Dam Survivors steal first by a dragon’s whisker

By Barbara Little

At the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival Sept 9 Revelstoke’s Dam Survivors stole first place in the mixed division by less than 1/100th of a second from Phat Phish Racing, a team of young Asian paddlers that had whupped them the day before.

The Survivors fiercely paddled the 500 metre course in 2:06 (minutes) shaving 12 seconds off their best time of last year.  The photo finish was won by the width of a hair on the vividly painted dragons’ heads that adorn the boats only at races.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we think we could break the 2:10 mark,” said team coach Ginger Shoji. “All our hard work paid off and everything came together for us.  Focus in the boat, timing, and determination – that’s what I call a coach’s dream!  What I witnessed on the water was magic.”

Dam Survivors 20 paddlers plus manager, coach, steersperson, drummer, assistant manager and family members pose in front of the team tent at Penticton’s Skaha Lake Park. Mike Durrant photo

Although the Survivors have a very short training season on chilly Lake Revelstoke compared to teams at the coast and the Okanagan Shoji said their goal was only to beat their best time of 2:18.  They not only beat that but also their 2:12 qualifier time.

In the final race on day two their 2:06:07 finish nudged Phat Phish Racing’s 2:06:22 back into second place in the Diamond B Division and the Survivors into first.  The overall winner of the mixed category at day’s end was KDBC Tip Em Back with a time of 1:56.

In previous years the Survivors had taken 2nds and 3rds in the bottom division Gold.  Last year they paddled into 1st in Jade and this year fought their way into Diamond.  Only one more division remains for them to challenge – Platinum.

Team manager Jackie Goodman echoed Shoji’s excitement. “Our team is now on the radar.  My husband Darrell overheard a spectator say to one of our paddlers “You guys could almost be professional”.  How is that for being noticed!  I’m still thunderstruck at the team’s ability to paddle with such courage, high energy and dedication.”

Traditionally the Revelstoke boat has been powered by some very strong women as old as 12 and as young as 65 with only two or three men aboard.  Last year something changed and men with super powers joined the team.  This year seven men added steam to the core of seasoned women paddlers and helped fuel the speedy finishes.

Over 90 teams brought 2200 people to the warm waters of Skaha Lake for what has become one of the best festivals in BC.  Tourists and locals along with their kids, their dogs, and even a white pig on a leash and a pink parrot on a shoulder crowded onto the promenade to watch the colourful boats race.

A brilliant sunny day, food and craft vendors, boogey music, a beer garden, fearless ducks that wandered everywhere and tents flying team colours created a Renaissance Faire atmosphere.

Although difficult to see, the Dam Survivors in lane 4 are dragon-neck to neck with boats on either side. They pulled out every last bit of energy, emptied their tanks and stole first place by less than 1/100th of a second in the last race of the day at the annual dragon boat festival in Penticton. Mike Durrant photo

Rookie paddler Tina Durrant summed up the thrill of the weekend and her feelings about the team.  “It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know my team-mates over the season. What an incredible group of people.  I can hardly wait to start the journey all over again next year,” said Durrant.  “Not only are we champions coming out of Penticton but we’re champs in every other way as well.  Thanks for letting me be a part of the team!”