Dragon Boat race draws crowd at MiraBay

Published on: March 23, 2016

By LISA STARK

On March 5, MiraBay in Apollo Beach, home to the Leviathans dragon boat race team, hosted one of the largest and most successful Dragon Boat Festivals to date, with 17 teams participating in the colorful event. Dragon boat teams from all over Florida and beyond participated in the race, while spectators enjoyed food, live music and kids activities shipped in specially for the festival.

Dragon boats are the basis of this team-paddling sport, which has its roots in ancient Chinese rituals dating back more than 2,000 years. While competition has taken place for more than 20 centuries as part of religious ceremonies and folk customs, dragon boat racing has emerged in modern times as an international sport.

Survivors in Sync team members. LISA STARK PHOTOS

Survivors in Sync team members.
LISA STARK PHOTOS

Steerer Joe Campbell shows a tattoo portrait of his wife Christina, who lost her battle with breast cancer last June.

Steerer Joe Campbell shows a tattoo portrait of his wife Christina, who lost her battle with breast cancer last June.

For competitive events like the MiraBay Dragon Boat Festival, the crew of a standard dragon boat is typically 20 paddlers in pairs.  There is also a drummer at the bow facing the paddlers, and a sweep (or steerer) standing at the rear of the boat.  The drumbeats are considered the “heartbeat” of a dragon boat, setting the pace for the team and synchronizing their strokes with one another.

MiraBay Leviathan team member Susan Maxwell was on hand at the MiraBay Festival to greet fans and invite anyone interested in joining the team to come out and check out their practice, which is held three days per week at MiraBay.  “We encourage people to come out and try it out for three practice sessions before joining,” said Maxwell. “That way you can see if it’s something that’s right for you.”

Breast Cancer survivors from the Survivors in Sync team.

Breast Cancer survivors from the Survivors in Sync team.

Today, festival dragon boat racing is one of the fastest growing team water sports, with thousands of participants in various organizations and clubs in more than 60 countries.  Modern dragon boat racing is organized at an international level by the International Dragon Boat Federation.

Apollo Beach residents Etta Strehle and Harriet Peralta competed on the Blue Dragon team of Tampa. Peralta, who served as the drummer, said, “The drummer keeps everyone in sync. I have so much fun doing this.”

“We are competitive, but it’s also social,” said Strehle.  “In fact, my husband Bruce is at home cooking right now — we’re having a cookout for the whole team at our house after the race.”

Members of the Blue Dragon team get ready to embark. Etta Strehle of Apollo Beach is in the front row, far right.

Members of the Blue Dragon team get ready to embark. Etta Strehle of Apollo Beach is in the front row, far right.

The Blue Dragon team competed in Puerto Rico in February and plans to attend festivals this spring in New Orleans and Toronto.  “We make a vacation of it,” said Strehle. “My husband and I stayed in Puerto Rico for a week after that race.”

“I got involved in Dragon Boat racing because my daughter was on the youth team, and a lot of parents were following the lead of their kids,”  said Lisa Krumme, a resident of MiraBay.  Among the spectators at the MiraBay race were kids from Apollo Beach who enjoyed the bounce house positioned on the festival site.

One team, Survivors in Sync, was a diverse team of individuals with one thing in common: breast cancer. “We have ages ranging from 40 to 75 on our team,” said team member Bobbi Collins. “We are all survivors, and this sport helps to make us stronger.”

Joe Campbell, the team’s steerer, speaks fondly of his wife Christina, who battled breast cancer for five years before finally losing her battle last June. “These ladies adopted me,” said Campbell, who shows off a tattoo of Christina’s likeness on one arm and the image of a dragon on the other.  “The dragon bit me, and I haven’t turned back since.”

Some of the dragon boat races for the spring racing season include the Suncoast International Dragon Boat Festival in Sarasota on March 19, the Bradenton Dragon Boat Festival on April 9, and the Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Festival in Tampa on April 30.   For more information on racing events, visit www.usdbf.org/events.

The Blade Runner team of Tampa.

The Blade Runner team of Tampa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MiraBay is the home of the the Leviathans dragon boat race team.

MiraBay is the home of the the Leviathans dragon boat race team.

Comments