Skip to content

From Squamish to Boracay: Local dragon boat team ready for international races

Squamish Dragon Boat Association embarks on first-ever trip to Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival in the Philippines

A team of 13 from the Squamish Dragon Boat Association is headed to the Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival this week in a first for the local team. 

Having been training since February, team member Cathie Greenlees said the team—which goes by 'Chawanda'—is getting excited to head to their first races in Asia. 

"It is really hard to be here right now," joked Greenlees about her excitement to head out on the trip. 

She said the team had put their dragon boat in the water an entire month early in preparation for the competition, which is on April 27 and 28.

The team has long trained in the Cattermole Slough, and with experience racing as far back as 2009 with regular trips around B.C. and the various seasonal races, they're not unfamiliar with some tough competition. 

"We've got lots of medals; we've won in various races. We traditionally go to the Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival [in Vancouver], and we've gone over to Nanaimo and Victoria, and there's a lot of festivals around and we usually do up to four to five races every year." 

Greenlees said that heading as far afield as the Philippines was a first though. 

Philippines connection

"Our coaches have always been Filipino; they actually brought the dragon boat up to Squamish, so to go back to their country and paddle has always been a big dream of ours, and especially Boracay because it's a beautiful island." 

The current coach is Macky Sumalileng, who is from Apayao, in the Philippines.

It'll be a little different from training in Squamish and racing in the cooler waters of the Salish Sea. 

"Boracay has white sandy beaches, and warm water where if you fall in you won't die in five minutes," she joked. 

Chawanda takes dragon boating very seriously, and the opportunity to experience an international race in the Philippines and also the relaxing sandy beaches of Boracay was an opportunity they didn't want to miss after years of thinking about it. 

"We talked about it a lot, and it just seemed to click that we had people who said yes, we really want to go, and we moved forward really quickly and just did it." 

With up to three training sessions a week in the high season, Chawanda can be found paddling away from late March through to September or even as late as October each year. 

For the trip to the Philippines, they were at it early and getting ready for what will be a new challenge in not just the location but the race itself. 

"In the Asian countries, their forte is quick, 200-metre races. Ours are 500-metre races which is a lot longer, and it's a different stroke, a different timing—so we really needed to get into the boat to start practicing on 200 metres," Greenlees said the team—made up of women in their late 40s to the early 70s—were feeling confident. 

"We're confident that we're not going to embarrass our coach. We're known as a strong team, so we're fairly confident we won't embarrass ourselves either." 

The Squamish contingent will be taking part in three races as part of the trip to Boracay—a women's race, a mixed race (with some of their coach's former teammates from the Philippine National Police team), and a standard boat race. 

Going tropical

Besides the races themselves, Greenlees said the team members are looking forward to seeing the Philippines and enjoying the tropical climate. 

They'll be gone for about three weeks overall, with a few pit stops to enjoy the scenery. But all that said, eyes were on the next race, and the future. 

"When we get back, we'll be victorious, and ready to start the rest of the season. "We'd also like to invite anybody that would like to try dragon boating to come and join us."

Check out the Squamish Dragon Boat Association on Facebook for more information.

Please note: Cathie Greenlees is a sales manager with The Squamish Chief.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks