As I woke up this morning, I felt like my legs were made of lead and my back like an iron rod. I get cleaned up and then get ready for my day. I drag down my giant 4lb sack of MuscleMilk Gainer protein powder down from the shelf and begin to mix it up in a patented plastic bottle that I got roped into buying off Amazon out of sheer convenience of “nutrition.”
“Everyday gains” is what the protein powder sack reads. But really? What is it I would be gaining? Strength? Power? Better beach body looks? Weight? When I was working in outpatient orthopedic-focused PT clinics, I’d see three basic types of people: sedentary, weekend warriors, and committed athletes. The sedentary folks may have chronic pain issues that prevented them from being active at all. Whether the chicken or the egg came first, it no longer really mattered because they were where they were and needed to pull through chronic pain to be healthier. Their basic fitness could be so low that everyday function was a struggle. Weekend warriors might’ve been passionate about their hobbies and athletic pursuits but were always struggling with the compromises of real life. Put in a few miles per day of running after working a desk job and then limping across the marathon finish line to discover aching, swollen knees for weeks afterwards. They might’ve been fit enough to sprint for the bus to avoid being late to work but the tough compromises in time from a sedentary job and an “active” lifestyle outside of work created a hard balance for their bodies to cope with. Lastly, the committed athletes occupied another realm of issues that sometimes arose from their efforts to always push the upper extremes of performance. Stress fractures, early onset of arthritis, torn or degenerated tendons from high-repetition / high-load activities for years and years comes to mind. Sure, not everybody in the clinic fit into these generic boxes nor did their medical diagnoses always follow these patterns, but they certainly did so frequently.
When I think of athletes trying to progress in their sport, I think of the difficulties that people have in general with keeping a balanced lifestyle and balanced body. Let’s say you go to the gym and lift weights with a steady pattern over several months. If you are following a good program, you should be gaining strength and maybe power depending on the workouts you are doing. At the end of those several months, you have gained strength and power but have you improved performance? Say you have noticed better performance in the sport of your choosing because your program was well-tailored to be translatable. Are you then less likely to be injured pushing the upper limits of performance in that sport? If you can’t say yes to that question confidently, I’d venture to say your training made you gain in certain areas of fitness but did not make you become more balanced. By gaining in one/several areas of fitness (e.g. strength or power) you may have declined in flexibility, speed, or coordination.
A well-known, local orthopedist named Scott Dye has a phrase he calls the “envelope of function.” Basically, every organ in your body has an upper limit in its operation where it can function normally without being injured. Exceed the envelope and you overload the organ, causing reactive problems. I like to expand that concept into a whole-person perspective: gradually expand your limits through smart and comprehensive training to create a buffer between the minimum required fitness needed to avoid injury and operate in optimal performance.
It’s my personal opinion that athletes who experience nagging pains during and after their pursuits while calling it “all part of the game/sport” are in a degree of denial or possibly simple ignorance. From working with hundreds of people over the years, I can safely say that there is typically a way to help resolve or address pain arising from sport, often with rather simple concepts and changes. Often times athletes with that singular-drive mentality and obsession with one element of the sport have a hard time expanding their minds to accept the possibility and value of being a well-rounded individual while also being highly specialized.
The bottom line is that when you think about “bettering” yourself through training and sport, I encourage you to work towards gains in multiple areas of fitness so that as your fitness improves, you remain a well-balanced individual. Focusing upon one area of fitness and foregoing other elements of good health will end up biting you later on down the road. Our bodies are good at compromising in the face of unbalanced change. Don’t let the illusion of gains fool you into thinking you are actually a healthier athlete.
Most folks know and understand what torque is. Just in case you don’t remember high school physics, torque is defined as “the cross product of the lever-arm distance and force, which tends to produce rotation” (good ‘ole wikipedia). When paddling, there are many aspects of basic stroke technique that involve torque. You exert torque through the paddle to the water, your body exerts some torsion force on the paddle and the boat itself, etc this much is intuitive. What may not be as intuitive is how an innate metric like torque may actually be missing from key aspects of your stroke technique, leading to diminished performance and even increased risk of injury.
To quote Dr. Kelly Starrett in his book Becoming a Supple Leopard, “A stable, well-organized spine is the key to moving safely and effectively and maximizing power output and force production…midline stabilization and torque are two parts of a unifying system that work in conjunction with each other.” What does this mean? In basic terms, he is saying coordination and stability are key to producing and transferring max force. You may think that this boils down further to say, “if you’re buff and experienced, you’re golden” right? Not entirely. Raw strength does not equate to stability and experience does not always equate to better technique. For example, you may be able to deadlift 1.5x your body weight but do it in a sloppy way. You may also be highly experienced at performing an exercise but do so with poor technique. Both situations increase your risk for injury and prove to be limiting factors to improved performance.
