At first, I am shocked as I reflect on 18 years of being involved in dragon boat paddling. How is it possible that I have been around long enough to have done anything consistently for nearly two decades? I smile at all the stories, travels, experiences and people that have come into my life because of this life on the water. A lifelong paddler of all sorts of different hulls, I was a reluctant dragon boater. After my first experience at a local festival I proclaimed, “Well, that was fun. I’ll probably never do that again.” Eighteen years later, here I am, still paddling and mostly coaching.
I reflect often on KIALOA’s motto “Live Like You Paddle” when trying to motivate a team in practice and on race day. As I am human I am full of flaws and the occasional lapse in judgment, I have my share of missteps. Through time and work, it is trust that I am seeking. It is this honor of a team trusting me that sometimes keeps me up at night wondering if I’ve done all I can do, given them the tools they need, and finally, if I’ve lived up to the values I am asking of them. It’s not easy.
After hours of training it comes down to two minutes on the race course. It is in this compressed space-time-continuum of two minutes that feels like watching a slow-mo video with a heavy does of adrenaline that you learn about that trust you worked hard to build.
At a recent race in August, my team had a solid, but not-good-enough first heat that landed us 5th overall in the standings, we set out to put all the pieces together in a near-perfect second heat that propelled us up to 3rd. That performance gave us the mojo we needed heading into the finals. Clint Austin captured us midway down the course trying to make a move on the next lane. In that moment of boat surge, you feel each moment as a one stroke, catching your breath on that sought after boat glide. It was a great race. We felt it and we knew it. None of that could have been achieved with out the hard work of earning trust and giving trust. We ended up earning a podium finish in typical hundredths of seconds behind a good team of people we call friends. It’s not the medal that matters, rather that we were all-in with our commitment to our team and our roles. It matters how we treat our competitors and new paddlers keen to keep up. It matters how we treat each other on and off the water and especially going into battle with emotions high. It matters to Live Like We Paddle.
- By Megan Kress
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