CAF Story | How Dragon Boat Survives a Pandemic

Video / October 30, 2020


(Maj Leonie Farrell) I call dragon boating my zen time. It is super hard work. You often come off the water just shaking because you put your all into it, but for an hour, you can't worry about anything else that's going on in your life.

(LCol Melissa Reyes) When I was younger, I realized that I really loved doing sports on the water. And when I was in Winnipeg, one of my friends I just recently met, we started a dragon boat team.

(Maj Leonie Farrell) Melissa Reyes) It's been amazing to have this sport transferred through to different postings. The sense of community is amazing with the dragon boaters.

(LCol Melissa Reyes) Every time I've been posted, I have had to make a new base of friends. So, for me, dragon boating has been really good mental health wise to have that community, support each other and it's meant a lot.

(Maj Leonie Farrell) I think that there are quite a few similarities between dragon boating and the CAF environment. There are people from every walk of life. It's just an inclusive environment.

(LCol Melissa Reyes) Our coaches are also part of our leadership in dragon boating because their attitude and the way they get you to do what they want you to do, I think it's very important.

(Maj Leonie Farrell) The physical fitness level involved with dragon boating, I was quite surprised what muscles that work. Being on a boat, it doesn't seem like it, but when you lay it all out for two minutes or five minutes, it's quite incredible.

(LCol Melissa Reyes) In this COVID-19 environment, our Canadian Armed Forces, Department of National Defence, leadership have had to make difficult decisions to make sure that we don't come down with COVID-19.

Similar to the work environment, we had to train remotely or individually. Instead of dragon boat now, we're training in individual small boats like outrigger canoes. I will emphasize, though, that with COVID-19, there were difficult decisions for the leadership.

My team, Ottawa Dragon Masters, we were set to go down to Florida for our spring training camp to get ready for the World Championships and that was cancelled. So, there was some disappointment there. We were all looking forward to going to France for the World Championships right now, actually. We should be taking part… However, a lot of us feel like being on the water, whether you're in an outrigger canoe, kayak, it's been very good for my mental health and I'm sure for the mental health of many people.

Today, actually, we're having a minicamp with four of my teammates and our outrigger canoe coach. I think with that, we've been able to support each other and train together, trying to make sure that we're all trying to stay mentally healthy. We're gonna have to reset and refocus for the next World Championships in Sarasota in 2022. I think that if we all stay focus on the course for the next two years, we'll do okay.

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