Women of the Northwest

Sande Brown and Sheila Roley- Dragon Boat Chronicles: Women of Water and Strength

September 26, 2023 Sande Brown/ Sheila Roley Episode 78
Women of the Northwest
Sande Brown and Sheila Roley- Dragon Boat Chronicles: Women of Water and Strength
Show Notes Transcript

Paddleboat Cub

Host: Jan Johnson

[00:02] Jan: Welcome to Paddle Power: Women of the Northwest, where we dive into the world of dragon boating and the extraordinary women behind it. I'm your host, Jan Johnson, and today, we're joined by Sande Brown and Sheila Rowley from the North Coast Paddling Club. Get ready for an inspiring conversation!

[01:24] Jan: Today, we're exploring the fascinating history of dragon boating, a sport that traces its roots back to ancient China. Sande shares a captivating legend of rescue and rivalry on the water.

[02:43] Jan: Sheila gives us a vivid description of dragon boats – they're not just canoes! Learn about the unique dynamics and roles that define this thrilling team sport.

[04:09] Sande: Being a paddler isn't just about swimming skills, but a passion for teamwork and the outdoors. Sande and Sheila highlight the physical demands and benefits of dragon boating, emphasizing its full-body workout.

[07:08] Sande: Discover the journey to becoming a confident paddler, and how it's a continuous learning experience. Sande and Sheila share insights on technique, endurance, and maintaining synchronization within the team.

[09:33] Jan: With practices three days a week, commitment is key. Sande and Sheila give us a glimpse into their training routine, from warm-ups to debriefing.

[10:40] Sande: The North Coast Paddling Club takes on challenges in various races, from Salem's Willamette River to Columbia's breathtaking scenery. Join us as we explore the diverse locations they've competed in!

[13:54] Sheila: Starting a dragon boat team comes with its own set of challenges, including the financial aspect. Sheila discusses the club's journey towards obtaining the boats they need for their vision.

[17:00] Jan: Choosing the right waters for dragon boating is crucial. The team shares insights on finding suitable locations, navigating rough conditions, and ensuring the safety of all paddlers.

[20:47] Sande: The dream of the North Coast Paddling Club extends beyond the team itself. Join us as we envision dragon boat races becoming a highlight of the regatta, bringing communities together.

[22:12] Sheila: Learn about the innovative 'Collaborative Paddle' program, offering organizations the chance to experience team-building and leadership development through dragon boating.

[26:57] Jan: Interested in being part of this dynamic community? Visit the club's website to learn how you can get involved, whether it's through joining the team, suggesting potential docking sites, or contributing to their non-profit initiative.

[27:27] Jan: Thank you for joining us on this inspiring episode of Paddle Power: Women of the Northwest. If you enjoyed this conversation, please consider leaving a review and share it with others. For more information and transcripts, visit janjohnson.com. Until next time, keep paddling!

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Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

 Dragon Boat Chronicles: Women of Water and Strength
[00:02] Jan: Are you looking for an inspiring listen, something to motivate you? You've come to the right place. I'm Jan Johnson, your host. Welcome to Women of the Northwest, where we have conversations with ordinary women leading extraordinary lives, women telling their stories and sharing their passions. Motivating, inspiring, compelling.

[00:25] Sande: You.

[00:29] Jan: Today's, episode is number 76, and I have the pleasure of interviewing Sande Brown and Sheila Rowley, who are both part of the North Coast Paddling Club. Welcome.

[00:43] Sande: Thank you.

[00:44] Jan: All right, so I'd like to know, to begin with, a little history of the dragon boat.

[00:50] Sande: Well, I've included something on our website that goes back to historical China, ancient China, and there was a poet, I believe, who was in his boat and fell by the boat and was drowning. The people sent the boats in after him to save him, and they were racing to see who could get there to save him first. That's the story that I've read the most often on a variety of websites. I don't really know for sure that's the story, but that seems to be the most insistent one that I've found.

[01:24] Jan: And how did people take it from there?

[01:26] Sande: To be popular, I believe, and I would have to look this up again, too, that, again, what looks like present day dragon boating originated in China as well. And it's an international sport now, and so you can find teams all around the world. So somehow it migrated from China outward and you'll find teams. I was just recently in Poland last spring, and I saw a dragonboat team practicing in Poland. So yeah, they're everywhere.

[01:54] Jan: Oh, that's neat. Sheila, can you describe a dragon boat?

[01:58] Sheila: A dragon boat is basically a very long canoe, and so it's a paddling sport, not a rowing sport, which a lot of people confuse those two things. But I guess the easiest way to describe the difference is paddling. The paddlers are looking forward. Okay? And there's a caller up front who in an actual race, is using a typo drum to count out the beat. And there's a steers person in the back, where in crew, the coxon is looking forward and the rowers are their back is to the front of the boat, to the bow of the boat, and there's only one person doing both the calling and the steering.

[02:43] Jan: So that's the difference between what you're doing and crew, because I was going to ask that, but my next question.

[02:49] Sheila: Yes, but the boat itself is shaped like an elongated canoe, and is it wooden?

[02:57] Sande: Ever lesson? Wood and during races, they usually put on the front the dragon head and the back the dragon tail, so that makes it ceremonial. And in some dragonboat racing in Portland, they actually put a person on the front and the bow, and they have to reach for a flag to be at the finish. We haven't participated in that kind of a race before, but that is some races both and so how many paddlers do you have on the boat?

[03:30] Sheila: There's ten person boats and 20, and we typically have spent most of our time with 20 paddlers. And so the boat is long. A typical dragon boat is 42 to 47ft long, but just wide enough for two people to sit side by side and knock their words together and not knock their paddles together. And pretty much sitting, touching, and you're also touching the side of the boat, so it's a fun and close to your buddy sport.

[04:06] Jan: What do you need to know to be a paddler?

[04:09] Sande: Well, it's nice to know how to swim, but it's not required.

[04:12] Sheila: And we do have non swimmers.

[04:14] Sande: It just would be helpful. Not very often boats, tip or hooley, it's called, but it doesn't happen very often. But it's nice to know that. It's nice to have a beat on who on your boat has swimming skills and who doesn't, just in case. But as far as that goes, the desire to be part of a team is important, I think, because you really do have to work together as a team. The desire to be outdoors because the weather can be windy, it can be rainy, it can be sunny, but appreciating, all those kinds of things and then just the ability to work hard. And it's kind of a different way, maybe, of paddling than people are used to, but it involves your whole body. So being willing to work up to that point where you can physically do it for a race, for 500 meters is a typical length race. Yeah.

[05:22] Jan: So a lot of upper body strength.

[05:24] Sande: Yeah, a lot of upper body a lot of core. Your legs are pushing against, I don't know what they're called, but these things stick up in the bottom of the boat for your feet to push off of, whatever the official name is. So you're pushing off of that. So you are using your upper leg muscles, your quads, but yeah, it's not quite like crew, I think, where that's like an ergo, I think, where you're.

[05:57] Sheila: Pushing back and forth, but learning to use your whole body makes dragon boating much easier. And dragon boating sort of reminds me of golf, where there's a lot of things to think about at once. Keep your eye on the ball, follow through, shift your weight. Dragon boating also has bend at your hip joint, rotate your body, push with your quads, use your arms in the proper way, and it takes a while to get all those pieces to just become automatic muscle memory. And I think when we first became dragon boaters, I had the mistaken perception that it would be sort of a leisurely paddle. And it feels more leisurely again once you feel that you have all the stroke pieces down without having to stop and think about them. But it's definitely a full body workout that can keep you very fit.

[07:03] Jan: How long did it take you to become comfortable with learning to grow and doing that?

[07:08] Sande: I think a couple of years. And then even then, a couple of years ago, we've been at it for ten years, our stroke changed. Our coach brought back a new type of stroke that they had to relearn it a little bit. So it does take a couple of years to feel really comfortable in it.

[07:30] Sheila: And it always remains a work in progress. Sometimes I just have to remind myself, oh, my gosh, I'm not rotating as much as I should be.

[07:39] Sande: When you get tired, you tend to not do it the right way.

[07:44] Jan: So if you get tired, you can let your buddy take over.

[07:47] Sande: Well, that's the thing about being part of a team. You try not to be the weak link, right.

[07:55] Sheila: If you had to. And most new paddlers I know, certainly this was true for me, is I could not sustain the full practice without taking a break. The most important part of taking a break is your outside elbow. You need to bring into the boat, because if the person behind you doesn't know that you've pulled out, or even if they do and your elbow is out here, you only have to make the mistake once of leaving to be whacked. And then you'll know that if you really need to take a break, then you bring your paddle in and you bring your arms in. And the most important thing about the stroke is that the team is synchronized. So if someone gets fatigued and they get off the beat, that's a real disadvantage for the movement of the boat. So if you think for some reason that that's going to be you, it's like, I can't keep up this current pace. You are helping the boat more by pulling out than by paddling off the beat.

