The Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club heads to Kawkawa Lake

It's that time of year again — dragon boaters are alive and well on the lakes of the Fraser Valley

Trish Kjemhus

For over a decade, four dedicated Hope paddlers have been making the trek to Harrison Lake at least twice a week to hone their dragon-boating abilities. For the next few days it will be a much easier commute, as their boat will be docked at Camp Kawkawa until Sunday evening.

The Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club brought a boat to Kawkawa Lake last year for the first time, as a way of showcasing the sport to locals — including letting newcomers go for a paddle under the direction of coach, Trish Kjemhus.

Club vice president, Dale Kjemhus (pronounced “SHAY mus”) said on Monday that the boat would be trailered up on Tuesday and teams would be practicing on the weekday evenings, starting Wednesday.

After their Sunday morning practices, the public are welcome to join the club at the Camp Kawkawa dock to learn about the sport and go out for a paddle.

“We’ve got about a dozen people from Hope now, who travel to Harrison for training,” said Kjemhus. “We have three mixed teams, Das Kraken, Thunder Strokers and the Pirates and two women’s teams, the Spitfires and the Seraphins.” Other team-mates come from Agassiz-Harrison, Mission and Chilliwack.

Hope’s most-veteran paddlers, the two Kjemhuses and Peter and Linda Bailey are on the Thunder Strokers and Trish coaches the Strokers and the Seraphins.

She’s the one you’ll often see at the bow of the boat, beating the drum and yelling passionately at her team of up to 24 paddlers.

“Trish and Linda started at about the same time (in 2005) and Peter and I followed about half a year later,” recalled Kjemhus. They start dragon boat training in March and close the season in September — though outrigger canoe, or “OC” can keep the hardier paddlers on the water right through the winter months.

“The club now has three six-person OCs, two two-person and one single,” said Kjemhus.

Sunday, a team will be practicing in the dragon boat from 10 a.m. till noon, then they’ll be ready to work with the public from 1 p.m. to 3 pm. It’s all free, with life jackets and paddles provided. Kjemhus said their junior club is for age 13 to 17 but underage kids could go along for a ride, if they wished — and had a parent’s approval.

“Last year, we had about 15 or 20 people come out and try it,” he said. “It’s quite a different stroke than for kayaking or canoeing.

You’re keeping the paddle out in front of you and pulling it out of the water at mid-thigh.

“You’ve got to be pretty precise with your timing, too, with so many in the boat,” he added.

Esther Davies would agree on that point. She and her family went down for the inaugural trial last year and she said she had a great time… except, “I got out of sync a few times — but they were my family, so it was okay,” she said, laughing. “It was pretty hard work — but my daughter Cindy really enjoyed it.” Perhaps it was the rest of them who were out of sync?

“No, I’m pretty sure it was me,” Davies playfully confessed.

This Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. — at the Camp Kawakawa dock at the northeast end of the lake.

Maybe bring a towel.

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