A word or two from a paddling Indian to a paddling Indian - I did everything right
Here I am, an Indian from a different nation. Were I come from they give different smoke signals, have different haircuts, ride different horses, and wear socks and sandals. Do you know who I am?
I am still an Indian, here I am. Not too bad considering the huge responsibility my chief is putting on me, and my entire fellow Indians. Three moons ago my 2 chiefs shipped 9 Indians and me north to Oregon, the land of Vikings. This time we couldn't take our horses and instead took a ride on a yellow iron horse. Later I found out it was transportation for little Indians who cannot paddle in canoes yet.
We arrived, took our weapons, and camped on blankets. Tons of friendly Indians from other tribes were there to meet for canoe racing. How fun! Indian: "Chief, Chief, why, when, from where to where, against whom, what is the deal?" Chief: "Shut up and go back to your blanket and wait with the other Indians, I will figure it out" – I did. And guess what, he came back and figured it out. "LARD!" (Name of our tribe) "Listen up". Our chief gave us specific information and wants us to round up in a circle. He makes us jump, bend and stretch. A way of scaring other Indian teams? No, our chief does not want us to get hurt and to see the medicine man, now I get it. Then he makes us sit on the pavement, pretending we sit in a canoe and paddle. I don't know about this Chief, but I do. Actually, looking at my shorts later, I think we moved a little bit. And I have to admit it did feel good, paddling with or without a canoe. Maybe I will do this again later tonight in my tent.
At the shoreline, crowds of painted Indians from other tribes are lined up, waiting to get into the canoes. Some crews are loud, sing and shout. Ain't no scared, my chief told us we will kick their as……...
"Hey Indian, sit here, row 5". I think to myself…..no chief I like row 7 better. But I shut up. I remember the chief sitting with the co- chiefs the night before talking about some stuff. That may had something to do with where I am sitting now? After a short while I don't see much of a difference, row 5 is as good as row 7, left or right. Other Indians don't seem to mind either. Oh my god, there is dirty water in our canoe. Other tribes had left water in our canoe to slow us down. Not with us my fellow friendly Indians. We scope the water out real quick and we are ready to go. (P.S. later we leave some of our own dirty water in the canoe to get even = old Indian trick). Now my chief yells "gunnels!" What's that? Now "Take it away", – I do everything he says. I am a good Indian; I do exactly what my chief says and so do my fellow Indians. Man, that feels a lot better then I thought.
"Concentrate" – I do. "Focus" – I do. "Paddles up" – I do. I don't even talk any more, or look to shore where some pretty female Indians walk by. I am here to paddle now and I am prepared for the battle. I brace my legs into the canoe; make my legs help me paddling stronger. Legs paddling? Yes, believe it or not and try it out. There we go, all teams start paddling now and soon we see open water. "Heads up and rotate" he yells at me. That's right I forgot…and I was wondering why it felt so hard breathing. Now it's better, and now I can even see my fellow Indians paddle. My paddle hits the water at the exact same time like my blood brothers paddles. That makes perfect sense. WOW, I can feel it that makes a big difference. The canoe feels light and powerful. We can barely hear the other Indians anymore. Where are they? `Come paddle with us', I think. But I am not here to think and I won't look back either, or try to find out were they are. I just keep paddling hard.
WOW, what's this now? Our canoe goes sideways towards the shore. Are we almost there? Nope, our tiller Indian is loosing it. I don't care and still paddle hard even though it feels like we approach a turn. We are almost turned around now, and there they are, I can see the other Indian canoes again. One of them is pretty close to us and I think, if they don't stop soon or we get out of their way, they may hit us. And guess what, Manitou didn't help us here. They run into us hard. I prepare to take a bath but surprisingly our canoe does not sink. Too bad one of our Indians got hurt and needs to see the medicine man. I wonder what would have happened if Indian heads were on our canoes. Anyways, minutes later we crossed the finish line almost sideways. The official chiefs telling us that they don't want to paddle with us anymore. We are in trouble. I already see myself spending the night at the totem pole. Now I am getting angry but don't show it, instead laugh and dance just like my fellow Indians. Everything considered, this was kind of cool. Amazing what 12 red racing Indians have caused.
