Like many communities in western Canada, the Bulkley Valley has the dragon boat as a fixture of summertime fitness and social activity.
A group based from the Telkwa Museum is out on Tyhee Lake from 7-8 p.m. Monday and Thursday evenings and while there is an element of competition, most participants are there to enjoy the exercise and social interaction the activity provides.
While participation in some places has dropped up, it seems to be steady here. In the last few years, it has mostly been a mix of individuals a from different cultural backgrounds but mostly from a European background.
The dragon boat (DB) is originally from China. The Friendship Centre has a replica of a war canoe, which is similar but not exactly the same.
“They can move it around and they have a trailer that fits that boat. The DB needs a special trailer. It’s at least 50 feet long and does not fit on that one,” explained Doug Boersema, a Telkwa Museum volunteer who helps organize dragon boat activities.
Boersema said that the dragon boat normally has about 20 paddlers, a steerer and a coach. The drummer usually does the coaching and if the drummer is not present, the steerer does it.
“I do it quite a bit. We have two or three people who do it quite a bit and two others who can do it in emergency. It looks easy but it’s not that easy to keep the boat straight. For the people who are paddling, they can’t see behind themselves and they just see that person holding that big oar,” he said.
While some may think that having a steerer would be unnecessary, Boersema disagrees.
“As soon as I stop doing it, the boat will go all over the place. It’s easy to have strongest paddlers on one side of the boat than the other,” he said.
While most participants are out for some exercise and some social activity, Boersema says there is a small group that is quite gung ho about racing and this group combines with a similar group from Terrace.
“In September, we have gone to a regatta in Terrace and our group has done well considering we’ve got a whole lot of seniors and older people and often some of these teams have younger people,” he said.
Boersema feels that most of the members do not want to get too serious.
“You don’t want to get too heavy into coaching because that’s not what they are involved for. They come more for exercise, fresh air, companionship and social activity,” he said. “If they can help improve their bodies that’s an added benefit.”
Boersema said that this year they have been a little low on numbers.
“We paddle as regularly as we can on Monday and Thursday from 7-8. We always leave the dock at 7 sharp so people get in the habit of being on time or they’re left on the shore,” he said.
The group meets at 4421 Tyhee Lake Road. Boersema said that the group had been around for about eight to 10 years but he did not know the exact date when they had started.
“We originally had a boat that was bolted together in the middle. After some time there was a group on the Charlottes that had boats they were giving away. They had been very gung ho at one time and then interest dropped off. All we had to do was pay for transportation. We had a yard sale this week to help pay for that,” he said.
“It’s about 50-something feet and it’s not bolted together in the middle so it needs a special trailer. We just leave it on a frame in the shore. We put it up on that,” he said.