A new Portland State club will co-sponsor a team in the Rose Festival’s dragon-boat races for the first time this June. The recently formed PSU student club is joining with a seasoned dragon-boating team from Portland Community College. Together, they will compete both in the Rose Festival and in dragon-boating competitions this spring throughout the region.
A new Portland State club will co-sponsor a team in the Rose Festival’s dragon-boat races for the first time this June.
The recently formed PSU student club is joining with a seasoned dragon-boating team from Portland Community College. Together, they will compete both in the Rose Festival and in dragon-boating competitions this spring throughout the region.
Dragon-boat racing on the Willamette started in 1989, when Portland’s Taiwanese sister city Kaohsiung sent two boats as gifts.
“The Chinese community, led by the Chinese benevolent societies, decided that the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association ought to start a dragon-boat sharing project in 1989,” said Fran Palk, the coach of the new PSU-PCC team. “As a gesture of goodwill, Kaohsiung sent boats. We sent them fire engines in exchange.”
Since then, the Rose Festival’s dragon-boat races have grown to attract almost 90 teams, some of which travel from as far as Boston and New York, Palk said.
PCC has had a dragon-boat team almost as long as Portland has been hosting races, but PSU has never formally participated in the races. Kelsi Herman, a junior at PSU, tried to start a dragon-boat club at the university last year, but the club was unable to attract the people and funds necessary to compete in the Rose Festival races.
This year Herman met Palk and they decided to combine the two teams.
The PCC team has been competing for 19 years under the name “PCC Zen Dragons,” but the new combined team has not yet chosen a name.
The PSU club will hold an orientation for would-be PSU dragon-boat racers next week. The dragon-boat club organizers emphasized that potential “paddlers” do not have to be particularly athletic.
“Anybody can do it,” said sophomore Megan Dickison. “Dragon boating is really a sport for anybody-you just can’t be afraid of water.”
Palk, who has been coaching teams for 19 years, said she used to hold try-outs but did not find them to be a useful tool.
“We don’t select the team, the team selects itself,” Palk said. “If you’re really faithful to practice then people just kind of find their own level.”
The combined PCC-PSU club will have its first orientation on March 7 at 7 p.m. in the recreation club offices in Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 47. At the orientation, the team captains and coach will discuss the sport, then hold a “dry” practice sitting on chairs with paddles.
The first event of the dragon-boat season will be March 31, when the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association holds its annual Eye Dotting Ceremony. The ceremony, where the dragon boat’s eyeballs are dotted with pupils, is said to “wake up” the dragons, kick off the racing season, and ensure safety to the racing teams. It will feature lion dancers, ceremonial drummers and Buddhist monks.
Herman, the PSU team captain, said that what she likes about dragon-boat racing is the camaraderie-her teammate Dickison agreed.
“Dragon-boat racing is truly a team sport,” Dickison said. “It’s not possible to have a star. It takes everyone’s effort to move a boat.”