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[Communities]: Amateur Dragon Boat Team, The Shanghaied Dragons

Testing the waters at a practice with Shanghai's own group of jolly paddlers. Just in time for the Dragon Boat Festival this weekend...
2018-06-11 17:17:56

The Shanghaied Dragons are an amateur dragon boat team in Shanghai who are always looking for newbies to get in their boat(s). They're one of the only organized teams that accepts paddlers of any background / ability, working with beginners to bring them up to competitive level. This month marks their one year anniversary as a team. To get into the spirit of this weekend's Dragon Boat Festival, SmSh went to check one of their pool practices.

Grab yer paddles and crocs!

*** shanghaieddragons

The Team from All Over the Place

'Shanghai'ed' as you may or may not know was a term coined for sailors who were taken against their wills from ports for forced conscription on ships in the 19th century. It's not exactly the most PC term in the world — the team's name in Chinese is the "Shanghai Dragons" — but assistant coach Andi Hugo Willms says their name's meant to represent the mismatched crew of paddlers they are, coming from over 15 countries and bridging generational gaps with teammates ranging from 19 to 61 years young.


Though the community is just a year old, much of the core team knew each other from local clubs before deciding to form a team of their own. One of the team's captains (there're technically 5), Bo Orillaneda, says the thing that sets Shanghaied Dragons apart is they're one of the only clubs with practices throughout the week. They have a 'Dragons HITT Class' that runs every Tuesday evening starting at 8pm for strength building, a Wednesday pool practice at 7.15pm for skill building, and two practices behind the Science and Technology Museum in Pudong over the weekend (Saturdays at 8.15am for competitive paddlers and Sundays at 3.15pm for the less experienced).


Inside a Practice

SmSh checked out a pool practice at Jing'an Gardens on Wuding Lu. It costs 89rmb (entrance to the pool) to join. A nice perk: you can hang out at the pool or sauna afterwards. This practice is for beginners to work on their form before trying it out on the river. It's not a requirement but the team's coaches suggest if your new go to at least one pool practice.


The inside of the pool is hot and sticky, inspiring next level frizz as practice starts with 15 minutes of warm-ups with a group of about 14. The rest of the practice is paddle to pool, with the team taking up the inner lane, stopping only for sit ups and planks as called by the team's head coach, Dov Al Kashab. Both Dov and assistant coach Andi pace back and forth throughout the practice stopping to physically correct or offer up encouragement. If your posture is correct, paddling is a full body work out, leaving arms, legs, and abs burning.


Coach Dov helping a paddler with her form

People are social, but mostly before and after the paddling; when paddling starts there's focus. You can tell most who come are working towards something. Afterwards though, some people stick around, there's definitely some Matthew-McConaughey-granola-meets-sporty-vibes being thrown around. ...which seems alright, alright, alright.


Ready, Set, Race?

At the start of practice, Bo explained, "A lot people look at this as a workout, but once they get started they get competitive, and start to ask: how soon can I race? But it takes a while to get into race shape." He thinks a good goal to set to get into racing shape is attending 10 practices within 3 months, then depending on your skill you may try out for a race with a series of tests. One of these includes rowing a dragon boat by yourself for 29 meters. If you can dream it you can do it? If you end up qualifying to race, you may end up traveling with the team. Their next international race coming up is in Russia (though pretty sure it's unrelated to the World Cup). * Join the Team: Anyone can attend practices, there are about 30-50 people who compete, and 150 in the larger group. Each practice comes with a small equipment fee and you must register through Meet Up. Sign-ups have also been recently made available on the Yeyu App.