6th Annual Ground Zero Dragon Boat Festival at The Market Common

Dragon BoatLooking to have fun while raising money for a great cause? Check out Myrtle Beach’s Ground Zero Dragon Boat Festival!

Dragon Boat racing, for those of you who don’t know—e.g. me three years ago—is a competitive water sport where twenty paddlers and one drummer compete to be the fastest boat on the water.  The drummer’s responsibility is to keep the beat for the paddlers during the race so that all the paddlers paddle in unison.   Each member of a Dragon Boat team must raise $125 and the drummer dresses up for a costume contest where festival go-ers can put money towards the best costume.  All proceeds of the Myrtle Beach Festival benefit Ground Zero—a Christian non-profit committed to helping teens by engaging them in fun events, assembly speakers, and other entertainment in a safe environment.

As a highly non-athletic person (see Turkey Trot post), I am always interested in trying something new that many other people have never done either (meaning I hopefully won’t look like a complete idiot).  Three years ago, a friend invited me to be on her team and I readily agreed.  That friend (shout out to Jennifer) and Karen have co-captained our team for the past three years.  My first Dragon Boat Festival is where Karen and I met each other and became friends, so it definitely has a special place in my heart.

Since most people have never paddled a 40 ft long boat with nineteen other people, each team is given an hour long practice session some time during the week before the festival with a coach who has competed internationally in dragon boat competitions.  This year our trainer was awesome!  First, he lined us up appropriately to evenly distribute our weight throughout the boat.  We quickly went over the basics:  paddle together, concentrate on your own boat, make sure your paddle is deep in the water, sit to the edge of the boat, and most importantly—NEVER stand on the boat.  We then learned to use our core to help us paddle stronger and were taught that each two-person row on the boat had a specific task (the front of the boat helps with pacing, the middle is considered the “power house” and the back helps with momentum).  After practice, our team was worn out but confident in our abilities.

Jennifer, Kayla, Kelly, and Karen enjoying the festival

Jennifer, Kayla, Kelly, and Karen enjoying the festival

The Festival itself lasts from 8 am to 5 pm at Market Common in Myrtle Beach.  It is usually held the last weekend in April.  Teams compete in two races, and if their times are fast enough, they advance to the finals.  There are four categories: middle school, high school, women’s and mixed (both men and women).  Our team, the CCU Rowing Roosters, was one of 36 teams in the mixed division.   During our first heat, we came in 2nd with a time of 0:58:10.  In our second heat we came in 1st, but because of strong headwinds our time was slower.  Our times were strong enough to allow us to compete in the finals, where we came in 3rd place for Flight C.  The fastest time recorded was 0:55:21 so I would say we did pretty well overall, not to mention we raised over $2,900 for a great cause!

Even if you aren’t able to compete in the races, the Dragon Boat Festival is a ton of fun!  It’s thrilling to watch the races (see pic), and there are plenty of other things to do.  This year there was a “fun zone” with bouncy houses and races for kids, face painting was available throughout the day, and a volleyball court was set up for friendly competition.  There was a concert around lunch time featuring American Christian rock band, Abandon.  There were also numerous food vendors and I saw many people walking around with sno-cones, kettle corn, Chick-fil-A, funnel cakes, and more!

Whether you’re competing or a spectator, I hope to see you at next year’s Dragon Boat Festival on April 25, 2015.

CCU's Rowing Roosters!  Karen's holding our 3rd place medals.

CCU’s Rowing Roosters!
Karen’s holding our 3rd place medals.