A visitor to Sicamous praised the way local dragon boaters welcomed her into their ranks and the solace she found in working as one to glide across the surface of Shuswap Lake.
Dot Kohler, an Ontario resident visiting family in the area, joined the local paddlers on one of their early-morning voyages and was touched when four women offered to give up their seats on the full boat.
“I understood instantly they did this out of pure kindness and compassion,” Kohler wrote in a letter to the Eagle Valley News.
Kohler’s letter detailed the trying time she was going through when she visited Sicamous.
“I arrived as a visitor, having flown in very last minute for a quick visit. A small window opened during my second phase of chemotherapy for an aggressive breast cancer. My strong and calm brother-in-law had just finished 12 weeks of palliative treatment for an advanced cancer,” Kohler wrote.
Kohler added that through the recent strife her family experienced, her sister had found everyday joy as part of a dragon boat team; she found a similar feeling of enjoyment in the hypnotic rhythm of paddling the boat and the moments of serenity as its momentum let it glide across the calm surface of the lake.
In her letter Kohler thanked the dragon boat society, especially the women who gave up their seats in the boat.
Dragon boat society secretary Brenda Banham said regular paddlers often give up their spots to newcomers in order to share the dragon boating experience and help more people get active. Banham said they usually bring along a few drop-in paddlers.
“We’re really open to let people try. It’s really not a problem.”
The accommodating attitude has helped to grow the society — Banham said their membership has increased to 30 compared to 21 last year, so full boats are departing from the Sicamous Channel most of the mornings they paddle.
Banham said interest in competitive paddling has grown along with the society’s numbers.
“We’ve kind of stepped it up a bit as far as training,” Banham said.
She said about eight of the paddlers who regularly go out on the Sicamous boat have joined other crews in the area to participate in dragon boat festivals
“We try to make the best of our club and get everybody active. That’s really the biggest role is to keep people in the community active,” Banham said.
She added the club would be eager to welcome more young people to paddle with them regularly.
The Eagle Valley Dragon Boat Society are on the water from 7 to 8 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings; they depart from the Sicamous channel and new paddlers are welcome.