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A paddle with Gander’s Dragons

GANDER, NL — Whether it is through the grueling practice heats on Gander Lake or the bubbly chatter of friends, it is clear that members of the Central NL Dragons live for their sport.

The Central NL Dragons have been practicing twice a week, launching from Appleton, in anticipation of Paddle in Paradise next weekend. That event will see 36 dragon boats compete head-to-head.

Unbelievably, the team has only been together for just over a year and members are expecting a good showing at the meet on Aug. 19.

Anne Poirier, who participated last year, said she’s impressed by everybody’s commitment.

“I can’t believe the progress we have made. It feels so natural compared to when we started,” said Poirier.

The team currently has one boat, the Lady Ann, a vast improvement on last year.

The Central NL Dragons practice twice a week and are looking to grow their membership. Everybody is invited to come out and give the sport a try.

“We started out with nothing. We had a boat that we borrowed from the Avalon Dragons,” explained Patricia Oake, another paddler. “Now, we have our own boat, our own safety boat, our own trailer. We’re good to go.”


Growing the sport

Breast cancer survivors make up the nucleus of the Central NL Dragons.

The club recently hosted Slay the Gander, an event that saw survivors gather from across the country for a dragon boat event on Gander Lake.

However, you don’t need to be a breast-cancer survivor to join; they’re a welcoming group of ladies.

“Lots of times, we come out and we don’t have enough breast-cancer survivors. That’s s why we’re welcoming anyone who wants to come out and try. We’d like to have a boating club with a breast-cancer survivor team,” said Oake.

Poirier said she hopes that more people will join the fun.

“We’re trying to promote it. Once you try it, you get hooked. It’s such a peaceful feeling. It’s like going fishing for the first time . . . just so relaxing,” she said.

Andrea Snow is a recent addition to the team, although she had done a training course previously in St. John’s.

“Lots to learn but in a good way. I love it,” said Snow.


Although the Central NL Dragons have high expectations for the upcoming meet in Paradise, the boat is all smiles during breaks.

Among friends

Speaking to the paddlers, they seem to have found something out on the water, something that creates a bond.

In the moments between practice races, the boat always seems to come alive with conversation and laughter.

Maureen Rideout said she looks forward to practice days for the camaraderie.

“Good day, bad day, you’ve got these people. The support is everything and the boat is a bonus,” she said. “It’s heaven.”

For Snow, her time on the water offers a break from the rigors of life.

“I think of nothing except for my paddle and the water. You’re not thinking about kids, or home, or cancer,” she said.

On average, the team has about 12 to 14 people attend practices, leaving room for more to join. The boat seats 22 people.

Still, there is a competitive atmosphere amongst the group, summed up perfectly by Snow.

“I’m hoping we’re going to win. Just to have fun . . . and win.”


Twitter: @joshrjhealey

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