I joined Manila Dragons near the end of the month of December last 2009. I was recruited by my friend and colleague Laila (Deles).
I remember my first training run. I was taught the basics of the proper form. After an hour of paddling, I was surprised that I didn’t get too tired. Little did I know that it was a very light training day for the team. This I found out two days later. My next attempt at paddling was on a training day that had a regular load. After one hour of training, my back got really stiff and painful. Only then did I realize how tough this sport really is!
Since then, I’ve tried my best to train as much as possible. Every time I ride the boat and paddle, I learn something new. I learned to tweak my form. I learned to twist my torso. I learned to dip my shoulder. I learned the commands. I learned to endure pain.
I think, the most important thing I learned is how to be a team player. Rowing (or paddling) is really a team sport. Unlike other sports (e.g. basketball, football, etc), there’s no concept of a star player here. Everybody needs to contribute. Slacking off has an immediate effect on the team – the load that each paddler bears become heavier. Not being able to follow the pacers or even just the person in front of you is also detrimental to the team. Synchronized entry and exit of the oars assure minimal drag and resistance. If I’d describe dragon boar racing, I’d say it’s “synchronized swimming on steroids”.
Today, I joined my first race – the 2nd Manila Ocean Park Dragonboat Regatta. I was part of the Mixed line-up for the team. We were able to reach the semi-finals but we were beaten by top-seed teams (e.g. DLSU [I shall have my revenge soon], PDRT, etc). It was quite a thrilling experience be part of a dragon boat race. It’s not as tiring as our trainings but it’s definitely unnerving. Even though we didn’t win, I’m very happy with my performance. I didn’t stop paddling (amidst having problems holding on to my oar) and I was able to keep up with our pacers.
Unfortunately, our Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed crews only advanced until the semi-finals. We all got eliminated after our heats in the semis. But it’s okay. It was a great experience for us newbies. It was quite encouraging to hear the veterans cheering for us and even giving us affirmations though we got eliminated. So instead of being sad, I got really pumped to train harder so I can be stronger for the team (and so that MD can be DLSU.. hehehe).
My first race is over. Now, I’m no longer a (dragon boat racing) virgin.