A View from the Rear

Fresh off the CDBA boat as newly certified steerspersons, three intrepid paddlers (Ross, Brian and myself) were about to get our first taste of steering in a race. Aside from steering, the most important responsibility of the steerperson is bringing home the paddlers safely to Kathy and Ross. So when Judy (or any of the steerspersons) is steering and she gets mad… it’s for a very good reason.

Steering for a race is like steering a race car. You have a finely tuned 18 cylinder race engine with the timing belt in the front and the steering mechanism in the rear. The Red team was kind enough to let me, with no race experience, steer for them. Maybe all their cylinders weren’t firing? Anyway, our job is to start the car and drive it to the start line but not use up all the fuel. The engine will be warmed up by the timing belt mechanism (BIG voice of Lawrence) along the way, but once there, we try to minimize excess fuel expenditures on things like drifting, drawing right or left, and backing up. Since we have a convertible vehicle, the strong breeze can create havoc with one’s hair and attire. We find stooping forward and into the vertical hold position helps to minimize the effect of that pesky breeze. It also looks fashionably aggressive when all the others boats are being pushed around by the winds. For those future Long Beach steerspersons, the dock person holding your boat can be extremely helpful with physical maneuvering of your tail and verbal commands for you, the steerperson, to use in keeping your boat pointed in the right direction and race ready. Thank them next year (or if they are reading this, Thank You this year)!

The air horn sounds and it’s off to the races! At this point I just worry about keeping a straight line to the finish, minimize corrections, and counting out on the power tens. Everyone gave 100% and that is all one can ask. Racing is an exciting focal point of dragon boating. However, it is only one facet of the bigger picture. We learn to work as a team. We form circles of supportive friends and paddlers. We bond. We have fun. We become a family and we thrive!

Every once in a blue moon, I see a Zen moment in paddling. I was steering for the Red team. It was the end of practice. I mentioned burying the paddles and feeling the Force to the paddlers. Silly me! Next thing I knew, the boat was GLIDING quickly and smoothly toward the other side of the lake. For that kind of speed, the paddlers were hardly exerting themselves. Then I noticed all the arms and paddles were moving in ONE q-u-i-e-t, continuous motion. Only then did I notice the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze against my face, the blue sky, the peace and tranquility of that moment out on the lake. It was eerie. Let’s do it again!

Ed