Kootenay Robusters Dragon Boat team — comprised of paddlers from Trail, Rossland, Castlegar, Christina Lake and Grand Forks — say they’ve had a challenging summer of paddling.
For starters, despite efforts to recruit new team members, the Robusters did not meet the full complement of 20 paddlers. Sometimes as few as 10 women headed out to train on the water.
Nevertheless, these resilient and determined women would never let a detail like too few members get in the way of attending a competition wrap up in the Okanagan.
So they packed their gear and headed to the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival, an event held Sept.10 and Sept. 11, to celebrate the end of paddling season.
“Because we haven’t had a full boat all season, we’re stronger than ever,” Bernice Barrass, Kootenay Robusters captain saod. “We just (had) to find another group of paddlers that would get together with us for the festival.”
A team from Edmonton, called the Parkland Dragon Boat Racing Club, experienced the same membership problem this season, and they were happy to get together with the Robusters.
Paperwork was completed and a combined team — christened the Parkbusters — got ready to meet at the festival.
Last minute, however, another wrench was thrown in the mix. Just days before everyone was set to go, illness and injury took three more Robusters off the roster.
This required the emergency recruitment of a trio of paddlers: one from Calgary; one from Penticton; and to steer the boat, a rodeo cowboy from Alberta named Conrad.
Dragon boating is a sport requiring precise synchronization and perfect timing to be successful, so everyone wondered how the mix of 22 people — who had never been in a boat together — was going to work.
With one quick practice under their belts — topped by a bit of trepidation — they got ready to compete.
“We may not have been the fastest team out there, but we did our very best,” coach Joy Anderson shared. “And we had a lot of fun.”
As expected, the Parkbusters didn’t win any races. But they were more than satisfied with meeting their goals of paddling well together, improving steadily, having fun and making some new friends.
When the final race ended, the team was awarded third place in the Silver B division and they took home some cool ribbons.
On Sunday, six Robuster breast cancer survivors joined another team called Spirit Abreast to compete in the Breast Cancer races.
With the rest of the team members on shore screaming encouragement and waving pink shakers, Spirit Abreast took first place in the B Division.
“That was the most exciting race of the whole festival,” spectators commented, as Spirit Abreast came from far behind at the start to overtake the other boats and cross the finish line just ahead of them all.
Following the race, the Penticton Breast Cancer Team, Survivorship, organized a carnation ceremony for the hundreds of people watching from shore.
After some moving words and the song “Pink,” spectators and paddlers tossed pink carnations into the water to remember friends and family touched by this disease and those no longer with us.
With paddling season almost over, the Robusters will continue their work to raise awareness of breast cancer and the role that healthy exercise can play in helping recovery.
The team will be at Waneta Mall in Trail on Sunday, Sept. 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Kootenay Healthy Living Expo.
They will have a dragon boat paddling machine that guests can try, and there will be lots of information about the sport and the team.
The Robusters encourage everyone to drop by for a visit.
The song “Pink” was written by Erin Kinsey, Jodi Marr and Victoria Shaw and sung by Dolly Parton, Monica, Jordin Sparks, Evans and Rita Wilson to raise awareness around breast cancer and raise funds for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation.