Few sports rely on harmony and rhythm as much as dragon boating.
Twenty people paddling in unison with a drummer at the front beating the rhythm and a steerer at the rear of the ornately decorated boat as it surges through the water.
Jan Isbel has been a dragon boat crew member in Hervey Bay for 12 years and loves the fitness, the friendships and the wonderful times out on the water.
The 82-year-old took up the sport with the Hervey Bay Dragon Boat Club in 2011 after a gruelling year of treatment for breast cancer.
"There was research that showed people who had lymph nodes removed from their armpits benefited from dragon boating and I thought well I'll give it a go," said Jan.
"I just loved it and by the end of 2011 I was club president."
After six years as club president, Jan decided to let some of the younger ones coming through have a go, but didn't give up the sport, still going to training two or three times a week.
The retired teacher is quick to debunk the idea you have to be fit to be a dragon boat crew member.
"No you don't have to be fit to start. You can work up to it. It's not a question of strength, it timing that's important. You pull the strength from you core when you sit up and pull your paddle back and from your legs when you push. So it's not just using your arms."
Jan said the sport was fantastic for building fitness. You really notice it if you go away for a few weeks and then come back.
Club secretary Janet Schmidt , 74, joined the club eight years ago as she was new to town and wanted a way to meet new people.
"Best thing I ever did. I have forged new friendships, travelled to places I would not have gone prior. I have paddled 55kms down the Ord River - twice), explored and shared many laughs and made memories to last forever.
The club currently has 43 members aged from eight to 80 plus with several in their 60s and 70s.
Members compete at both local, interstate, state and national levels both as a team and individually with other clubs; and members take day trips to other clubs to paddle and gain experience.
Several members also paddle for and support breast cancer teams.
Training days at Hervey Bay are Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 4.30 for 5pm on the water and Sunday mornings 6.30 for 7pm on the water.
The club holds come and try days at its base at the Urangan Marina next to the Boat Club for anyone interested in giving the sport a go. Newcomers can paddle free for a month and all equipment is supplied during this time.
The club also involves itself in many community projects such as Sport Expo, Paddle out for Wales, Blessing of the Fleet, Red Cross Appeal, Mental Health Week, Business Team Bonding sessions, school outings and marshals for Gran Fondo (bike ride). It also holds numerous social activities.
Currently there are 1900 participants in dragon boating throughout Queensland at 37 clubs from Cairns to Tweed Heads and world-wide some 50 million people are involved in the sport.
Dragon boats are blessed and have the dragon eyes painted afresh at the start of every race season.
In Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes power and excellence, courage and boldness, heroism and perseverance, nobility and divinity.
Originally Dragon Boats had a religious purpose with each boat having an ornately carved dragon's head at the bow and a tail in the stern. The boat is painted with scales. The paddles symbolically represent the dragon's claws, the drum represents its heart.
Clubs follow the tradition of awakening the dragon by dotting its eyes, blessing it and offering rice dumplings which are wrapped in bamboo leaves at the start of each racing season. It is considered bad luck to race a boat that has not been blessed and awakened.
It's lovely being in unison with everyone on the boat. In unison with the whole group," said Jan. "It's also lovely being out there on the water, out there in nature. We have some of the most lovely sunsets reflecting on the water."
If you would like to try dragon boating in Hervey Bay email firstname.lastname@example.org
To find a club visit www.ausdbf.com.au
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