Katy Milne admits that when she hopped into a dragon boat for her first session, she didn’t want to get back in after.
In 2001, Milne and a co-worker saw information on novice dragon boating and decided to check it out.
She quickly discovered it wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be.
“It’s not natural movement. It seems like a simple thing, but there are a lot of intricacies to how you move and how to make the boat move effectively and especially trying to co-ordinate that with 20 other people is quite a challenging thing,” Milne said.
Instead of dropping out, Milne volunteered to be captain. Her love for the sport quickly grew and several years later she became the team’s head coach.
For the past 15 years, Milne has been coaching and paddling with two dragon boat teams, the Snappin’ Dragons, a women’s boat, and the mixed Paddlers of the Fifth Moon, spending about six hours a week on the water between April and August.
“I’ve met some fantastic people throughout both my teams and the other teams as well. There’s a lot of camaraderie within dragon boating,” said the 38-year-old, noting the very inclusive sport welcomes everybody from breast cancer survivors to seniors to youth.
“They’re all out for different reasons. I think it’s pretty cool that you can have that range of people in one sport.”
Milne is one of dozens of local paddlers competing in the 22nd annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival this weekend. The three-day festival brings together more than 80 teams from Vancouver, the Island, the Mainland, Alberta, and the U.S., plus thousands of spectators to the city’s Inner Harbour starting today.
The festival also raises money for the B.C. Cancer Foundation. It’s a cause close to Milne’s heart as she’s a cancer researcher at the Deeley Research Centre in Victoria. Renovations recently finished on a multi-million-dollar immunotherapy lab and researchers are gearing up to do clinical trials on patients.
“For me it’s special because I can actually see where the money goes. The pledge drive from the paddlers is helping support that. I’ve had a few paddlers in and around the lab to see where the money has gone and I think they’re all quite excited about that,” said Milne, adding her two teams have raised roughly $21,000 for the foundation.
The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival runs Aug. 12 to 14. Visit victoriadragonboat.com.