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Seattle’s Flying Dragons The Sport of Dragon Boat Racing By Sue Frause

It’s a Wednesday evening on Lake Union. Kenmore Air float planes are taking off and landing, sailboats are plying the summer waters and a group of three dozen or so people are doing warm up exercises in the Kenmore Air Terminal parking lot – all wearing PFD’s (personal flotation devices). So what’s up with the PFD’s? Turns out the men and women are all members of the Seattle Flying Dragons, a group that participates in the sport of dragon boat racing. For the uninitiated, dragon boat racing is the oldest continuously practiced team sport in the world, dating back 2,400 years to China. Today, it’s that country’s national sport and has evolved into an international competitive sport. An estimated 50 million people participate in dragon boat paddling in more than 100 countries, making it one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. Fong Ng, who was born in Malaysia and is of Chinese descent, joined the Seattle Flying Dragons in 2011. “I was looking for some form of exercise other than running,” said Ng, a computer consultant who moved to Seattle three decades ago. He considered rowing, but while watching the Windermere Cup, which marks springtime’s opening day of boating season, the lead boat caught his eye. It was one of Seattle Flying Dragons’ three dragon boats, adorned with a colorful head and tail. Ng went to the group’s practices and ended up becoming a member of the team. Today,

With all of its multiple uses Seattle’s Lake Union is a fascinating place to be on the water. he’s a passionate promoter of the club, saying that it’s more than just about paddling around the lake. “It’s about learning, having fun and the camaraderie amongst the people you meet,” said Ng. “And we’re also here for community outreach and getting everyone interested in dragon boating.” The Seattle Flying Dragon Boat Club, a non-profit corporation, has been operating out of Seattle’s Lake Union since 2004. That’s when Kenmore Air donated free moorage for the group’s three dragon boats, which are tied up on the backside of one of the company’s float plane docks. The club has 100 members and practices are held four times a week. The 41-ft. concave-bottom fiberglass boats, made in Germany, each hold 20 paddlers plus a steer person at the stern and a

drummer at the bow. During competitions, an ornate dragon’s head and tail are affixed to the ends of each boat. The dragon boats are designed to go straight and fast, reaching speeds of up to 15 mph, covering a 500-meter course in less than two minutes. Traditionally, dragon boats sprint race on straight-line courses of 250, 500 or 1,000 meters. Occasionally, races of 6-8 miles are also held. Ng emphasizes that dragon boat racing is a team sport and there are no “heroes” on a boat. “Each paddler is an equal contributor,” said Ng. The Seattle Flying Dragons’ website describes it as “a team sport in its purest form that encompasses the elements of power, speed, synchronization and endurance.” It accommodates a broad spectrum of skill levels, from novice to competitive. And it’s a

The Seaplane and Boating Destination Magazine

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HARBORS Fall/Winter 2013  

The Seaplane and Boating Destination Magazine

HARBORS Fall/Winter 2013  

The Seaplane and Boating Destination Magazine

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