Now think of paddling. Say you compared 3 paddlers of equal experience: Paddler 1 is strong but muscle-bound to the point where they can only take a short stroke, Paddler 2 is very flexible and can reach way out for a super long stroke but resembles a wet noodle when paddling, Paddler 3 has the most picture-perfect technique you can imagine and uses it with a seemingly effortless appearance. From my choice in descriptors, you can probably assume that Paddler 3 would be the best in a time trial situation and if you had a full crew of paddlers just like this person, it would be a more powerful, efficient, and faster boat than the others. What makes this paddler so effective compared to the others, given the fact that they all have equal experience? This is where finding good torque steps in.
If you search Youtube for paddling clinics, just about every speaker and coach talks about setting the blade firmly in the water on the catch. Some liken the feeling of planting the blade to having it “stuck” in the water as if in instant-dry concrete. Once a solid catch is obtained, then power is applied to the paddle to pull yourself (and your craft) up to the anchored blade. While this perspective takes into account the paddle in relation to the water, it tends to overlook what the paddler is doing once a firm anchor is set. If you get the paddle in the water perfectly but fail to find good torque through your body either because of joint instability, impaired motor control, or lacking of range of motion, you will NOT be able to exert good torque on that paddle.
So how do you know you are giving good torque? As a coach, what can you look for to know if good torque is being applied by your paddlers? From the first-person perspective, applying good torque requires you to be stable in neutral (or as close to neutral) spinal posture and have your extremities set and stabilized prior to actually applying power. The first stroke of a race start is probably the easiest and most intuitive way to find optimal torque because slow movement is generally easier to coordinate. Anchoring your blade 100% and setting yourself up to have your back straight, shoulder blades set down/together, feet braced against the foot stops, thigh pressing into the gunnel, and hands “pre-loading” the paddle, gives you stability before the GO. In setting up this position and using your muscles to make yourself as rigid as possible, you are using muscular torque to compress and stabilize your joints while taking up slack along your body frame, in turn making them great conductors of force. You will have a stronger, quicker and more precise drive on that first stroke just by having that setup. After you start to pull, practice keeping a firm and rigid frame through the pull to ensure you are not losing torque along the way.
As a coach, you can watch for paddlers holding good posture throughout the stroke cycle. Assuming the paddler is coordinating their paddle to your ideal, look for signs that they may be losing torque along the way and try to troubleshoot why this is happening (is it from lack of stability, lack of coordination, or lack of flexibility?). Dr. Starrett refers to movement patterns that diminish torque to be “faults” and gives them clever and funny names such as the Stripper Fault (having your booty pop up before the bar lifts when doing a good morning squat). Here are some common “faults,” complete with funny names, that I see in paddlers losing torque:
1. Neck Crane Fault: cranking your head up to look forward (say at the timing box) while you flex your trunk forward on the reach diminishes the stability of your shoulder blades before the catch.
2. Head Banger Fault: after entry and anchoring the blade, some paddlers will throw their head down violently in attempt to get better drive. Instead you are committing your neck muscles and scapular stabilizers to decelerating your bowling ball-weighted head instead of applying force to the paddle.
3. Drawbridge Fault: during recovery and reaching forward, the paddler rounds their back either as if slumping in a chair or sidebending (due to rotation) resembling a curved bridge. This unlocks the connection between your hips, pelvis and spine while destabilizing your upper body to take a good pull.
4. Roll Up Fault: after initiating the pull, the paddler’s pelvis rocks backwards, rounding the low back, and this rounding curve rolls up the spine to the head like a sinus wave. This is a dynamic fault that destabilizes your whole system and can actually start as a result of the Drawbridge Fault.
5. Knock Knee Fault: the paddler draws their knees together during the pull phase instead of pressing the outside leg into the gunnel and foot against foot stop. This fault diminishes the connection between paddler and boat, decreases leg drive power, and destabilizes the pelvis leading to more instability up the chain.
6. Chicken Wing Fault: when anchoring the blade, the paddler’s elbows go from tipped up towards the sky to down to the water, giving the appearance like they are doing the funky chicken dance. The apparent movement at the elbow is actually from the paddler not being able to stabilize their shoulders against the increasing load at the paddle while anchoring. This diminishes how quickly they can anchor the paddle and delays the point where they can produce force during the drive.
