How Can Something So Simple Be So Complicated!

by DavalosMcCormack on September 16, 2008

I love trying new things. I remember the first time Shirley got me to try horseback riding, it was amazing. It’s a completely different relationship with nature when you are riding through the hills on a horse. The pace, the rhythm, the feel, even just the perspective is different than anything you’ve experienced before. It was only when the horse began to buck that I realized “Yikes, I’m on a beast that ways a ton and has a brain the size of a walnut.” But I survived and at the end felt the same thrill you feel after a good roller-coaster ride, “hurrah, I’m still alive!”

This week we tried something very different. Dragon Boat racing. Not nearly as scary as horseback riding, a lot wetter, but just as much fun.

Dragon boats are long, thin craft powered by 20 people. You sit in rows of two and, armed with a giant paddle, you try and propel the boat through the water as fast as you can. Sounds pretty simple right. That’s the beauty of it. It sounds simple and when you watch others doing it it looks simple. But when you do it yourself you quickly appreciate how complex it really is.

First of all you have to learn the correct way to hold the paddle, then how to position yourself in the boat, then the mechanics of the paddling itself, then the commands. Those are all fairly straight forward, though trying to remember everything at once does get a bit confusing at first.

The hard part comes with the paddling. You suddenly realize that no matter how good you are you are at the mercy of the paddlers in front and behind. You are all so close to each other that even if you are paddling at the correct rhythm, if the person behind you is off then your paddle is going to crash into theirs. Same applies to the person in front of you.

Even if you are all going along smoothly it doesn’t take much to turn it into chaos. At one point we were cruising along, looking smooth, then someone must have stopped to admire a duck or cormorant because within a few seconds we had turned into a raggedy, un-synchronized mess.

Then a miracle occurred. Suddenly, we got back into our rhythm and were off again, gliding smoothly over the water’s surface.

It was breathtaking, and when I say breathtaking I mean that literally. It’s bloody hard work paddling like that. And wet work too. There’s no way you can avoid getting splashed either by yourself or the people around you. At first you think “oh yuck, this lake water is cold and stinky.” But pretty quickly you are soaked so you don’t really care and just enjoy yourself.

Most of the exercise I get is on my own; using a treadmill or stairmaster, lifting weights, doing yoga etc. so doing something that requires you to work with others, where cooperation and synchronization is critical, is great fun.

What’s just as interesting is how it brings you all together. Most of us on the team didn’t know each other on when we started, so at the beginning it was a bunch of strangers standing around, making polite chit chat. But after an hour on the water, struggling and straining and splashing together, we emerged as a team and had an easy rapport.

We stood on the dock comparing notes about the day, how wet we were, how difficult it was at first. But before we left everyone was already saying how much they were looking forward to coming back next week, and doing it all again.

Me, I’m ready to go back in the water right now. I think I might be addicted.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: