It was The Amazing Dragon Boat Race at the Yorkton Canoe and Kayak Club, with racers taking part in different challenges to get an introduction to dragon boat racing, meet new people and have some fun.
Jessica Riley, coach at YCKC, said that they changed the format a bit because many of the paddlers were new to dragon boats, and they had not raced together before.
“Throughout the morning, they’re going to learn a little bit about the dragon boat, but they will have clues that will teach them about the stroke, a little bit about the history of dragon boat and working together as a team, because they’ve never paddled together before.”
Getting new people into boats is one of their goals. Dragon boats are still new to the area, said Riley, and to build the sport they are going to need more people trying it out, getting comfortable in the boat, and seeing that it’s something they can do.
“Yorkton is still very much word of mouth. So getting them out and knowing that it’s safe, they feel good. A lot of people worry about injury, can their bodies physically handle this? The more we get people into the boat and learning about it, and realizing it’s a sport you can do until you’re very, very old, and it’s a cool culture that’s popular in Saskatoon and Regina.”
The real strength of dragon boat, and one of the reasons that Riley wants to grow it in the area, is that it’s a lifelong sport.
“I think that’s important, especially in our community, as adults struggle to stay active and to have fun.”
Overall, the YCKC has had a good year, with strong performances by its members in the racing program. One highlight was Raya Cuthill, who medaled at the Western Canada Summer Games in Kayak and was able to qualify for Nationals. Riley was also the coach of the Saskatchewan team, and said that the experience will be valuable, as Cuthill was competing against national competitors.
Younger kids also did well in competitions, with many setting personal bests. Riley said that as a coach, seeing kids improve and meet their goals is something she likes to see.
“I’m thrilled as a coach.”