Dragon boating review
Sitting in a long, double row of chairs that's planted on a patch of grass, I bring my paddle down, sweep it backwards and lift it skywards once more. I'm about to climb into a dragon boat with more than a dozen other novices and we need to get the movement and the timing right before we hit the wind-whipped water. "[The motion is] like a hot knife through butter," says Maggie Boyce, treasurer of Queensland's Manly Dragon Boat Club, as we fill the boat and prepare to reverse into the harbour. "Paddles back!"
We try a few different drills to illustrate what happens when people don't pull their weight. When the front half of the boat stops paddling, the drag on the water is obvious. But when it all comes together, it's beautiful. "When you get a bit of momentum going, it can hurt when you shove the paddle into the water to stop the boat," Maggie says.
This emphasis on paddling in unison is why, when I am caught gazing across the water at a particularly fetching deckhand on an adjacent boat, the sweep calls for "eyes to the front". And why, when I'm contemplating the seagulls, I hear a voice shout: "Look up the front, not over the water. You'll upset the balance of the boat."
After a few laps around the harbour my biceps are burning and, judging by the splash and clash of increasingly erratic paddles, others are feeling fatigued too. We'red to remove our paddles from the water and lean forward to rest. "It's better to take the time out and take a breather, than carry on when you're too tired," Maggie says.
I'm somewhat relieved when the call goes up to return to shore. Paddling is tougher than I thought. My bottom has gone to sleep after sitting so long and the salt spray has set on my skin like a crust. "Wasn't that great?" another paddler exclaims, eyes shining, as we're hauling the boat from the water. "Incredible," I reply. "So invigorating. I'm coming back." Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the eye of the dragon, winking in the sun