In 2007, the U.S Navy Dragon Boat Team paddled in large 32-person boats for the “opening” annual race that occurred on May 5 of each year on the island of Okinawa, Japan. Eventually, the love of “Haari” (Okinawan for Dragon Boat) inspired the women on that team to paddle more than just one race per year. These paddlers wanted to live the culture and beauty of Okinawa Dragon Boat Racing so they formed a smaller group from the 2007 U.S. Navy Dragon Boating team now known as “The Summer Dragons.”

The Summer Dragons trained and practiced with their brother team, “the Japanese Naval team,” who supplied knowledge, handmade 10-person wooden boats, a kajitori (turner), and their White Beach Port – along with a demand for perfection. Many women would drive over an hour to get to the port twice a week to practice three things: correct form, synchronization, and power. Neighbors used to laugh at the American team because foreigners just “didn’t do” the local races, but they earned their respect with each win at the local ports. The Okinawans appreciated that the Summer Dragons loved the sport and eventually the locals would cheered them on!

The team became well-known and began to make friends and competitors alike. They invested in their own boat and practiced 2-3 times a week for the weekly Sunday race. They loved every minute of it. After 10 years, the Summer Dragons are still going strong. They continue to be a part of the U.S Navy Team and will paddle with honor under the name on May 5, but starting May 6 of every year, the Summer Dragons form again and compete in the local races.

The Summer Dragons are a mix of active duty Navy and Marines, wives of service members, teachers, mothers, civilians, all whom have come together because of this amazing sport. New gals who have the same drive and love or the sport, culture, and experience join all the time.

This year, the Summer Dragons are holding their 10th Anniversary at the 2017 Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. 20 women are coming from all over the world to paddle just one more time. Women from all ten years are represented on the team and cannot wait to experience the Dragon Boat culture in Colorado!

 

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