The cancellation of the 2020 Outrigger and Dragon Boat race seasons are an unprecedented blow to the paddling community. Outrigger paddlers frequently use words like ohana and lokahi, which refer to family and unity. Connections to our crewmates run deep. Relationships in Dragon Boating and Outrigger are forged through our time spent with one another while racing, practicing, and doing community projects with our clubs. The main reason we belong to clubs is to join with other people and share experiences. If paddling was just about the physical act of paddling, I think most people would only paddle surfski and OC1, as scheduling a solo training session is far less complicated than coordinating a team.
We put up with a lot to paddle on a team. We question crew selection. We deal with marginal personalities. We complain about antiquated rules and race officials. Our vocabulary includes words like “paddletics” and phrases such as “Shut up and paddle.” Conflict and dysfunction often seem to be the eternal fabric of club life. But, come April, and though we proclaimed, “never again”, we are back at practice.
COVID behavior has shown that a significant number of Americans will risk exposure for trivial reasons. Drinking in a bar is an example. The physiological effects of alcohol are the same whether we are alone or in the company of others. However, the company of fellow humans is like oxygen for our souls. Unless one is an extreme introvert, people, appear to need people.
The 2021 race season is an unknow entity. Anyone who has waited in the marshalling tent is aware social distancing and team racing will be challenging. But the need to race together is embedded in our DNA. Which means the question is not if racing will return, but when we will race again, Together on the Water.
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