[08:55] Jan: I just joined the symphony, and I haven't played since I was in college. All right, so we had practice last week, and it's like most everything I was good with and whatever, there's one piece that's like, oh, my goodness. And I think, well, let's see, there's five flautists on there, and if I pull out, it's probably going to be better, everything from that point, because they can carry it until I get back to the parts that I know.

[09:24] Sande: Yeah, that's a good analogy.

[09:26] Jan: So you live here locally to the Seaside Astoria area. Where do you practice currently?

[09:33] Sande: We are although we're  trying to start a team here in the Astoria area, we are actually currently members of another team that practices down in Nehalem and a little bit of a drive. A little bit of a drive. It's about 50 minutes from our house to the Nehalem dock that we go to.

[09:50] Jan: How often do you do that?

[09:52] Sande: Well, we have practices three days a week. Sheila and I generally make two days a week just because of the distance.

[09:58] Jan: How long do you practice?

[09:59] Sande: An hour.

[10:00] Sheila: An hour on the water?

[10:02] Sande: Yeah.

[10:02] Sheila: I mean, we get there close to a half hour before we warm up. We get our gear organized, stretch. Sandy's often steering the boat, so she has some things that she needs to set up prior to that. And then we get off the boat, we might do some debriefing with the team and again some more stretching to keep everybody limber. So our time in Halen for a 1 hour practice is at least an hour and a half.

[10:33] Jan: Where do you compete and who do you compete?

[10:40] Sande: There are lots of options. And so we kind of pick and choose our coach kind of picks and choose which events that we get involved in. This last year, we typically race in Salem in June, which is a nice, easy way to start that's on the Willamette River in Salem. And the other two events he had this summer, one was in the Naimo Bridge, Columbia, and then another one we had in Ridgefield, Washington. But we've been to Joseph on Mike Lau had competition one year. And San Diego. San Diego last year.

[11:19] Sheila: Montana.

[11:19] Sande: Montana, that's right.

[11:21] Sheila: And the first year that we were on the team, or maybe the second year, I think it was the first year the team competed in Dublin. However, it was in the middle of September and Sande and I were still working in the Seaside School District at that point. So you don't fly to Dublin, especially in September. And we had discussed as a team going to a race in New Zealand, but that didn't pan out because you.

[11:54] Jan: Have a whole team that has to be able to do that.

[11:56] Sheila: Right. And it's certainly a big commitment to get on a 14 hours flight each way and the expense and make sure.

[12:05] Sande: 22 people can go. So you're not short when you're racing.

[12:10] Jan: Right. So tell us about your dream.

[12:14] Sande: Well, the dream is to have a team here, have a club here beginning with a team of adults. But Dragon boat clubs around the US. And around the world have larger clubs, have teams that are representing youth co ed teams, men's teams, women's teams, breast cancer survivor teams. I think the story goes, when we were in Nanaimo that a person who was in Vancouver, BC. Who had breast cancer at that time, I don't know how long ago this was doctors were saying that, you know, you really shouldn't be doing these particular type of upper body exercises anymore after you had surgery. But this one woman said, Well, I want to do something. What can I do? So she and her doctor worked to try to do dragon boating and see if that did some research with her and see if that was beneficial for her. And it was, of course. So now you go places and there are whole teams of breast cancer survivors or cancer survivors who are benefiting like anybody else from being outdoors and healthy and part of a team and all the great things that you get from being on. So anyway, that's the story about how that has come about.

[13:50] Jan: What have been some of the obstacles to starting a team here?

[13:54] Sheila: Well, there's certainly some finances involved. We will need to purchase a Dragon Boat, and we would ideally like to have both a 20 person and a ten person boat. The 20 person boats are hard to find used because once people have them, they want to keep them. And there are two places in North America that build them. One is Tampa Bay, Florida, and the other is Regina, Saskatchewan. And the boat itself is about a $10,000 purchase. But the shipping is more expensive than the boat.

[14:29] Jan: You would have to go and retrieve it.

