On Saturday, July 19, nearly 350 people gathered at scenic Dexter Lake State Park to kick off the first annual Heroes 2 Oregon Dragon Boat Paddle Challenge (H2O). This event - almost two years in the making! - brought together partners from Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports, the City of Eugene Adaptive Recreation Program, and the newly formed Emerald City Dragon Boat Club.
This exhibition dragon boat race raised money for wounded warriors, with the goal of sending them the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic to help them regain an active lifestyle through activities like sailing, surfing, and cycling. The 12 teams in H2O included community groups from Lane Transit District (“LTD Green Dragons”), Travel Lane County (“Team Oar-A-Gon Adventure Crew”), and a Guaranty RV sponsored team of Veterans (“Warriors”).
A vast majority of the 200+ competing paddlers had never set foot in a dragon boat before. While it is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation, H2O was the first event held of its kind in Lane County. Experienced paddlers from Portland and Salem dragon boat clubs offered their services as callers and tillers in each boat, and provided each team with a very brief how-not-to-end-up-swimming dragon boating orientation. By 9 a.m. the teams were ready to hit the water!
Each team was guaranteed two races, with four teams advancing to the final round for a third race. The format allowed ample time for picnicking, enjoying local food vendors, practicing our newly learned paddling skills, and just hanging out in a beautiful park on a sunny day.
By 1 p.m. the races had come to a finish and teams were gathering to receive their participation and awards medals for the top three teams.
The Oregon Association of Rowers took top honors, followed by the LTD Green Dragons, and the Warriors. Teams had a great time, and I think a few die hard dragon boaters were born!
If you're already looking forward to next year's dragon boat race (like so many of our team already is!), then you will want to check the the Heroes 2 Oregon Dragon Boat Paddle Challenge and Emerald City Dragon Boat Club websites. They will be updated as information for the 2015 event becomes available, or check them out now for photos and media coverage of this year's race.
A special thanks goes out to Guaranty RV and Chevrolet for their support of the event, and DragonSports USA for providing their expertise.
Coverage from local news station KEZI:
About the author: Kayla is the Director of Event Operations for Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports and Mom to 21 month old son, Chace. As a former student-athlete at the University of Oregon, she can often be found cheering on the Ducks from Autzen Stadium to Hayward Field.