We went back to our tents and soon the yellow iron horse picked us up. The sun goes down, we eat, and have some fire water. "But only 2 fire water" our chief says – I do. "We meet at 8:30 in the morning at the yellow iron horse. Go in your tipi's now" the chief says – I do, just like everybody else. One moon later we met, left in time and get there relaxed.
The official chief said, "Because of your crash, you red racing Indians have to paddle with the novice Indians". "No way!" Other novice Indians teams say. "We don't want the red racing Indians to paddle in our group". Now all the tribe chiefs had to get together and smoked the freedom pipe. They agree that the red racing Indians should paddle with the competitive black and green Wasabi Indians, the yellow Sun Indians, and the black and orange Zambowanga Indians. "Thanks Manitou, good move". Our chief just has to find 10 more Indians from other tribes to fill up our canoe. 30 min later some black VO2 Max (Volume of oxygen = cool name) from British Colombia, a pink Arizona Indian, and a black and green Wasabi Indian, join our team. The chief puts me in row 10 now. "What?" He must have a reason - I just shut up and paddle.
"Indians! Learn from yesterday, breath, rotate, reach, focus, heads up, full blade, brace, dig deep, all the good stuff" – I do. "Indians on your mark!" And there we go START; half, three-quarter, full, full, full is our secret. I know my chief relies on me, and my fellow Indians now. I paddle so hard if there is no tomorrow and do everything right.
There is a canoe from a friendly tribe ahead of us but there are also 2 behind. The green and black Wasabi canoe is breathing up our neck. The red racing Indians paddle hard, "Power 20" and we accelerate one more time, not given up an inch. "Extreme", we are gaining more, just like our chief expected it from us. The red racing canoe comes in at a respectable second place at the competitive A finals. The feared Wasabi Indians placed third, almost one canoe length behind us. The Zambowanga canoe won the race but they are friendly Indians to the red racing Indians – for now! After the race they fed us and share their firewater with us. Thanks black and yellow Zambowanga Indians, and also thank you Manitou, to give us the skill and memory to adapt our new paddle technique; don't drink more than two fire water, be in bed in time and be such great fellow Indians.
It felt to me, that our fellow Indians couldn't do without me, and I couldn't do without them. And between you and me, my dear fellow team Indian, our chiefs couldn't do without us either. I am so glad to be a disciplined Indian. All I have to do is paddle hard and shut up, and sure enough our tribe will be successful and win canoe races.
On the end they call our tribe on stage and hang heavy silver medals on us. Cool! I like that, some call them hardware, and some think they take space of their tents. I will decorate my tent with the medals all right. But wait a minute; wouldn't it be cool to have some gold medals? But that would mean that all of our team Indians has to come out and help pushing our canoe. Please my fellow Indians, we have 15 seats to fill for the San Francisco canoe race and we don't want to give them away to green, yellow, blue or black Indians. Some of us will take their horse to get there, so don't worry, you don't have to get on the flying iron horse.
And last but not least; I am extremely proud to be a part of this successful tribe and my chiefs, even though I have a different hair cut. And… I also like paddling better than horseback riding now.
The international Indian of mysteries
As Olaf creatively narrated, our trek to Portland this past weekend was a very successful and memorable trip in many regards. Though only 12 of us were able to represent LARD and the LA Pinks, it was a tournament that highlighted every facet of dragonboating that reminds me of why this sport will always be a life-long passion. Besides myself, the following are fellow paddlers that represented our team this past weekend:
Leon Wynne Greg Wileen Diane Karen Oliver Kenny P Olaf Jesse W Anthony
Heading up to Portland with just the 12 of us, I don't think anyone really had any expectations of what we wanted to accomplish as a team outside of meeting and greeting our good friends from up north--Wasabi, Pink Phoenix, and Zamboanga, just to name a few. Zamboanga was the local team that generously offered to host us for the weekend, and host us well they did. >From homemade banana-nut bread, refreshments, snacks, and two days of delicious homemade marinated burgers and chicken hot off the grill, in add'n to roasted corn, these guys really laid out the red carpet. In the back of my mind I cringed at the thought of 'host duties' next year in Long Beach should they choose to compete at our local venue in July! Along with Dieselfish and Ripple Effect, that would make 3 teams! :-) Several of us later joked about renaming the Long Beach Tournament the LARD Invitational, since we received so much help and goodwill throughout the weekend from individuals and teams we barely even knew--and some we just met--that we looked forward to returning such goodwill should the opportunity present itself in the future. From the moment our team registered for this tournament, we already had key event organizers arranging shuttle rides exclusively for our team to get from the hotel to the race site nearly 30 minutes away!
