Its 7AM, 2 hours before the 1st heat, and numerous teams are already out on the sand next to the water, setting up their tents. Among them, still waking up, is UC San Diego Dragon Boat Team. The sky is slightly grey, inducing some nervous thoughts on how water conditions will be as the day progresses.
The Long Beach Spring Dragon Boat Festival, or “Baby Long Beach”, has long been regarded as the regatta where the new recruits, paddlers who joined the UC San Diego Dragon Boat Team at the beginning of the year, are officially initiated to veteran-hood, responsible for guiding and inspiring the new recruits to come. And surely enough, the day was a challenge. Both Blue Boat’s and White Boat’s 1st race pieces were rough, though Blue Boat – the boat with the greater majority of new recruits- ended up in Division C, while the White Boat went on to Division A as planned. But, not to be discouraged, Blue Boat reflected on what had gone wrong and pulled things together, and ended up placing 1st in both the semi-final and final heats by over 2 seconds. Meanwhile, White Boat built on their races and achieved 1st in the Division A semi-final, and then 3rd in the final a whole second faster than their semi-final time.
Once the 500 m races – the main course, the races everyone prepares for – were out of the way, both boats breathed a little easier, knowing that the 200 m races would be pure, stress-free fun. In fact, both boats ended up in the Division A semi-final, inducing friendly jeers and making the heat feel not much different from weekend practice back in Mission Bay. It was almost as exciting as one boat crashing into another and capsizing in the middle of Blue Boat’s first heat, so that Blue Boat had to paddle over and help collect the team’s paddles and pfd’s. In the end, only White Boat moved on to the Division A final to take 2nd place, but seeing the smiles everyone shared after the regatta was over, it was undeniable that the day, with its sky turned clear and blue, was a success. Now, until our next recruitment, we have no “new boat” and “vet boat”. Just vets.