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Celebrating Community: Dragon boat races combine ancient ritual and sport

dragon boat mission bay
Posted at 12:47 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-08 09:05:24-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The sight of dragons could be seen flying across the waters of Mission Bay, as competitors gathered for a day of dragon boat racing.

"Since the minute I sat in my first boat, there was a rush," said Patrick Lim, who started racing dragon boats while in college.

On a sunny Saturday morning, Lim was busy pumping up his Qualcomm-sponsored team at the 15th Annual San Diego Dragon Boat Festival.

"It's very bonding and exciting," said Lim.

On this day, his team is one of 23 racing for glory, just like the villagers in China more than 2000 years ago.

"A lot of competitions between villagers. Whoever wins has bragging rights and the honor," said Lim.

The honor claimed is on a boat with a dragon head mounted at the front of the boat, which pays homage to the Chinese dragon deity. Linda Tu help start the first local dragon boat races.

"The spirit of the dragon is in the wind and in the water and in the skies. That's why we have dragon boats," said Tu, who heads the San Diego Alliance for Asian Pacific Islander Americans.

For the races at this event, those boats will contain 16 paddlers, a steerer and a drummer. The role of the drummer is both ceremonial and tactical. When the drummer begins the beat, followed closely by the paddlers.

"Once you're in the zone, you keep paddling. You just focus on the boat and the people in the boat. The most important thing in dragon boat races is to stay in sync. Every paddle at the same time ... we all hit the water at the same time," said Lim.

The blend of precision, power and passion now fuels a sport found in some 70 different countries and territories.

"It's competitive, but you don't have to be an athlete to participate. It's more about the camaraderie ... all the people working together for one goal to better themselves, to be a better team," said Lim.

Find out how you can take part in the dragon boat races here.