Castaic Lake held its 2nd annual Dragon Boat Festival Saturday, featuring dozens of teams from across southern California and Nevada.
The boats that raced across Castaic Lake each had a certain number of team members inside the long, canoe-shaped boat — each decorated with the colors or insignias of each of the teams — while a drummer on the back of the boat beat out a rhythm.
“Each team has 10 members plus one steerer, so it’s 11 total,” said Paul Lin, a member of team Dragon Eyes and one of the local event organizers. “The teams have to start evenly, and their goal is paddle all in unison.”
Lin said the attraction to the sport of dragon boat racing stems from its all-inexclusive nature.
“You can be the strongest person, but if the paddles hit each other it’s not going to propel,” said Lin. “The best speed is when all 10 paddle together at the same moment … The smaller guys can often beat the bigger guys because of endurance.”
One such team in attendance at the festival, Adaptive Fusion, is a team that is one-third blind, one-third deaf and one-third support paddlers. Since the team started up last year and got the sponsorship of Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, it has seen success, and later this year, will compete at the national dragon boat competition.
“We’re trying to bring awareness locally and then to the world that adaptive people can do more than they think they can do,” said Sally Flowers, an Adaptive Fusion team member. “Because the people who are on our team are just beyond blessed on what they’ve been able to do, with the traveling, meeting new people and competing at very high levels.”
“We started doing a year round team about eight years ago,” said Michael Yu, an Adaptive Fusion team member who is sight impaired. “And we’ve actually been doing fairly well against sited teams.”
“I’m with the team right now, it’s my first race, and I’m happy,” said Amelia Chocoteco, another legally blind member of Adaptive Fusion. “I don’t know what to expect, but I’m just happy that I made it here.”
Set up along the Castaic Lake swimming beach, the festival included a stage that hosted a Chinese lion dance, where five performers — four of which were dressed as dragons — danced around the stage during the opening ceremony, as well as local vendors and food trucks.
“It’s just the fun, the community, all these people and different teams, but we’re all dragon boat people,” said Dennis Miller, team captain for Electric Dragon, a team that had started as being purely employees from Edison, but eventually grew to include other members of the community. “We just have a good time with the competition, with the meeting other people and going different places.”