7. Choo Choo Fault: when pulling, the paddler breaks at the outside elbow, bending it and drawing it back making them appear like the crank of a locomotive as the wheels spin. Bending the bottom elbow during the pull prior to initiating recovery diminishes torque because there is movement occurring along what should be a solid frame.
(I’m sure I can think up many more faults, but I’m all out of zany nicknames right now)
When practicing finding torque, I wrote earlier that going slow is key. In the basic sense it’s easier to coordinate your body. When the rate increases, most paddlers’ mental focus goes from ensuring good pulls and form to just staying in time. I recommend drills that focus on strokes from dead stop or pause-type drills at a low rate to learn how to find torque.
Master torque application and you may yet become a supple water leopard! Rawr!
Sidenote: I am in no way affiliated with Dr. Starrett except in being a fellow physical therapist. I believe his book is a terrific guide to what physical therapists try to get their patients to understand everyday. If you get a chance to read the book, you’ll be miles ahead of the average athlete in terms of knowing how to minimize your risk for injury and improve your potential for improved performance.
There is some evidence suggesting that clenching your teeth may actually help you gain an ergogenic advantage in sport performance…at least in terms of strength and power development.
er·go·gen·ic: increasing capacity for bodily or mental labor especially by eliminating fatigue symptoms (merriam-webster)
This ergogenic effect is thought to occur via a complex and still-being-studied neurological phenomenon termed concurrent activation potentiation or CAP. For example, subjects clenching their jaws showed 12.1% higher rates of force development (RFD) and 15.1% improved results during grip strength testing and even continued to show short term improvements after relaxing their jaws compared to subjects tested without clenching. Another study showed improved RFD and time to peak force (TTPF) in subjects performing a jump in place.
What does this have to do with paddling?
To date, a quick search on Pubmed reveals there to be 28 studies relating to dragon boat and a majority of them are focusing on the benefits the sport holds for breast cancer survivors. It will probably be a while before the effects of CAP are studied in relation to dragon boat specifically, but at the cost of clenching vs not clenching your teeth, why not try it?
Imagine your paddlers being 15% stronger and 12% quicker at exerting force for those first few strokes off the line! If that’s not tapping hidden athletic potential without illegal drugs, I don’t know what is.
Power delivery is most easily applied and also critical to a race start situation. I say power delivery is “easier” during the start not because it takes less effort, but because the boat and water are relatively stationary to each other, which allows paddlers (both trained and untrained alike) to crank hard with decent efficiency. As boat speed increases, it takes a great deal more experience and training to efficiently put power into the water (one of the reasons why world-class teams finish races faster with fewer total strokes as novice crews). Although jaw clenching is probably a very common pre-sport action, dragon boat is a team sport that relies on the sum of its parts. Imagine your paddlers being 15% stronger and 12% quicker at exerting force for those first few strokes off the line! If that’s not tapping hidden athletic potential without illegal drugs, I don’t know what is.
The other reason why I propose the CAP effect may work best during the start is that there is currently no evidence that suggests the parameters of jaw clenching on prolonged athletic performance. So far, all the evidence shows only a concurrent or short term improvement in performance with jaw clenching. Plus, your masticators may be pretty tired after 2 minutes of continuous clenching.
Maybe jaw clenching is useless, maybe it’s something everybody already does, but it could also be one of the most overlooked areas of sport performance technique.
Of course, if clenching your jaw causes you pain, don’t do it! Sometimes you just have to use your brain and not your teeth to paddle better.
If you read this well-written article, you can start to wrap your brain around how these structures relate to paddling specifically. If you read it and are confused, don’t worry. In a nutshell, we have groups of muscles that run along the front and back of our bodies that run in a diagonal direction. Visualizing them on either side of midline, we can see an “X” pattern that forms across our front and back. Contracting different arms of the X’s allows us to flex, rotate, sidebend, and extend as well as resist external forces that would otherwise move us in those planes. This X-pattern has been referred to as an anatomical “sling” or sometimes as a power-sling.
Paddling, like all sports, is 3-dimensional. Taking a stroke involves muscle action and movement that is tri-planar. It can be reasoned that by contracting in various patterns, these slings work to stabilize and move our body in 3 dimensions. What this means is that training in a cross-pattern or diagonal/asymmetric fashion may be more functional and directly applicable to developing strength, performance, and stability in a 3-dimensional sport.
