Dragon Boat Racing at Lake Las Vegas

When I lived in South Africa I belonged to a gym, and my favorite activity there was the rowing machine. With Johannesburg being the largest city in the world not on a body of water, implementing my love of rowing in real life was not really going to happen. Now I live smack in the middle of the desert, so I am faced with a similar scenario. Fortunately, in Las Vegas, we have several man-made lakes. Not so good for the environment and the water shortage facing the greater Las Vegas valley, but good for water sports opportunities.

Tonight I participated in a beginner dragon boat workshop at Lake Las Vegas. This artificial 320 acre lake, adjacent to southern Nevada’s most famous artificial lake, Lake Mead, was constructed nearly 20 years ago. Unlike the public recreational focus of its neighbor, Lake Las Vegas has a more elitist vibe to it. A number of resort hotels and casinos border its shores. Sadly, most of these resorts have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, so the”Monte Lago” village now feels more like a ghost town, aside from a few open restaurants and shops.

For the second straight year the Women’s Care Center at St. Rose Hospital is organizing a dragon boat festival to help support its RED Rose program to provide mammograms and breast cancer treatment to underinsured and uninsured women. The 90 minute beginner class I took this evening was just $10, but the money goes to benefit this initiative. The grander Rose Regatta Festival will take place on October 16, 2010, with a $45 registration fee for an individual and $1,000 registration team for a team of up to 20.

According to our instructor, dragon boating is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. Originating in China over 2,000 years ago, a dragon boat is a thin boat traditionally made out of teak wood. Dragon boat racing is still such an important part of Chinese culture, that their annual dragon boat festival is now a national holiday. Traditionally, a drummer rides in the boat and the beat of the drum sets the pace of the synchronized paddling. We didn’t have a drummer tonight (we will get one on the day of the dragon boat festival), so we were not a very synchronized group of 20 people!

So how did I like dragon boating? Because each person uses just one paddle and works with a partner, you use just one side of your body. Teamwork is exceptionally important, as the more you paddle in sync, the faster you will go. Since this was a beginner class, we didn’t paddle for more than 3 consecutive minutes, but as you predominantly utilize your core muscles to paddle, I imagine it could be a good workout if we were a bit more intensive. This is definitely something I would try again, as long as our boat doesn’t capsize into the stinky waters of Lake Las Vegas. I’ll sit back and wait for dragon boating to becoming an Olympic sport, while my husbands says he’s waiting for me to buy a Viking cap.

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