Meet our Paddlers! Verdun Vignettes

We are proud to announce that Verdun is expanding!

With many of last year’s Impact paddlers joining the Force sports team, there has been active recruitment for Impact, the Men’s, and the Women’s teams. Bringing together a crop of new athletes, some with paddling experience, others brand new to water sports, we were curious to see how the experience has been for our new Verdunites!

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We took a couple of minutes between practices (and in the locker room) to ask four paddlers about their impressions of this crazy crazy world we call dragon boating. With the Montreal Challenge taking place a month ago (see Gold, Silver, Bronze! Verdun cleans up at the Montreal Challenge!), and being the first official competition for most, I think you’ll find their answers insightful.

 Newbies

Welcome, new Verdunite! What Initially Attracted You To Dragon Boating?

Susie, who joined Impact’s indoor practices back in mid-February, reflected, “I first heard about dragon boating a couple of years ago from a colleague who paddled with a team for breast cancer survivors, and remember being intrigued by what I had thought was a solely Asian sport. I had always wanted to try, and one day while browsing on Meetup, somehow fell upon the Verdun posting- and got hooked!

For Nansi, the team fulfilled two of her objectives: getting in shape, and meeting new people. In her signature chipper way, she quipped, Mission accomplished!”

Both Adrienne and Mohamed, who competed with Force teams at the Montreal Challenge, remarked on the incredible team spirit that is so integral to this sport where responsibility to excel is shared among teammates. “Being part of a synchronized and collective movement [of paddlers] continues to amaze me,” noted Mohamed. “You feel part of a greater whole”.

Did Anything in particular surprise you when you joined the team?

Training in the Indoor Tank

All four newbies expressed their amazement to learn that training starts in full force during the winter! Yes indeed, Verdun trains regularly in an indoor paddling tank during the winter months in preparation for the busy competition season. As Coach Ira Lax often says, the way you train is the way you race.

Susie was surprised to see how technical the sport was, compared to canoeing; so many components to think about! Angle, reach, rotate, stretch, synchro, tempo, pace- so much to consider! Even more impressive is to see how everything comes together once we got on the water in May.

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Photo Courtesy: Mission Dragon Boat

Verdun: Camaraderie, Community, Competition!

Nansi celebrated her commitment to last this long in a sports team, admitting that she had always been the girl who skipped gym class and dreaded any sort of team sport.” Given the fierce and competitive nature of the sport, she was impressed at the friendly and encouraging teammates and coaches who genuinely wanted to help her improve her technique.

As for her own stamina in the sport, Verdun’s resident knitter confessed, “To be honest, I was surprised that I could actually Do it, and have stuck with the sport and paddling this long, as I’ve never been a sporty person!”. Nansi recalled how at first she felt tempted to give up and pitch herself overboard, the first time on the water, as she wasn’t sure she could last an entire practice!

Any other surprises?

Adrienne put in words the casualties of the sport that new paddlers quickly find out about, as she so eloquently put it, “the openness with which we spoke about butt blisters!” Ah, the price of paddling… there ain’t no secrets.

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Photo courtesy- Mission Dragon Boat

 What has been your experience at practices and competitions?

For several of the new paddlers, the Montreal Challenge was their very first competition. Fond memories ranged from the ‘chub rub’ (painful chafing from repetitive motions against a constraining life jacket), to apprehension to being able to last through an entire 2km race (with turns!), to bringing home some impressive hardware!

Competitions can be quite overwhelming – there are Hundreds of paddlers on site, each representing different teams, and each with a shared objective- to bring home the gold. The experience of being on multiple teams (all four paddlers competed with the Women’s and Men’s Teams (Vie Force and Brute Force)) was also daunting, as due to timing issues, you could get off the water and grab a snack, only to then be cheerfully informed that it was time to start warming up for the next race!

Susie recalled being “impressed at how the inner fighter in you comes out at competitions and helps you go further than you thought was possible!”

Adrienne shared how proud she was that she was able to rise to the challenge and join Force as they competed in the 10-person small boats. “Paddling with a team like this motivates me to do better and have something to aim for.” Not to mention bringing home the gold in the 500m races competing in the small boats division!

High five

Photo: Marian Pinsky

Tell us more!

Some wise words by Nansi: “I find myself looking forward to each practice, as I feel more confident in myself and what I’m learning. It’s a challenge, physically and mentally, but I’m having a lot of fun at the same time. My first competition was rather daunting and nerve-wracking because I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, but now I can’t wait for the next one!

Are You a True Dragon Boater or Not? The Make it or Break it Question

You can always identify a true dragon boater if they can correctly answer this question: Do we paddle or row? (the subject of many an arm wrestle! – Far from mere semantics, we’re talking two entirely different sports here!)

Once grilled, all the newbies answered correctly (otherwise, you can be sure they would have been thrown overboard) with the best response being by far by Nansi who quipped, “You row a boat, gently down the stream.

We PADDLE a dragon boat to victory!”

Susie

Who says Verdun doesn’t have a sense of humour?

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