During the recovery phase of the dragon boat stroke, a paddler will flex forward at the trunk as they rotate to face inside the boat. The act of reaching during the recovery phase (in a left sided paddler) can be thought of as contracting the front sling running from left shoulder to right hip. Acting alone, this sling would cause the trunk to curl forward, drawing the left shoulder towards the right knee. To maximize reach by keeping the spine more neutral, the posterior (rear) sling running from right shoulder to left hip must contract to draw the right shoulder blade and top arm up and back (coincidentally establishing positive paddle angle on the reach) keeping the spine straight and long. The opposite set of slings work for a right-sided paddler.
During the pull phase, the slings quickly and powerfully switch actions. The front sling running from right shoulder to left hip contract to drive the blade down into the water, initiating the pull. The rear running from upper right to lower left contract to pull the trunk upright, preserving the rigid A-frame. Different stroke styles involve different coordination of these slings, but still rely on these slings for movement and stability.
If a paddler is deficient in strength of one or more of these slings, it’s simple to see how this can contribute to visibly faulty paddling technique or simply less power delivered into the water. Likewise, faulty technique as well as muscular imbalance and lack of stability can lead to an increased risk of injury.
In the future, I’ll be aiming to make some educational media about stretches and exercises to condition these slings.
Growing up, my parents always told me that hitting was a bad thing but science is showing some evidence that a little hit isn’t such a bad thing after all.
In case you were wondering, I’m not talking about actually striking somebody but rather the acronym HIT or High-intensity Interval Training. Athletes who train to race in any sport are well aware of interval training, which is a form of exercise involving a period of exertion followed by a period of rest. Interval workouts give variety and challenge to a training program, but are commonly associated with sprinting or mid-distance sports. Did you know that there is evidence that the integration of a HIT workout can result in better endurance when compared to an ordinary endurance training program?
Although the distance of dragon boat races could be considered sprint to mid-distance in most water sports, the physical demands of dragon boat paddling still favor the team with a good mix of power AND endurance. Many teams will train to develop power by power-lifting in the gym and doing starts on the water, with endurance training consisting of moderate to low-intensity, sustained paddling. With the lack of research being done on dragon boat itself, I found one, albeit older, study from Laursen et al titled “Interval training program optimization in highly trained endurance cyclists.”
Their results showed that workouts involving HIT resulted in better 40km time trial results in cyclists compared to those who only performed endurance training and did not perform HIT. More specifically, the treatment group that improved the most was subject to the following HIT parameters:
HIT workout 2x/wk
8 timed sets of 60% Time to Exhaustion (Tmax)
at VO2peak power output (Pmax)
1:2 exercise to rest ratio
Recovery period intensity at 65% max heart rate (HRmax)
4 weeks total with workload adjusted at 2 week reassesment
Getting some metrics for your paddlers is important but not necessarily essential to get HIT to work in your favor. The metrics will help you learn where certain people excel and where others need to improve. Since DB is a team sport, having some average race times before and after training under similar conditions would be good to have (or individual time trial data). For individual testing, a paddling erg would be useful.
How to do this Yourself The Meticulous Way
Unless you have access to a professional lab setup, you’ll have to estimate this by other means. The experiment calculated VO2 while exercising at certain workloads. For practical purposes, VO2max can be substituted and there are several calculators online, here is one.
Warmup for 5 minutes at a set, low intensity. After the warmup, immediately increase resistance to a higher level (the experiment increased wattage at warmup by 1.5x for the test portion). Measure the time it takes for the paddler to drop below a desired stroke rate. The time to cadence fatigue is Tmax.
After warming up 5 minutes at easy intensity, gradually increase resistance while paddling until the point of volitional fatigue, making note of the wattage just before point of fatigue. The experiment measured this in relation to VO2 measures, so again, this is an approximation.
Try this calculator to find your range of max heart rate by age, type of sport, and training level.
How to do this Yourself The Simple(r) Way
You could choose to omit things like VO2peak and Pmax. Get your crew warmed up properly. After this, run a sprint race piece and make note of when either stroke rate progressively drops or boat speed starts to decrease. You can film and count stroke rate later or use an accelerometer to figure this out.
For workouts, run 8 sets of similar intensity sprint pieces for 60% of the time until performance drop-off. Paddle easily at 1:2 time ratio through the whole workout.
