deities smiled down upon Verdun’s Impact, Force, and women’s teams as we competed at the 22D Dragon boat festival in gorgeous wild Rawdon! Legendary for the beach are their unorthodox race lengths, featuring a deceptively difficult small bend at the finish which every steerer dreads…


Delivering at Rawdon!

Defying predicted forecasts of 90% chance of rain, the teams trained, prepped, and delivered on the water, coming up with a respectable 3rd place D final for Impact, 2nd place B final for Force, and the (as-yet-nameless) fierce Women’s team bringing home the Silver in Final A under sunny skies! Verdun showed Rawdon how it’s done.


With a tail wind at our backs, the teams showed their mettle on the water in spite of the race course being adapted to unusual two 400m races and one 200m sprint, rather than the customary 500m and 250m races.


While there was a fair amount of confusion of the multiple “pink (dock) girls” creating mass havoc at the docks as boats loaded, competed, and returned; moody and hungry officials who bellowed French obscenities if directions were not complied to immediately, it was a terrific experience for all to compete on ‘real’ waters, as opposed to at the Olympic Basin or Lachine Canal.


“A Truly Gutsy Race!”

Weeks of targeted technique training paid off as Impact gelled together, shaving off a full six seconds off the final 400m race. Coach Ira E. Lax debriefed the teams, incorporating our secret “Back Eight!” technique, giving leverage for the dramatic final seconds. Force gave honor to their name, coming neck and neck with rival boats.


Joined by members of Senior Women’s and RBC, the Women’s team ended with a “truly Gutsy race!” in Coach Sheri Cameron’s words, as video footage of the dramatic nail biting final 400m shows them forging ahead in the lead – until the final few seconds when rival team BananaShip pulled a surprise from behind finish.

Pic 7

But it was the 200m that really astounded the crowd as the boat shot forward with a strong start and maintained their positions a full boat length and a half ahead of the other teams! Bravo ladies!

Huge kudos goes to the women’s team for lightning fast reflexes when race officials called the start while they were still drawing to straighten up with the other boats.

And then there was the controversy of divided loyalties with Verdun Women racing against the Tiger Lillies, making our Petula having to choose between the Blue or the Orange… ;).


Verdun DBC: Teammates On and Off the Water

The sense of camaraderie in Verdun’s DBC is something to behold – paddlers will volunteer to fill in on a boat at the drop of a paddle (see what I did there? ;)), and you will always see team members loudly cheer on our teams from the sidelines with enthusiastic bellows of “VerrrrdUUUUUUN!!” giving tired paddlers that last burst of energy.


The Verdun Dragon Boat Club is about so much more than training and competitions – it’s about building community, both on and off the water! Every year, we bring out the BBQ for some serious chowing down- careful pre-race nutritious diets took a backseat as we devoured salads galore, an assortment of delis and meats, and an incredible spread of delectable desserts care of Camille and Angela. Not to mention Mr. Puffs!


From BBQ King Naeem to ‘chicken lady’ Tammy, Verdun celebrated a solid race day to a background of music, friends, laughter and food, as we clinked champagne in plastic cups to celebrate the victory of the women’s team, before diving into the BBQ. Go Verdun!



Verdun Gives Back: Painting Trinity United Church

Athletes by day, painters… on the weekend?

Ever wonder what Verdun Impact and Force dragon boaters do in their spare time? Some provide physio to clients, others show houses (or even coordinate Comicons!), while still others paint century-old churches!

Verdun’s fierce dragon boat club is known for three things: Competitiveness, Camaraderie, and Community. The commitment to give back to the community was demonstrated this past weekend when a brave group of paddlers trouped over to the wilds of Rosemont’s Trinity United Church. Armed with paintbrushes, ladders, and rollers, they set out to give this over 100- year old sanctuary a much-needed facelift.

The site of our popular Spaghetti night fundraiser in May, where paddlers joined forces to assembly line servings of delicious pasta, homemade pasta sauces, and a delicious array of baked goods (people are still raving about Angela’s carrot cake), we were thrilled to have held the event in the church, in exchange for our willingness to freshen up a few of the spaces. All thanks go to as Assistant Coach Sheri Cameron (teacher by day, paddler by night, and Sunday school teacher by weekend) for negotiating such a deal

Putting tape around the finicky and ornamental sconces and radiators with the patience of Mother Theresa, learning new Yiddish curse words from Coach Ira Lax as paint splashed despite best efforts, “Look at that shmutz. You need a shmatah for that.”), members of Verdun’s Impact and Force teams applied their creative sides to update the Church with a fresh coat of purple paint.

Boogying to a backdrop of ‘80s rock music, paddlers scaled various heights to cover the walls, power couple Beatriz and Emir climbed ladders with the finesse of Micheangelo (I still shudder when thinking of Emir reaching to paint the high ceilings, stretched on one flip-flop covered toe).

But what a difference! Never shall it be said that Verdun dragon boaters will abandon a church in need. As we say, “have paddle (or paintbrush); will travel”.