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15th Annual Banquet @ House of Blues, Anaheim | Nov 19


Award Winner
Jack Ko Award For the love of dragonboat, and for the love of the team, this person has gone above and beyond his/her duties to the team. This is a super award for an extraordinary person. Personal note: If you consider the MVP to be the franchise of the team, then you might consider the recipient of this award to be the foundation of the team.

Crystal Wang

Most Spirited This paddler bestows positive energy upon the entire team, his/her attitude is infectious.

Justin Chi

Most Inspirational Through their actions and words, this paddler motivates teamLARD to achieve greatness.

Leon Cheng

Rookie of the Year This paddler went beast-mode in year one.

Justin Chi

Most Improved This paddler raised their game to new and incredible heights.

Sue Houston Safianoff

Most Sportsmanlike The definition of team player, also a distinguished teamLARD representative for the entire paddling community.

Richard Maher

Most Valuable The franchise, the best performing paddler on and off the water.

Nick Chekmizoff

Nemo Award LARDies sure know how to have fun and find humor in everything. But this person stands out and brings the house down whenever he or she cracks a joke or does something. Simply the "life of the party!"

Billy Leung

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's The Fairest of Them All Hopefully we don't need to summon the magic mirror to nominate. This award goes to the LARDie, male or female, whose face and charm always merit a second look. He or she can be the team's hunk or muse.

Crystal Wang

Belle Award Belle needs no explanation. This award goes to a female LARDie who is always ready to strut the catwalk. Whatever day it is, these LARDie are dressed to the nines.

Evelyn Lim

Beast Award Beast may be the least attractive hero in Disney history yet arguably the most smartly dressed. These awards goes to the male LARDie who is always ready to strut the catwalk. Whatever day it is, this LARDie is dressed to impress.

Eric Song

Hakuna Matata Award "Hakuna Matata, it means no worries". This award goes to the most laid-back, easy-going, worry-free member of the team.

Aaron Fong

Lion King Award He or she is no King/Queen of the jungle but this paddler seems to feel like it being the LOUDEST in the group!

James Bahn

Snow White Award Dragonboat paddling makes us stay under the sun for long periods of time. Understandably, sunblock is a must, but this person overdoes it. It is only befitting to honor this person with this award.

Sue Houston Safianoff

Cinderella and Prince Charming Award This award goes to the "sweetest" couple. They're not afraid of publicly displaying their affection for each other. And so we wish that they live happily ever after.

James Bahn and Kat Quinto

The Pooh Award Like the character Winnie the Pooh, the winner of this award has an endless craving for food to soothe that insatiable "rumbly in his tumbly".

Matt Najera

Mickey and Minnie Mouse Award Mickey and Minnie Mouse are amongst the most beloved and popular Disney characters. These awards go to the friendliest and most congenial male and female members of the team.

Doug Nyland and Karen Cheng

We had a marvelous time celebrating our FIFTEENTH SEASON as the Los Angeles Racing Dragons. Since this was a special special year, the decision was made to move the venue to somewhere that reflected the uniqueness that this year represented. Unfortunately, as awesome as the House of Blues is, we had to cap our attendance to a slightly lower limit this year of 88 as we all learned from Back to the Future, it's some serious stuff.

This year we were lucky to have Billy Leung and Noel Villegas act as our hosts once again and Ging Masinda-Quinto coordinating our serious and fun awards. Thanks to those who donated items for our raffle and thanks to all those who helped setup this event.

Some Thanky Panky

Justin Chi (Nov 5, 2012)

Ging host

Thank you Board of Directors & Captains. Without you, everything would be a mess. All I have to worry about is paddling, and that's awesome. The Leadership's altruistic dedication to the team is immeasurable. I am so appreciative of the time, effort, and sacrifices.

Thank you Coaches. The different coaching styles and personalities mesh together harmoniously which allows every paddler to gain something special. To simplify the personal impact from each coach, Chuck keeps me accountable, Otto makes me analyze, Leon lifts me up, Jason holds me down, and Scott moves me. I have become an exponentially better paddler and evolved from a one-sided platypus into an ambidextrous behemoth.


Thank you Taylor for the photos!

Thank you Dr. Will for the weekly workouts. They made me a stronger paddler. I set new personal records during time trials and saw improvements every week. They also changed my perspective on how weightlifting and training applies to paddling. I was eager to see the weight/set/rep scheme and group exercises change over time and felt the benefits during races.

Shoutouts to the Orange County Midweek Workout Group. I have enjoyed good times from dodging cars to stepping in mud puddles to getting our hands red to fighting for track rights to dripping sweat. I am excited for more pain and agony (and happiness).