For general health and performance reasons, your paddlers should be familiar with methods to monitor their heart rate in relation to workout intensity. Wear heart rate monitors or figure out max HR prior to working out and having folks measure their HR immediately after the set. With experience, folks can learn to associate HR with perceived level of exertion and use that as a general guide if they are not actively being measured by a device.
“Hey coach! Gimme a break!”
I’m sure it’s a thought that many competitive paddlers have had at some point during a hard practice. But who wants to be the whining wimp who complains that a set or drill is “too hard?” Part of being able to push yourself physically is being able to work through the agony of 100% sustained effort. With that kind of mentality, it’s no wonder most coaches won’t hear that kind of comment from their crews, but is that necessarily a good thing?
What is perfect performance?
Quite simply, performing optimally is a combination of elements essential to the sport. If a paddler has great conditioning, technique, concentration, and determination, then it should be expected that a melding of high amounts of each will result in great performance. Call it the best-case-scenario.
If a paddler falls short in any of those elements, performance will likely drop. It makes sense to want high marks of each element of performance at all times.
Practice makes perfect but perfect practice takes priority
Say that ten times fast without losing a letter and you’ll know what it means. Practice is about enhancing an athlete’s ability to perform by developing each element of performance either individually or as a group. The challenge for a coach comes from designing workouts that enhance these skill sets without being detrimental to others at the same time. For example, why train to paddle at 120 spm if your paddler technique falls apart and timing becomes garbage? You are training folks to move quickly but at the expense of 2 very important performance skills.
A team wiped out after hard racing. This kind of fatigue didn’t happen after crossing the finish line.
In the novice to recreational world of dragon boat, I see so many teams train to fail. Training to fail at this level is running a set or interval at a difficulty (either duration or intensity) that exceeds the athlete’s ability to keep good performance throughout. Anytime we practice with sloppy technique, our bodies adapt to make sloppy technique more natural. Just imagine if every stroke you took was perfect in delivery throughout practice! You’re training to paddle perfectly.
Michael Phelps with the energy to celebrate AFTER setting a world record. Perfect practice = perfect performance.
While encouraging good performance habits is a no-brainer, noticing form failure during a practice is essential information for any coach. Investigating where and why performance failure occurs during practice allows a coach to determine “the weakest link” in a crew or athlete’s training. Using this approach, a coach can gather vital information about their crew and areas needed to improve to address overall performance. There’s no reason to avoid failure while training, but it’s a mistake to train failure.
The Problem: a paddler’s timing degrades through a 250m sprint piece
Your Observation: Their head is dropping and they are out of breath
Potential Weakness: Inadequate endurance, inefficient stroke technique
Possible Solution(s): Allow for more rest between sets, decrease paddling intensity/effort pacing,
encourage paddler to improve attendance, address technique
So, the next time you run a practice, recognize when different aspects of performance are failing and adjust the workout as needed to keep your practices perfect!
High-intensity Interval Training (awesomely abbreviated HIT) has been shown to be an effective way to improve strength and endurance when combined with other, perhaps more traditional, training methods. Plus, it’s a fun and entirely self-paced activity good for groups of people. Here is just an intro of what the team has been working on over the past several weeks.
It’s a very common belief that stretching to reduce muscle tightness is positively linked to performance, however evidence shows that some forms of stretching may actually be bad for performance.
When it comes to dragon boat, is it a good thing to stretch?
Will it help or hurt your paddling performance?
Let’s look at key features of different types of stretching.
This is a slow and constant stretch performed either actively (under your own power) or passively (with some help from another person or object), held at an end position typically for 30 seconds or longer.
Static stretching is a simple method to increase range of motion (aka flexibility) with potentially decreased risk of injury during the stretch. If you’re a paddler who can’t paddle with good form despite having good water experience because of muscle tightness, then this method may be of benefit to you to improve flexibility between practices.
Studies show that static stretching has a negative impact on a muscle’s ability to produce peak force and power. In terms of sprinters and weight lifters, sprint times and one-rep max values were made worse immediately following a prolonged, static stretch to the muscles being used. Why does this happen? Our muscles have different sensory receptors within them that help us produce force quickly (creating power) and static stretching is thought to reduce the activity of these receptors.
Static stretching also causes muscles to decrease in temperature due to not actively contracting them. This means you may lose the benefits of doing a warm-up if you statically stretch muscles for several minutes.
Doing static stretching prior to races or at the start line? Evidence may suggest you’ll have a lower ability to exert power during your paddling.
This is an active effort using bouncing-type movements where the end position of the stretch is occupied only briefly.
