Dragon boat paddlers make their way through the Selkirk waters during a practise night. The annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival takes over the Inner Harbour this weekend, Friday through Sunday, with races and land-based elements. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Victoria Dragon Boat Festival gears up for busy weekend

Inner Harbour event has its roots in health, ancient tradition

Sixty-seven teams from across Western Canada and the United States will descend on the Inner Harbour this weekend for the return of the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival.

“It’s definitely one of the most competitive [races] on the island,” said Sarah Hunn, the festival’s general co-ordinator. “The larger it is, the more draw you’re going to get from more competitive teams.”

Paddlers will take to the water at Laurel Point in women’s and mixed teams, contesting 500m races on a course that is normally home to seaplane, harbour ferry and kayak traffic.

“The reason why the Victoria festival is exciting is because it’s in a working harbour,” Hunn said. “It makes for a really busy [environment] and a lot of work for on-water staff to make sure everyone is safe.”

While some Canadian dragon boat festivals have seen a decline in numbers recently, in general the sport is growing, she said.

“We had a sold-out kids camp; they’re on the water paddling all summer long. We hope that as they get a little older, they join some youth dragon boat teams.”

When Hunn started paddling five years ago in Penticton, everyone was 60 or older, and she was by far the youngest in the boat. “Now there are under-24 teams and Canada has done really well on an international level for youth teams,” she said, adding the sport’s popularity has increased as it reaches new audiences.

Each year the festival partners with the BC Cancer Foundation and since 2008, has raised more than $700,000, due in part to the Lights of Courage campaign. Thousand of festival-goers purchase paper lanterns from festival sponsors, each with a message dedicated to those affected by cancer, lighting the dock in a colourful display of hope and remembrance.

Dragon boating, a 2,000-year-old tradition, shares an interesting connection with breast cancer. A UBC research project found that the extraneous upper body exercise required for the sport was in fact safe for survivors, Hunn explained, dispelling a common myth insinuating otherwise. It also improved recovery in patients both physically and socially.

“Dragon boating is a sport that literally anyone can do,” Hunn said. “But as it gets more competitive, people want to train and do better. It helps that here in Victoria we can train year round.”

The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival runs from Aug. 18 to 20, kicking off Friday with performances from an array of local musicians and world renowned First Nations hoop dancer Alex Wells.

For schedule information, visit victoriadragonboat.com.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Friends, family remember Dan Sealey, stepson of Minister of Agriculture, in private gathering

Lana Popham confirmed Sealey died of an accidental drug overdose earlier this month at age 23

PHOTOS: Uptown lights up the holiday season

Annual event drew crowd of all ages for parade and Christmas tree lighting

New figures show City of Victoria spent $30,000 to remove Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

High school graduation rates on the rise in Greater Victoria

High school completion up from 71 to 86.8 per cent over 10 years

Mommy’s Inside Voice: A little piece of you

Mommy’s Inside Voice is a biweekly column by Amie Jay, a local mother of three

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Greater Victoria holiday craft fair roundup for Nov. 16 to 18

Check off all of the items on your shopping list at these great events

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

Most Read