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AAAYA NorCal: Dragon Boat Racing Practice 2011 – Foster City, CA – Recap

Adventures in Dragon  Boat Racing (Recap of June Practice and Future Events):

Bay Area Dragon Coach Angie with AAAYA Rowers Julie Wong, Marc Robert Wong, and George Lai

Everyone’s nice, friendly atmosphere (even Coach Angie — see more detailed account below), harder than it looks, good exercise, fun to go fast. If you want to try it out, you can go any Saturday morning and check it out for free at


Song of the Dragon Boat

Hit, hit, hit…1,2,1,2,1,2…OK, remember to keep the paddle vertical… Up, Up, Up…1-2-1-2-1-2…Lean forward, c’mon reach… Hit, hit, hit…1,2,1,2,1,2…Oops, sorry — hit the paddle of the guy in front of me and got out of synch… Hit, hit, hit…1,2,1,2,1,2…geez, my back is killing me… Hit, hit, hit…1,2,1,2,1,2…bridge coming up… Hit, Hit, Hit…1,2,1,2,1,2…pick up the pace… HIT, HIT, HIT…1,2,1,2,1,2…let’s go, let’s go… HIT-HIT-HIT…1-2-1-2-1-2…full blast, don’t stop until we get the tail through… HIT+HIT+HIT+HIT+HIT+HIT+HIT+HIT+HIT+HIT…Let it ride!

What has 44 arms, 44 legs, 44 eyes, but only one will? That’s a dragon boat team, and the secret is in the teamwork and the single-minded will to win. When my mom said we were going to try out dragon boat racing, I pictured a lazy morning, paddling around under a blue sky with puffy, white clouds, listening to the Chinese drum and laughing and having water fights with my fellow beginning rowers while we figured out which end of the paddle to stick in the water.

Not so — under a chilly, iron-gray sky, Dragon Lady Angie, began the newbie coaching session by spitting out terms like “controlled aggression” and drilled us in proper form, threatening us with how we could get disqualified or lose a race by 100ths of second. The lady was bad — as in Bay Area Dragon, B.A.D. Right away, my mom’s competitive spirit kicks in — she just can’t help herself. She’s talking to the high school student behind her who is a veteran, but somehow got mixed up with the newbies, trying to get tips and improve her technique. She’s stretching out and reaching like she’s paddling up-hill. I’m already taller than she is, but she’s reaching past me on the boat to grab more water. This is not happening to me — she is not out-reaching me.

OK, I start putting some muscle into it — but Dragon Lady Angie says “let it ride” (a command she said we would grow to love which is true because it means I can stop stroking and rest), but right away she’s on me for “prying” and “dragging.” OK, I hunker down and work on trying to pull the paddle through the water vertically and removing it mid-thigh. She’s still critiquing me, but she’s trying to be nice by saying, I’m a “fast learner” (translation: I’m still not getting it right) — but I can see my mom smiling with pride out of the corner of my eye. The guy steering in the back, the only one who dares to speak around Angie, murmurs not unkindly, “Now, you know what it’s like to be a galley slave!” But in a crazy way, when we did get it right — which admittedly was not too often — and we were all paddling in synch, all reaching at the same moment sending the foam jumping out on the dark water, it did seem like we were flying!

Bay Area Dragon Boat Teams racing in Foster City (guess who's in the winning boat!)

Next official AAAYA date is Saturday, July 9th, meet at 10am at Foster City dock (when you turn on Bounty to get to the docks, you’re in the middle of a housing complex and there is a tiny sign that says “Boat Ramp” — so look sharp because it’s easy to miss).

RSVP to Robert Lee ’90 BR at (click here to reveal email address) with your contact info, planned practice dates, expected number of guests including yourself, and Yale affiliations (please put Dragon Boat Practice in the email subject line).   Also, we will try to get a group practice together on a Saturday morning in Peninsula/San Francisco in August in addition to July if enough interested alums RSVP.  No need to wait for a group practice, individuals can check out practices in Peninsula/SF any Saturday morning, and then let us know if you would be interested in fielding an AAAYA team.  Friends and family of alumni welcome!

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