When you think of water sports, what usually comes to mind are swimming and surfing. But dragon boat racing?
Yet dragon boat racing has gained worldwide popularity. In the Philippines, two high school seniors from St. Scholastica’s College Manila are among the Filipinos who have enjoyed the thrill and challenge of the sport.
Not their first love
For Kepphelia Aliño and Diane Gamba, dragon boat racing was not their first love. Aliño was a volleyball player for years until she discovered the sport that combined her passion for the ocean and desire for competition.
Gamba, a swimmer, was 15 when she yearned for a different and more exciting water sport.
Now both 17, Aliño and Gamba are members of the Philippine Titans Dragon Boat Team. Despite being among the youngest in the group, the two are treated as equals by the team’s older and more experienced members, who value the skills and enthusiasm the young paddlers bring to the sport.
The Philippine Titans Dragon Boat Team, a club team of the Philippine Canoe Kayak Dragonboat Federation, trains intensely from 5 to 9 a.m., every Tuesday to Sunday.
Gamba, who has been with the team longer than Aliño, struggled at first as the training schedule overlapped with her morning classes. To meet the demands of school and the sport, she worked out a flexible schedule with her principal and coach.
Training for dragon boat racing entails more than just paddling in the waters of Manila Bay. “We carry weights like weightlifters, do sprints like sprinters, and paddle in Manila Bay under the scorching heat of the sun almost every day to prepare for a minutelong, teeth-gritting hit,” says Aliño.
But the hard work is not without its rewards. The team has competed in Ilocos, Boracay, and in international destinations like Malaysia. It has also garnered numerous medals and trophies for its strong finishes.
Given the sacrifices they make and the pain they endure for the sport, Aliño and Gamba love dragon boat racing even more. To them, there’s nothing like this sport.
Dragon boat racing does not require a certain body type, age or gender. And it doesn’t matter if one is disabled or not.
As a team sport, it is unique that it requires everyone to move simultaneously in one repetitive motion, each member trusting that the others move and work as hard as he or she does. —CONTRIBUTED