How to conquer the world-famous Stanley Dragon Boat Festival

June 3, 2019

Photo courtesy of David Smalley 

 

With months of hard work going into a single 250m course that lasts just over a minute,

dragon boat racing is no easy feat.

 

And if you take home the Stanley Dragon Boat Championship three years in a row (2016,

2017, and 2018), every second counts.

 

This is the reality of Hong Kong dragon boat team Seagods, where a mix of male and female

paddlers from all walks of life come together to conquer the region's tumultuous

waters.

 

As one of the most successful mixed teams in Hong Kong, Seagods has kept up

their high commitment and energy since their beginnings in 1999.

 

"We have very experienced paddlers who has been with the team for well over 10 years, and

we also welcome a lot of newbies each year." Seagods member Monica Kwok said.

 

"We call ourselves a 'premier drinking team with a paddling problem.'"

 

Photo courtesy of David Smalley

 

A typical dragon boat race is usually composed of three races: first heat, semi finals and

finals.

 

And with the Seagod's track record, there can be no doubt that the team has put in significant

dedication to their craft.

 

"We go into these races with intense energy; so intense that we could come out of a race

shaking. It's important to find yourself good company to spend time with, keep yourself

hydrated and maintain a good level of energy throughout the day. " Kwok said.

 

"After the race we’d reward ourselves with ice cold beers and party with other teams to celebrate the day."

 

Photo courtesy of David Smalley  

 

However, the first part of their journey to the podium is found on land, where they focus on

improving their fitness.

 

"The content evolves throughout the season and largely depends on what we need to work

on the most at the time. It could be a start piece, a chug, a technique piece, or just team

building; sometimes we revisit drills we have done earlier in the season to ensure we haven’t

grown rusty on the basics." Kwok said.

 

"We have 1 and 2-hour training sessions, and all of them would leave us sore for the next day, and that's when we know we've made some gains."

 

Photo courtesy of David Smalley  

 

The second part is water-based, where they focus on their paddling techniques.

 

"Paddling in tricky conditions gives you the confidence to be out on any water, gives you the

opportunity to work out how to adjust your stroke when needed and helps building team trust

to another level - we can be paddling in any conditions at a race after all." Kwok said.

 

"Horrible sessions always lead to good stories afterwards, but nonetheless, safety first!"

 

Preparing on the day of the race however, is a different story.

 

"We’ll rest early before the race, and on the race day, we’d meet early, sometimes super

early, and get ourselves ready ahead of time to avoid any accidental delays." 

 

"As there are long periods of waiting, we’d bring along books, snacks, good spirit, and anything that keep us entertained throughout the day." Kwok said.

 

Photo courtesy of David Smalley  

 

Kwok's side have had a fine season so far, posting another impressive performance at the VRC Regatta and enter the 2019 edition of the Stanley Dragon Boat Championship in fine fettle.

 

"We had 3 boats on the day and raced along the best teams in Hong Kong; such a pleasure

to paddle side by side with them." Kwok said.

 

"Our red boat took home 1st runner up in Mixed Cup Final and our white boat took home 1st runner up in Mixed Bowl Final; it is the best result we have had in VRC Regatta and we are very proud of the achievement."

 

 

Ahead of perhaps one of the most famous Dragon Boat festivals in the world, the Seagods are gunning for a record fourth consecutive gong. 

 

"We are working together to improve on what we felt we could have done better, and

maintain what we feel we did right, and put everything together." Kwok added. 

 

For Kwok, there is a prevailing a sense of family throughout the team, fostered through their time together on land and sea. 

 

"I met many cool people who I call friends, it makes me fitter, keeps me motivated, and

introduced me to a whole new paddling community." Kwok said.

 

"I went to the Seagods open day and knew right then that’s the team I want to join."

 

 

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