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Dragons on the Yarra: Dragon boating in Melbourne

Yi Lei Goh

Mon Mar 04 2013

Dragon boating

SHARKS and stingrays aren’t the only dangerous creatures in Australian waters, there are also “dragons”. Yi Lei Goh gets on one and tries out dragon boating in Melbourne.

It’s a beautiful day. You and your friends want to do something fun but are clueless. What can you all do in Melbourne besides dining and shopping? Go dragon boating!

Dragon boating is a team sport that involves people paddling boats in a race to the finish line. And if you’ve spotted such boats along the Yarra River, they most probably belong to the Southern Storm Paddle Club. Established in May 2012, the club is now the biggest dragon boating club in Victoria with 65 members aged between 13 and 60 years old.

My first dragon boating session with the Southern Storm Paddle club was in wintry July. There were nine people with me in the boat and each of us had a paddle that corresponded to our individual height. I had the shortest one. As a first timer, I was worried the boat would capsize and dunk us into the freezing river, but was assured it rarely did.

Throughout the hour-long session, the coach stood at the back of the boat offering feedback on everyone’s performance and tips to improve. I was so focused I barely noticed the time fly by. After the session, coffee, hot tea and muffins were provided as rewards for our efforts on the river.

During my second session, the weather was scorching but everyone was as friendly as before and my time on the river was still fun. I was also given sunscreen on top of the usual safety briefing.

“Fun, Fitness, Friendship” is the South Storm Paddle Club’s motto. Alex James, one of the club’s three coaches, has been dragon boating since 1987. He and Richard Balkin, the club’s president, believe the sport sells itself and is a fun way to get fit (if you’re not already) or stay in shape. The club welcomes all, regardless of gender, experience or fitness levels. All it asks of its members is to give it their all for the club’s activities.

The Southern Storm Paddle Club offers newcomers three free sessions. If you are a junior or student and decide to stay on, the annual membership fee is AUD 120. Otherwise, it’s AUD 200. All the equipment you’ll need will be provided. Training is three times a week during warmer seasons and once a week between May and September. However, attendance isn’t compulsory.

The club also organises barbecues and movie nights for members to raise funds and strengthen bonds. Currently, the club has plans for a three week dragon boating event in China, with all expenses paid except for airfares.

Sounds like something you’d like to be a part of? For more information about dragon boating with the Southern Storm Paddle Club, visit their Facebook page or website.