3 weeks at Paddling Camp – Paddle, Stretch, Eat, Sleep…

dragonboatI recently had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in Florida! That was a real delight, after the long and cold winter we had. The true pleasure, however, was getting back on water, teaching Yoga and stretch classes to paddlers and reconnecting with my paddling community.

The camp is put on by Bow Wave Dragon Boat Camp and Space Coast Dragon Boat Camp. This was the 14th year of camp – they have a number of return campers. As you may have guessed, Dragon Boating is the main activity of the camp, (twice a day for 1 – 1 1/2 hrs); this is supplemented with Outrigger Canoeing (OC 2’s in this case), and SUP – Stand Up Paddling. This can mean up to 4 – 6 hours on water, with at least 2 of those hours sitting on the hard seat of a dragon boat. Butt pads aside, if you have never sat on a Dragon boat seat, you don’t know the discomfort that arises – the ‘third sit bone’ I call it.

In addition to paddling, every person in the camp can come to a 45 minute Yoga classes, and a 30 minute stretch classes, everyday. If they didn’t come on the first day, they came on the second. It was such a pleasure for me to be able to share my love of teaching Yoga with my knowledge of paddling; the two activities fit together exceptionally well. The repetitive nature of paddling on one side of a boat makes Yoga a perfect antidote to wound up muscles, sore shoulders and tight lower backs. As well as messed up feet, hips, hands – you name it.

The first day, after our setting our intention for the day and our 3 opening Om’s, I opened my eyes and looked up – there were about a 100 people in the Yoga pavilion! That’s a lot of smart paddlers! After their first paddle, they came back for stretch class; we had a great week after that, trading jokes about what parts hurt the most, and sharing groans and deep breaths on the mat. Breathing is critical, for many reasons: being able to momentarily relax during a strenuous workout piece, or a race; being able to stay focused before or during a race; being able to stay calm, when the world around you goes to ‘crazy world’ as one of our coaches calls it.

The very best part of camp, is the people. This is my third year teaching at camp, and with the number of return visitors, I get to see old friends, and spend some time with them. I get to meet new people, and ease them into the world of Dragon Boating. My coaches, when I paddled competitively, and the coaches at camp are one and the same – former high level club, National, World and even Olympic level athletes. While everyone of them is as down to earth as the next person, these people have inspired and motivated me over the past 8 years, and continue to share their gifts to the campers every year.

Who are the campers? Every walk of life, every age, every ability. Anyone paddles. Everyone paddles. The age range this year was 21 to 80. 80! That’s amazing! Some people were paddling for their first time – first time ever paddling ANYthing. Some are recreational paddlers, some are National and World level athletes. Several Breast Cancer Survivor crews were there. If you want to meet an interesting group of people who are surviving AND thriving, come to camp, and meet my Survivor crew friends. They’ll show you pink hair and a determination that doesn’t quit. And they are pretty good at paddling, singing, having a good laugh and enjoying a glass of wine or a beer when all is done.

The spirit of camp moves me. It provides me with experiences of joy and laughter, and a connection and commitment that is so strong, I’ve yet to see it elsewhere. 20 people in one boat – you would do for them, or your coach, as you would for no other, just to experience the rhythm and power that make that boat ‘glide’, just to work as hard as the people around you.

Camp – I come for the teaching, and the paddling. I come back for the people.

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