[14:30] Sheila: Then we would be better off to go and retrieve it. Once upon a time, Tacoma Boat Building built Dragon Boats, but they eliminated that a number of years ago, so that's a challenge. We are doing some fundraising at this point, I think, as we move forward and we have some of the details secured, that we'd like to reach out to organizations that might want to be major sponsors of our team. We represent a lot of the community in that. Like Sandy said, the age piece of Dragon Boating, it's really suitable for anyone. And there's a team in Portland that the minimum age you can to be on their team is 70. And they are a highly competitive team and they have paddlers that are in their ninety s. On the other hand, there are also some high school teams, not very many in the Oregon area. And having worked with high school kids for a lot of my life, I know that regular PE doesn't really work for all kids. And some kids really thrive with an alternative to the traditional PE program. And there are some alternative PE classes, certainly, but to have a boat and have that actually be a class that maybe students could take a few times a week and then to be able to compete and get enough high school age teams in Oregon together. So it could become a real high school sport I think would be really a wonderful niche for some students. That's where they know both boys and girls, and we primarily have a women's team. We have a couple of men on the team, but they can't compete with us because you can't even have one man on the team and be a women's team.

[16:38] Sande: They go to races and compete on other boy teams to get loaned to other teams. They can compete.

[16:44] Sheila: Yeah, they're usually well welcomed to another.

[16:48] Sande: Club for a race.

[16:50] Jan: Right. So what kind of waters do you need to be in?

[16:54] Sheila: Well, not the main channel of the Columbia.

[17:00] Sande: As we sit here staring at it.

[17:01] Jan: Yeah, actually, we're sitting outside of Pier 39 and listening to the sea lions in the background and looking at this beautiful water.

[17:10] Sheila: And especially as we start out as a club, it may be that there are some experienced paddlers that will be joining us. It's also possible that we will start out with a team full of folks for whom this is a new sport and we have had to navigate some fairly significant water on our boat in the years that we've been dragon boating. Wow. There's a lot of activity out there on the river. And this is why we're not here.

[17:43] Sande: Though, because we worry a little bit about the sea lions in this area. Yeah.

[17:48] Sheila: And if they come up under a dragon boat, decide that they think you look yeah, yeah.

[17:54] Jan: More interesting, they bring their PEPs and they say, hey, look what's out here.

[18:02] Sheila: So we were paddling in Mission Bay in San Diego last year, and there were several boats that were tipped just by the conditions. We've had enough experience in north coast of Oregon, being in Nehalem and out on the Nehalem River where it can get a little rough with the wind and the weather, that we had pretty good skills with not being one of the boats that fell in. But if you had a boat full of new people learning the sport, that would be probably a challenge. But there's a lot of rivers and bays around here that are really suitable.

[18:42] Sande: We're also looking for a place that the boats are too big to pull in and out each day. Put in and pull out each day. So we need a place where we can leave the boat docked from about April through October. So that's a key piece. And Katie Frankowitz, who's a reporter for KMUN, actually news director for KMUN and reporter, I think, for the Astorian, did an article a couple weeks ago about this, and out of that article we made some contacts as far as some potential places. So that's really helpful. So we're zeroing in on some options that we have. Other people have given us tours of areas that we didn't know about anyway. So I feel confident that we're going to come up with a place here pretty soon.

[19:34] Jan: So I'll put something in the show notes so people know where to get a hold of you and if they have any ideas and your website. Yeah, so I will do that.

[19:43] Sande: Yeah, please do that.

[19:45] Sheila: And we certainly want people to contact us if they're interested in becoming a dragon boater. And we don't want to be restricted in who might come to us by gender, by age. No, we're open and even by fitness level because it's a sport that.

[20:06] Sande: Does.

[20:06] Sheila: Get to be challenging, especially when you're racing. But I think anybody could become a dragon boater in terms of just becoming fit enough and just learning might take a year, but that's okay.

[20:22] Sande: And people who are interested can let us know that on our website there's a contact form so they can sign in there and let us know interested so they can receive updates. What's going on. In terms of the organization, I particularly.

[20:35] Jan: Like the idea of working through a sport, a high school sport or something there that just would be especially to team up with them and maybe be able to come up with some grant possibilities as well.

[20:46] Sande: Yeah.

[20:47] Jan: Are you a nonprofit?

[20:49] Sande: We are in the process of we have our state domestic nonprofit status, but we're working on the applied to the 501 through the federal government, so we're waiting to hear back. And one thing I was going to add was I just also see that this could be a real addition to the regatta that eventually here's part of the dream, back to the dream is that someday that we could have some Dragon Boat races in pots of county and bring teams to the area. And each team has 25 people, 22 to 25 people coming, and they all stay in hotels, they eat in restaurants. Right. So it could be a real great addition to the regatta.

