My First Day at the (Dragon Boat) Races

By Brennan Kreller

I had always prided myself on being fit and an eager team player, so when Kathy Britt asked me to join the KP Dragon Healers, it sounded like the right thing to do, especially since I was looking for some upper body conditioning.  Weeks of paddling in the rain, fog, and cold on Lake Merced rapidly dispelled any romantic ideations I might have had about the endeavor, but it was pretty amazing to share in such a group effort to work hard, learn, improve, and most of all, do well as a team.

When I arrived at Paragon Point in Redwood City, so early—really, really early—on a Saturday morning, I immediately recognized the teamwork in motion.  Everything was just “happening” all around—setting up tables, tents, organizing the racks and ropes for the gear, preparing the food and drinks.  It was really beautiful, actually, to see it and just to insert myself in and start cutting up fruit and pastries, bracing the tents, and going to task to make everything just right even before anything even started.

And then it started.  It was a humbling start, to say the least, but it was a start—5th out of 6 teams in the masters division (the over 40 folks). My next 2 races were about the same.  Each step along the way, though, we re-grouped, tried to figure out what happened, and how to “get it better” for the next race.  And then the final rounds came. We knew the red team had done well, but weren’t sure how they had finished.  But I was in the gold final, and all I could think was how tired I was after 3 races in all that sunshine. 

Waiting in line, Janet, one of the steers, reminded me, “Maintain your form, don’t lose your technique.”  I was really grateful she noticed, and told me so.  Being a big guy, if I’m off, I can really throw other people off.  And after years of ballet training, technique and timing are naturally important to me.  Then Ross came by, and he called me and the other guys in my part of the boat “the engine”.  Wow, what an expectation for a newbie!!

Soon we were in starting position, with Tracy drumming.  All I could do was give it everything from the get-go—the short-stroke start, then a longer stroke, and then a bit of a rhythm catch, pounding every single stroke, every part of every stroke—reach, catch, de-rotation/thigh pump, exit, reach!  When I knew I was just about to break in two, I could hear Tracy screaming, “FINISH I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-IT!!!!!”  Somehow, from somewhere, I paddled faster.  We won.  We had led the entire race.  What a great team.  Thanks for having me.