Australia’s first and only gay and lesbian dragon boat club, Different Strokes, is looking ahead to a hectic but fun-filled end to its competitive season.
Sydney Star Observer went out with the club for a training session over summer and saw the demanding routines members put themselves through twice a week.
Club president Nigel Bedford said the club’s next big regatta is the Chinese New Year competition in Darling Harbour on Saturday, February 27.
“Right now the club is focusing on being in the best possible condition for the races that day,” Bedford said.
“This involves some endurance work, but we are concentrating on the explosion of energy needed to move the boat quickly over the 240m course.
“Each race will be all over in less than a minute, but it really takes it out of you. That said, there’s nothing I’ve ever done that gives me the same buzz as racing in front of the huge crowds we get every year for these races at Darling Harbour.”
Typical training sessions, including warming up, paddling, and warming down, last about 90 minutes — and if the session SSO attended is anything to go by, these guys are fit and focused.
Bedford said the club would enter teams in the Premier Mixed and Premier Open categories and would be up against the best clubs in NSW.
“Our results in recent regattas show that we are already capable of challenging the top teams but we are confident the best is yet to come,” he said.
After Chinese New Year, the club will focus on the final regatta of the season; the NSW State Championships on Sunday, March 28 at the Olympic regatta centre in Penrith.
Here the club will race in the Premier Open, Premier Women’s and Premier Mixed categories, with each race being over 500m.
On the social front, the club will have a stall at Fair Day, a float in the Mardi Gras Parade ­— right after the Chinese New Year competition — and will offer a free paddle and BBQ to all on Tuesday, March 2.
Bedford said there are some 2500 active paddlers in 47 dragon boat clubs across NSW, and the sport is the fastest-growing participation sport in the state.
“The racing is really competitive, but everyone in the sport is so friendly and our club is warmly welcomed wherever we go,” Bedford said.
The club has nearly 50 active members but is still recruiting for this season.
“We are looking for both men and women and, if someone comes along in the next few weeks, there should be enough time to get him or her trained up for the state championships,” Bedford said.
“Our coach won gold racing for Australia in last year’s World Dragon Boat Championship and she relishes challenges like that.”

info: For more information, call Nigel Bedford on 0406 750 506, or email [email protected]

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