[21:34] Sheila: And besides just the idea of doing a race and having people as spectators, it would be something during regatta that we could possibly have times of day where we would have half the boat filled with experienced paddlers and citizens and families in the area could join us on the boat. So we could take people out for the Dragon Boat experience, which would be really fun. It's fun to have things that you can actively do during regatta.

[22:06] Sande: Talk about our collaborative Paddles that we've been sure yeah.

[22:10] Sheila: Oh, do you want me to talk.

[22:11] Sande: About yeah, I want you to talk about them.

[22:12] Sheila: So what we've done so far for some of our fundraising is we've created a program called Collaborative Paddle, where we provide the boat with ten paddlers and we ask an organization if they would like to go out with us on the Dragon Boat and bring eight to twelve of their own team members. And we use it as an opportunity to do team building for organizations as well as leadership development. And Sandy and I both worked on a lot of teams, a lot of them together, and we also were in leadership positions when we were administrators. And so for the folks who were interested in that and we've done this with, done a couple of school districts, administrative team paddles, and we have a book that we use for people who are interested. And one of my favorite books on leadership, which is about the experiences of Ernest Shackleton and his crew who were stranded in the Antarctic for a long time and managed to all come home alive. And two women about 20 years ago decided to glean all of the information about that time on the ice and they pulled out what they saw as the really remarkable leadership attributes that allowed everyone to survive. And so we use that model for how would you run a school, how would you run a school, how would you run your business leadership team? We've had a really good experience doing that and very good feedback from the.

[23:55] Sande: Folks that have had it with us.

[23:57] Jan: Maybe class of college would like that.

[23:59] Sande: Yeah, I think that would be excellent. The hospital, the school district. Yeah, all the larger employers of the.

[24:07] Sheila: Area and we did have the Astoria School District scheduled and we're really looking forward to that and had to cancel due to weather. Really the only weather we cancel for is winds that are unsafe.

[24:21] Sande: Right.

[24:22] Sheila: And it was also 98 degrees that day, which might have been a little toasty but we could splash each other. It was really the wind that was the concern and as they were just entering into in service week and just getting started with school they no longer had a day to come with us. So we're looking forward to rescheduling them. They've asked if they can come in June so that'll be fun.

[24:46] Sande: When we were in San Diego last year there were teams from all over the US there and one of the teams was the New York Police Department and that was just really great to see them all paddling together so I could see that there could be peace know team or whatever that at least for the know we could come up. People come with teams that maybe they don't paddle all year round but they would like to do it during the.

[25:13] Sheila: Regatta and we could do some training. We can do some training.

[25:16] Sande: Yeah, we can do some PD with them.

[25:18] Sheila: But it was fun to see all these young people, men and women with NYPD on their jerseys and boy they were competitive and they were so physically fit. It was really fun to watch them.

[25:36] Jan: Yeah, well you could extend that even to high school clubs, couldn't you? Like National Honor Society or other clubs that are doing things that are service minded.

[25:50] Sande: There's just so much water around. You know, water sports I think could be super popular. So yeah, great exercise and there's not.

[26:00] Sheila: A lot of water sports here that are team based.

[26:04] Sande: Right.

[26:05] Sheila: A lot of people kayak, a lot of people sail and go out fishing. But to do it in a group I mean, swim teams are certainly a team and they're dependent on each other's performance and commitment, but not in the same way as being at the same starting line and the same finish line and working together for the goal.

[26:29] Jan: Well that is awesome. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

[26:33] Sande: No, just that people are interested. Either have ideas for where we can dock the boat, although we feel like we've got a couple of good options here, but we're always open to more ideas.

[26:45] Sheila: Or people who are just interested in.

[26:47] Sande: Being on the team, or people who are interested in donating funds to a nonprofit to help get us going. That would be great too. Those can all be found on that contact sheet on our website.

[26:57] Jan: All righty. Well, thank you, Sande. Thank you, Sheila.

[27:01] Sande: Thank you.

[27:01] Sheila: You're welcome, Jen. Hope you'll join us on the boat. Really?

[27:04] Jan: I'm thinking about it.

[27:05] Sande: You would love it.

[27:07] Jan: I think I would. And I'll put all that information in the show notes, and hopefully you'll get some responses from people who are interested or have a location.

[27:16] Sande: All Right. How's that? Thank you.

[27:27] Jan: If you enjoyed this or any other of my podcast episodes, it would be amazing if you would take a few minutes to leave a review so others can find it. Transcripts are available on my website@janjohnson.com. Please join me again next week.