Erin Lacharity (left)

Erin Lacharity (left)

Blind, visually-impaired paddlers find groove with dragon boat team

Outta Sight is a Victoria-based dragon boat team for visually-impaired people that practices in the Inner Harbour twice a week.

Along the calm waters of the Inner Harbour, 26 paddlers in a dragon boat push off the dock to begin their practice session.

“Paddles up!” yells coach Corey Teramura.

The paddlers obey, holding their wooden paddles up vertically high above their heads.

“Go, two, three, four, five, six, up, up, up, five, six, seven, eight, up, legs,” yells Teramura. “Reach, long, long, long.”

The dragon boat picks up speed, gliding seamlessly as each paddler drives their paddle faster and faster into the water.

The only sounds coming from the splashing of the water against the boat, the heavy breathing of each paddler in unison with their strokes, and the loud bang of Teramura’s hand against the side of the boat to the beat of his voice.

The 26-person team is Outta Sight, and unlike many of the dragon boat teams that practice along the Inner Harbour, half the team is visually impaired or blind.

“We use our body . . . we’re connected in a different way,” says Teramura. “These guys have all these other cues that they’re feeling — the sound, the motion of the boat, how it moves, the splash, and you can feel when you’re out by just a little bit.”

The team started three years ago with Cindy Wasney, who is legally blind and originally competed with regular-sighted dragon boaters.

“I enjoyed being out on the water so much, it was a great experience. I got so much out of it and I thought there were other people who were visually impaired or blind who might enjoy it as much as I did,” says Wasney, noting that in its first year, the team had five visually impaired paddlers.

Each paddler has a volunteer handler who helps them their equipment and getting into the boats. But from there on, it’s all about feeling the rhythm of the boat.

“Once we’re all in the boat, everyone is on par with everyone else,” says Wasney.

Erin Lacharity 35, is the stroke seat and is responsible for setting the timing and pace of the boat. She is completely blind.

“I feel like I’m the heart of the boat,” says Lacharity, who is participating in her second season with the team. “I just feel very inspired when I’m doing it. When we’re paddling a long piece like that and it’s long and steady, it’s just so calming to hear the boom boom of the drum, like a heartbeat.”

For Kevin Hourigan, who is also visually impaired, the team offers him a chance to try something he has never been a part of – a team.

“It’s not something I’ve done all my life,” says Hourigan. “When I was a kid, trying out for basketball and football, I always flubbed out because I couldn’t see. Now, you don’t have to be able to see to be good at the sport,” he said.

The team recently picked up a silver medal during the annual Fairway Gorge Super Sprints 250 metre race and will continue to train for the Nanaimo Dragon Boat race in July, and Gorge Fest and the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival in August.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after cancellations on Friday due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich police seek suspect after woman nearly robbed while getting out of vehicle

Incident occurred before 7 a.m. Feb. 17 in parking lot off Cordova Bay Road

Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)
Saskatoon cyclist winds up mental health and overdose awareness ride in Victoria

Iliajah Pidskalny braves prairie winter conditions to get word out to communities

Gabriel Swift, 23, is one of three Victoria filmmakers chosen to receive $20,000 Telus Storyhive grants to produce Local Heroes documentaries. (Courtesy of Gabriel Swift)
Three Victoria filmmakers producing ‘local heroes’ documentaries with $20,000 grants

Telus Storyhive providing $20,000 to 40 Western Canada productions

Goldstream Food Bank president Gayle Ireland is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Local Hero as Community Volunteer of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Two-week stint at Goldstream Food Bank turns into 35 years of volunteer service

Goldstream Food Bank’s Gayle Ireland is the 2021 Community Volunteer of the Year

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Most Read