Hope dragon boater Trisha Kjemhus and the Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club will be practicing on Kawkawa Lake at the end of the month, to showcase their sport for local residents. (Barry Stewart file photo)

Hope dragon boater Trisha Kjemhus and the Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club will be practicing on Kawkawa Lake at the end of the month, to showcase their sport for local residents. (Barry Stewart file photo)

Dragon boaters return to Kawkawa

They’re drumming up interest in their sport.

By Barry Stewart

Nothing else seems to have worked: so maybe banging a drum and paddling a big canoe around Kawkawa Lake will put an end to the beastly “Mayvember” weather we’ve been having.

The Harrison Lake-based Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club will be bringing a boat to the local lake for the third consecutive year, to showcase the sport and give Hope residents a test run on the final day of practices. The boat will be docked at Camp Kawkawa from May 29 to June 5.

If they don’t bring back the sun, continued rain and cold won’t sap the spirits of the paddlers, some of whom plied their sport through most of last winter. Seriously: they shovelled their driveways so they could go and paddle.

Not all dragon boaters are nuts, though, so the hard-core paddlers switch to “OCs,” or outrigger canoes, which don’t take as many to fill a boat.

“Yeah, it was a pretty rough winter,” said club president Dale Kjemhus (“SHAY-mus”), Monday. “There was about a month where we didn’t go. It was too darned cold.”

The club’s six outriggers won’t be featured at Kawkawa this year, just a 20-paddler dragon. OCs might be on the menu for future years, said the veteran paddler.

“We’ve got five different teams and I hope they’ll all come up,” said Kjemhus. About a dozen members live in the Hope area, so it will be a short commute for them. “We’ve got the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings covered already and I’m pretty sure we’ll have teams out on the Saturday and Sunday mornings.

“I want to give a special thank you to Camp Kawkawa for allowing us to use their facilities.”

The evening practices run from about 6 to 7:30 p.m. and the weekend sessions run from about 9 to 11 a.m.

“On Sunday, June 4, we’ll have an open paddle at 1 p.m. for anyone who would like to come out and give the sport a try,” said the president. “We usually get a boat load and paddle around for half an hour.” Kids can come aboard, with a parent or guardian. “People are also welcome to contact us and come out to a team practice on Harrison Lake at any time, to try the sport,” added Kjemhus. “They can contact the team captains on our web site. The first three practices are free and we provide the life jackets and paddles.”

The club will be hosting their annual one-day 72-team dragon boat regatta at Harrison on July 22.

“Some of these teams compete at the national level and on the world stage. It is a great day of entertainment so come out and watch,” said Kjemhus.

The club hosts the Canadian Nationals for the Outrigger Canoes on the following weekend. Kjemhus’s team competed at the “False Creek Knockouts” in Vancouver, recently, emerging with a second place finish in the B event.

“You have seven teams in a division and it’s a 200-metre race — compared to the standard 500 meters,” explained Kjemhus. “The bottom two teams are eliminated, then you paddle back the start and go again… knock off the bottom two, then go again. There’s no rest, in between.”

Visit fvdbc.com, or drop by the Harrison Lake clubhouse during practice hours.