Paddling for precious medals at 2015 OKC PaddleFest

Greeting paddlers, reporting from Oklahoma City site of the June 27, 2015 Oklahoma City Dragon Boat Paddlefest. We appreciate all those that carpooled and shared rooms to keep expenses down for the long drive. It was fun stopping along the way for the foodies and sightseers. Several teammates had participated last year but this was the first year Houston Heat entered a full roster. After a bit of uncertainty for the dragon boat racing agenda, the festival organizers did compromise and the race schedules were expanded to the enjoyment of all teams.

HH practices as with most Texas teams were limited due to unseasonal rainy weather conditions that caused a few practice cancellations. When we did have opportunities to paddle, coaches pushed hard and the team responded. Other festivals on the HH calendar in Dallas and Grand Prairie were already cancelled because of weather related issues so the team was more than eager to make the 8 – 9 hour drive and compete in 20 person and 10 person boats. The OKC racing site was indeed worth the trip. Thanks to sponsors it was a beautiful architectural watersports complex that was shared between rowers and paddlers competing that day. The racing schedule began late afternoon Saturday and lasted until 10:00 pm. Great nighttime racing under the lights followed by an impressive fireworks display. There were also man-made climbing parks adjacent to the race site that many festival goers got to visit.

Houston Heat was entered in 200m and 500m races for both 20 and 10 person boats. As expected, HH faced stiff competition from strong intrastate rivals Austin Coolers, Dallas DUC, and Lone Star. When all Texas teams reached the podium to accept medals it was a sight to see, especially in the state of Oklahoma. Racing starts were not altogether because of inconsistency from the festival starters, but it did get better as the day progressed. Water conditions were good and lanes well defined, so it was anybody’s race and the times were close.

So for the results, HH finished first in 500m 20p, second in 200m 20p, first in 500m 10p, and second in 200m 10p. Very strong showing for our first team entry in OKC and there were no substitutes – everyone paddled hard and left it all on the water. Coach Albert accepted his obligatory water cooler shower knowing he did his best to strategize, train and get us to the finish line in good shape. Coach David had come in from an international trip and made it in time for the first heat, and he also did some steering for the 10p boat. Ann did a lot of work as usual to get the communications out and work with festival organizers to make it an event we would like to come back to.

Congrats to all of you that participated – pats on the back forward and …
(Picture credits goes to: Ann Wong)