Unfortunately, there is not very much evidence at all that says ballistic stretching has any clear benefit to athletic performance (so far). This means that ballistic stretching is not a dependable way to improve performance.
There is evidence (1) that says ballistic stretching may actually increase risk of injury to affected muscle groups, especially if these muscles have been injured in the past. Remember those stretch receptors mentioned earlier? Their job is to contract a muscle in the event that extra force is suddenly detected (eg you are holding an empty catcher’s mitt in front of you with your eyes closed and somebody drops a softball into it. Your hand doesn’t fall because your muscles contract to keep the mitt in place). Ballistic stretching exerts tension on a muscle in a quick manner that activates these same receptors, causing muscles to tense up at the end of the ballistic movement, defeating the purpose of the stretch.
This form of stretching can be defined as a “functionally based stretching exercise that uses sport-specific movements to prepare the body for activity” (2). They are active movements made within the range of motion required for a sport, ideally in directions that mimic the sport itself.
Dynamic stretching is a more controlled, gentle method for stretching and in this regard, minimizes the risks present with ballistic methods. Dynamic stretching can gradually increase tissue temperature, which improves the ability for tissue to accept loads safely.
There aren’t very many “bad” aspects of dynamic stretching, but this method of stretching has not been found as effective at increasing static range of motion (3).
HOW do you put it all together?
A good series of dynamic stretches as a warm up for dragon boat involves closely mimicking the movements performed in the actual sport. These movements should be kept non-ballistic without bouncing in/out of the end range of your joints and tissues. For example, you could perform “air” paddling on land with your hands and no paddle, working on gradually progressive reach, rotation, and leg drive an even number of times per side. As you continue, try to gradually increase the speed of movement (rate it up!) to increase your body temperature by getting your blood pumping! “Air” paddling is just one idea for a dynamic warm-up. You could gradually move your arms, legs, and trunk in sport-similar movements to similar results.
After the race is over, feel free to statically stretch as a cool down by holding your stretches for ~30 seconds within a comfortable amount of tension to maintain range of motion and reduce post-exercise tightness.
In any stretching routine, you should never push into feeling pain as this may mean you are exceeding the capacity of your tissues and possibly causing injury.
Keep it dynamic everyone!
1. Clarkson, P., and I. Tremblay. “Exercise-induced muscle damage, repair, and adaptation in humans.” J Appl Physiol. Jul;65(1):1-6.1988
2. Mann, D.P., and M.T. Jones. Guidelines to the implementation of a dynamic stretching program. Strength Cond J. 21(6):53-55. 1999
3. Bandy, W.D., J.M. Irion, and M. Briggler. The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 27(4): 295-300. 1998
4. Baechle, T.R., and R.W. Earle. Essentials of strength training and conditioning; 3rd edition. National strength and conditioning association. 2008
Congratulations to all paddlers for a fantastic race at Treasure Island this past weekend. Huge thanks goes to those who helped us steer our heats so smoothly and precisely.
With this race concluding the season for our mixed crew, several things come to my mind. First, we just completed what I believe to be our most challenging season ever. From the strength and commitment of just a few paddlers at every practice, we’ve managed to pull together a solid crew for every race this season. Though every team at some point faces the same challenges in keeping practices productive and seats filled, SFL has always seemingly managed to do more with less. It’s a team trait that has made us great when rosters were full and kept us in competitive lanes this season.
Second, 2013 will mark SFL’s 10th anniversary. With 2 paddlers remaining from this crew, SFL has clearly been through its fair share of member turnover through the years. Be it for 1 race or 1 year on the team, every former member of SFL who has graced our boat is sorely missed. I do find it satisfying to see that many former SFL paddlers become coaches and leaders on other Bay Area teams and valued members wherever they choose to find themselves in dragon boat. As familiar faces leave the team, new faces present themselves every year; adding to the rich tapestry that is SFL.
As volatile as the roster has been over the years, the strength of the team comes from its strong bonds among teammates. Our members don’t paddle for the flag we wave, the jersey colors we wear, or the medals to be won. I would paddle my hands raw to get the team over the finish line because I know everybody on this team works just as hard alongside me. We are eclectic in our backgrounds but united in our fighting spirit towards a common goal — doing our absolute best as SFL paddlers regardless of finishing place.
The end of this 2012 season will, undoubtedly, see some of our members to other teams or to time away from the sport in general. As 2013 draws near, I am eager to greet new faces and meet new challenges as one team: united.
Until then, team. 10 years strong. You make it happen. We make it happen together.