The Snappin’ Dragons launch in the Gorge Waterway during training.

Snapping at the chance

Oak Bay paddlers hit the water at this weekend’s Victoria Dragon Boat Festival

After hosting the National Dragon Boat Championships in 2013, this year’s Victoria Dragon Boat Festival will be in the limelight once again.

As always, it promises to be an exciting three days of events on and around the Gorge, Aug. 15 to 17.

Teams from San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and across B.C. will compete against our local teams. The races make for a colourful spectacle set on the backdrop of Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour and the Gorge.

In this sport, strength, endurance and skill are important, but so is teamwork, and being part of a team was one of the key drawing cards for two Oak Bay women who became dragon boaters and will be competing in this year’s festival.

Carla Beer-Carpenter is in her first season of dragon boating. A dietician with Island Health, Beer-Carpenter coordinates the bariatric surgery program. Because her days on the job can be quite intense, she needed an activity that would offset the desire she had to come home after work and do nothing.

“I was looking for something that would force me to get off the sofa at night,” says Beer-Carpenter, “and the only way to do that was to find something like a team that was a committed thing. Then I would have to go.”

Beer-Carpenter not only found a committed team, she found two. She paddles four times a week – twice with an outrigger team and twice with her dragon boating team, Paddlers of the Fifth Moon. This will be her first time competing in the festival.

Paula Gallagher is also from Oak Bay but paddles with the competitor boat Snappin’ Dragons.

Gallagher came into dragon boating “years ago” when she lived in Vancouver. Gallagher moved here and works as a visual language interpreter for School District 61. She refound paddling four years ago, and has been with several teams in that span. She finds the Snappin’ Dragons a friendly bunch.

“But I find that all over the place,” says Gallagher. “Dragon Boat people are really inclusive, really fun.”

Decidedly, another major drawing card for both women is the beautiful surroundings when they are out on the water.

“The Gorge is absolutely beautiful in the summertime. Who can beat being out on the water?” added Gallagher. “It’s absolutely lovely to be on the waterside, looking toward the shore.”

Beer-Carpenter, too, likes getting out on the water in the fresh air.

“It’s a great exercise,” she said.

Day to day, it’s not the weather that keeps these two paddlers turning up for practice , it’s the work each team does with its coach, and the excitement of preparing for the competition.

“It’s fun but it’s also competitive,” says Beer-Carpenter. “Our coach (Katy Milne) is very organized, and I think she sets the tone – everybody is friendly and it’s all very cooperative.”

Events begin on Friday, Aug. 15 with the opening ceremonies at 1 p.m. Races and activities begin on Saturday, and the final award ceremony takes place Sunday, Aug. 17 at 1:30 p.m.

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