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Come for the paddle on beautiful waters; stay for the team building and competition

Squamish Dragon Boat Association seeks more members.

The Squamish Dragon Boat Association team Chawanda has had a strong start to this season. 

After a couple of pandemic years mostly kept out of the boat, the paddlers are back out on Howe Sound and attending competitions beyond. 

The team recently returned from Vancouver Island, where they competed in the Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival on July 9 and 10.

"We did very well considering we were half of our team in the boat and then other pickups," said team captain Karen Millard Sumalileng. When there aren't enough team members in the boat to race, Squamish picks up paddlers from other teams. 

Chawanda came in high up in the B division. This means they came in the second division with top division times.

Sumalileng credits the team's ability to race at that level in great part to the skills of coach Macky Sumalileng, who is also her husband.

"I am biased... but he's very, very skilled at helping the team gel and putting together folks and knowing where to sit people in the boat... It really is a sport where no matter where you sit in the boat. Every person is important. So it's really team building," she said. 

Some Squamish paddlers also took part, in other teams, in the Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival. The event is the largest North American dragon boat festival and, as a result, also attracts international competitors.

Squamish hopes to race in the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival on Aug. 20 and at the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival on Sept. 10 and 11. 

"But we need more team members to be able to make that happen," she said, adding that coach Macky can get new team members race-ready in three to four weeks.

There are 15 members of the team, so they are seeking several more. 

"It takes 20 people to fill a boat. So you essentially need more than 20 on a team," said Sumalileng.

The team welcomes new and experienced paddlers, of any gender, from age 19 to 89. 

Practices are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:45 p.m. And Sundays at 3:45 p.m. The boat is put into the water at the Cattermole Slough, and the practices are about 90 minutes long from start to finish. 

Those interested can come out and try it for free, equipment provided. 

For those who want to commit to being on the team, memberships are $100 for the year. And then it's $5 per paddle.

"If they want to come out, get fit in our beautiful Squamish waters, this is the place to do it. I mean, you can't get a more beautiful view for your workout."

"If you want to compete, then you probably need to come out at least twice a week. But at the same time, we're taking anybody as they work it into their schedule," she said.

Team building exercise

In addition to the team, the association is also happy to take out members of organizations, classes or businesses for a paddle.

"Last week, we took out our camp full of kids and taught them about what it is to work together. We love to do team building exercises, and they can use that either as a fundraising opportunity or it's a great opportunity for businesses to do team building with their staff," said Sumalileng.

Seeking support

The team is looking for a place to store their boat this upcoming winter when the season ends, and they are seeking team sponsorships. 

"If there's anybody, any organizations out there that would like to sponsor a community team that loves to go out and represent Squamish in a positive way, all across B.C., we'd love their support," she said. 

Find the Squamish Dragon Boat Association on Facebook or email: squamishdragonboat@hotmail.com.