By Jiselle Lee
This year, the REACH dragon boat team encountered defeat; not by other racing teams, but by a tornado warning.
For the past eight years, REACH has participated in an annual dragon boat festival in Orlando. We begin practices at the Orlando Rowing Club at the end of summer vacation, and we practice once or twice a month until the race in October.
In June, Praveen Sundar was voted Captain, and Emme Lee and I were voted Co-Captains. Together, we led the team, distributed waivers, and collected fees to prepare them for the race. Although we admittedly struggled to meet the member requirements during the first few practices, we managed to solidify our team before the race.
However, the night before the race when we checked the latest weather reports, we were worried to find that there was a high chance of thunderstorms all Saturday morning. While we hoped that the weather would not prevent us from racing, things took a turn for the worse the next day.
On the morning of October 16th, the team received tornado warnings occurring in the area. At the lake, it was pouring rain and the harsh wind forced us to bundle up and stay under our tent. The team leaders attended the race’s Captains Meeting, where the organizers announced that the races would continue as scheduled. However, the harsh weather was incessant. Our competitors are seasoned racers and have practiced all year round. Not to mention, they were all adults; meanwhile, most of our team was under the age of 18.
After much thought and consideration, the team leaders ultimately decided to back out of the race. Most of us went home to stay in the comfort of our homes, but a few stayed to watch the race. They reported that there was flooding all around the lake for the rest of the day.
Then, coincidentally, on November 9th, 2019, four REACH dragon boat team members raced with Team CHARGE at the Lake Hernando Dragon Boat Festival. Yet once again, we faced challenges during the race due to the weather. During Team CHARGE’s first two races, the racers were at the mercy of the wind and waves, which caused the other racing boats to nearly crash into us. Ultimately, after those two attempts, CHARGE won bronze!
As a Co-captain of the 2019 REACH Dragon Boat Team, this win made me feel victorious. Although we all wished Team REACH could have raced on October 16th, in a way, our hard work paid off. The training and dedication we made to practice our technique allowed us to contribute to Team CHARGE ‘s win.
I hope that the REACH underclassmen who were introduced to dragon boat this year try out for the team again in summer 2020, and I encourage everyone to try racing with CHARGE at any time during the year.
Former REACH captains Kevin Chu and Duc-Thanh Nguyen, REACH VP of Communications Takkai Wong, and 2019 Co-President and Co-Captain Jiselle Lee paddle with Team CHARGE.
Written by Alex Tao
I started dragon boating around mid July, linking up with C.H.A.R.G.E and practicing with them almost every Saturday morning. Although it was grueling to wake up at 6 in the morning on the weekend, I still decided that I was going to make the commitment and try it out. Since I wasn't able to dragon boat last year due to my age issue, this year was my first year as a paddler at the festival. It was an amazing experience to compete in an actual race with my fellow REACH members. Although we didn't place, we were still able to make it into Division B, seeded at 24. It was impressive to see a team full of high schoolers take on teams that had professional dragon-boaters. At the final race I was approached by Anthony, one of the team captains, he told me that I was going to have to drum in the last race, something that I had never done before. Since a girl had not shown up and we had to keep the gender ratio balanced, the boat seating had to be moved around. I weighed light enough for them to choose me to be the drummer. I was really nervous in the beginning, but came to realize that being the drummer was actually quite fun. Overall, it was a good first time experience for me and I definitely plan on coming back next year!
Written by Takkai Wong
Dragon boat is a great, fun experience that I would recommend to anyone! I paddled in REACH's 2018 Dragon Boat team for the Dragon Boat Festival/Asian Expo. Honestly, I was honored to actually paddle with the team. Dragon boat, to me, is a great way of keeping touch with my Chinese cultural heritage. Even so, everyone participating in Dragon Boat were friendly and helpful. Dragon boat, as a whole, taught me many new values that I would keep to heart. It taught me commitment and perseverance. Honestly, at the beginning of paddling, I was not a very good paddler. I'm still not even that great at it. But the feeling of passing the finish line, the feeling of wanting to accomplish a goal, is something that no one ever wants to forget. What's a better feeling than crossing the finishing line with your team? Rather than stick to the bottom, I loved the feeling of the team sportsmanship I encountered in Dragon boat. The teamwork in Dragon boat intrigued me. There was a variety of different characteristics in the people paddling for Dragon boat, but somehow, a group of teenagers from different schools banding together and synchronizing, utilizing their own strengths were able to create the REACH team. If given the chance to take up the paddle again and again, I would do it as many times as I am able to.
On the same day of the Annual Asian Cultural EXPO, October 15, 2016, the Walgreens Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival took place at Turkey Lake in Bill Frederick Park. REACH was able to take first place in the Premier Mixed D Consolation Final with the time of 02:35:33! Click on the title for more photos. Thanks to our captain, Corey Hsiao, our co-captains, Anthony Chung and Sarah Joe, and our drummer, Alice Fu! See the video below to watch the final race! For more photos, click here.
On October 17, 2015, the REACH Dragon Boat Team raced in the Walgreen's International Dragon Boat Festival at Bill Frederick Park. Despite being both the youngest and lightest team, REACH rowed a 2:31:51 time, setting a new team record!
For more, click here to read an Asia Trend article about the team and click here for some more photos from the race!
On October 18, REACH participated in the Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival at Turkey Lake and won Division C Consolation Final at a time of 2:37. Click here for some pictures of the event.