With a (20-person) full boat seating requirement, 8 of whom needed to be women for Mixed Divisions, in add'n to the mandatory caller and steersperson, we opted to use all 12 of our team members (8 guys/4 gals) as paddlers in order to best-represent LARD. As such, we needed to recruit help from other teams, many of which we would be competing against later on in the tournament as brackets narrowed down towards the quarterfinals, etc...You guys can already imagine the concerns we had not only paddling with 8 other people who were completely unfamiliar with our race program, but just trying to find extra paddlers that could commit to most of our heats...
During the 2 days of competition, we cycled through a medley of paddlers, callers, and tillers in our various heats. In all, we were blessed with the aid of 2 Wasabi Callers (Connie and Kim), 2 Tillers from Pink Phoenix (Robbie and Linda), 2 high school girls who paddle with the AquaRockets but were there just to help out even though their team was not competing in the tournament, 2 ladies from Wasabi's Power Surge Team, 2 guys from our host team Zamboanga, and a total of 8 paddlers from a mix of VO2 Max and Steamroller members (teams based in Vancouver). They adapted well to our technical 5-10-10 start, paddled their hearts out for us, and enabled teamLARD to place 2nd overall in the Competitive I Mixed Division, edging out Wasabi's Mixed Team, the US Junior National Sun Dragons, and VO2 Max (a fellow top-seeded Rec A team at the Alcan Festival).
Needless to say, we made a lot of great friends this weekend. I try my best to remember all of their names and have made note of them; you never know when they might ever be short a couple of paddlers, or a steersperson or caller shy of just being able to compete in a race....LARD has actually paddled with VO2 Max and the Steamrollers in previous Alcan races--two years ago when we first met them (Vancouver)--and I was very grateful to see that their team leader made every effort to ensure that we would not be seating less than a full boat in any of our heats. All this from another *visiting* team! Though a handful of us had to take off to the airport immediately following the awards ceremony on Sunday, many were able to hang out with the paddlers from VO2 Max over dinner at the Spaghetti Factory that evening. And before I forget, a BIG THANK YOU to Jesse for driving EVERYONE to the Portland Airport--I think he made at least 7 different trips in his rental car to make sure we would all catch our flights and save a good chunk of change as well. thankyou, thankyou.
Following the Championship Race, our team was awarded a nice, shiny plaque and a slew of beautiful silver medals at the closing ceremony, which we humbly distributed to all of the volunteer paddlers, callers, and tillers that had helped us so much throughout the entire weekend. Without their energy and support, it would have been a hefty challenge to show to the 'home' dragonboating community up there the kind of paddling talent that we have been fostering down here in Long Beach.
Though many of our fellow teammates were unable to make it to this Portland tournament, I hope every one of you are as just as excited and motivated about OUR TEAM'S performances these past *2* weekends. I am amazed by every one of your efforts, and by how much this team has progressed since Vancouver because of it. Nevertheless, I foster a shielded optimism about what we can accomplish simply because our race season is far from over. We've still got San Francisco ahead of us, and the competition that awaits us is going to be even greater....our host team Zamboanga is going to be there, and they ran a *strong* crew at the Portland races; let's not forget that the teams we were able to hold down in Long Beach are going be even hungrier to knock us off the podium this time around...
on 3....1, 2, 3, GO TEAMLARD!!!!!!