A few years ago, a group of women got together to create a dragon boat team for the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, in Ottawa, Canada. All reports indicate that they kinda sucked, as far as actual racing ability was concerned, but that didn’t stop them from having a great deal of fun. They discovered that there are many ways to be winners at a dragon boat festival, and threw themselves in fundraising and creating cheers and generally having a great time. This last year, they beat out dozens of other teams to win the spirit award for the first time.
They are all Jewish, with close ties to the community and to Israel, and so when they realized how much fun dragon boat racing was, they said to themselves, “We should do this in Israel!” Their hope was to provide people outside Israel with a new way to experience the country and get to know Israelis, and to introduce a new sport to Israel.
It has been a long and complicated path, but here we are now: sold out. 39 teams signed up – 20 Israeli and 19 foreign – with paddlers from Canada, the USA, Europe and even New Zealand. Many of them have created tours for their teams and are taking the opportunity to travel around the country before heading to Lake Kinneret for the Festival. The crazy idea appears to have worked – we have many paddlers learning about Israel and many Israelis learning about dragon boating.
There will be a practice day on May 17th, where many, many people will be learning how to paddle a dragon boat for the first time. Friday, May 18th is race day.