Thank you banquet organizers and volunteers. I was elated to indulge on good eats -- the ribs were on point -- and reminisce on memories. I had a blast and even won a paddling tube top.


a year's worth of medals

Thank you LARD for welcoming me into the family. I am amazed that it has only been a year since joining the team. The experience has far exceeded expectations and I am honored to call myself a LARDie. I am very proud of being voted as Rookie of the Year. I hope to be a role model for future paddlers like the veterans have been for me. I hope I can motivate you to motivate me to motivate you to create an infinite loop to make us all amazing. I look forward to future challenges, benchmarks, and memories with this beautiful team.

Cheers to next year, Season XVI!



I lost on Jeopardy

Kenny Kim (Nov 6, 2012)


Last year was the first year we attempted to run a Jeopardy game. I wrote some custom web pages to show the questions and it even kind of tracked the scores. We decided to refine the game rather than attempt to develop an entirely new one. But me being the nut that I am rewrote the entire game from scratch. At first glance, it didn't look much different. But like most software, the devil is in the details. The pop up is now animated. The scores are visible all the time and the scores persist from single to double to final jeopardy. no more jotting down scores before going to the next page.

One thing I wanted to do but we ran out of time was to come up with a way to increase the participation. I noticed that some people weren't able to play last year and this year was a little worse due to the configuration of the room. But for those that did play, I made sure to up the difficulty significantly to slow people down and actually think about the answer before blurting it out. I think for next year, the game will evolve again and I have an idea to make sure even more people can participate.

Before and After

Kris (Nov 5, 2012)

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Google me this

Betty Chang (Nov 6, 2012)


What a memorable banquet! LARD is simply a unique family that is constantly growing and learning together. I started paddling with the team after finding the group on a Google search... and years later, even when I moved to the Bay Area for 5 years, the team has always been a part of my life. Now with my roots re-planted in SoCal, I know one thing hasn't changed: LARD. What I appreciate the most about LARD is the mix of personalities that define our strength. I have never interacted with such talented individuals who laugh, encourage, organize and share the love with each other without hesitation. The diversity creates for endless learning, social events and strong friendships. LARD is my extended family. We share it all... blood, sweat and tears... oh... and lots of food!


So... this is what LARD means to me:

L- laughter and loyalty
A - amigos for life!
R - recreation with rigor
D - dedication and diversity

Go team LARD!

Los Angeles Racing Dragons, 15 Years Later

Leon Cheng (July 23, 2012)


Sue skyping in

Having shuffled onto the plane, loaded with the requisite baggage as can be expected when traveling with a newly-turned two-year old daughter, Avy, having placed everything in its proper place (including said little girl), holding her hand (who in turn was holding mommy’s hand), I settled in as the plane prepared to take off down the runway. I finally had a chance to take a breath and reflect on the adventure that was the 2012 Club Crew World Championships in Hong Kong.

Closing my eyes, my mind raced with images of the race, the experiences of the past week and a half, an experience shared with over three dozen teammates and hometown supporters of the Los Angeles Racing Dragons, temporarily displaced from the comfort of our hot, sunny, southern California and landing in the middle of a very foreign, bustling metropolis of Hong Kong (though to be more accurate, Kowloon, across the bay from downtown Hong Kong, the New Jersey equivalent to Manhattan). Hot and sunny? Yes! Comfortable? With the humidity, a resounding and consensus, “NO!” Memories of racing, cheering, and navigating the lengthy race venue were balanced with the constant application of various methods of cooling oneself – water for hydration, Aquarius (Pocari Sweat in Taiwan) for hydration, water for cooling, water for cleaning [off the not-so-clean water of the harbour (note British spelling for authenticity)], analog (handheld) fans, electric fans, electric fans with pressurized misters, and high-tech evaporative cooling towels.


Coach's message from Jason Cheng

Encouraging our team as a whole to participate in the Hong Kong endeavor (rather than simply travel with the smaller roster of worlds-only paddlers) enabled LARD to field a separate roster for the festival race and enjoy unequivocal and unequal support for the world competition. The local race, dubiously dubbed a dragonboat “carnival”, preceded the world championships and was well-represented by many local crews as well as the international contingent already present for worlds. In a field of many (most completely unknown to us through previous competition), LARD earned an impressive third place in Division B. This would set up high expectations for the worlds crew through the latter course of the week. After six exhaustive days of racing, LARD proved itself in the biggest of international stages, placing amongst the upper tier (half) of all competition by earning the opportunity to race in the semi-finals in all its eligible divisions at all distances: Premier Open (Men’s) 200m, 500m, and 2000m, and Premier Mixed (Men & Women) 200m, 500m, and 2000m. A sample list of competitors included [but not limited to] the best teams from Australia, Canada, China, Dubai, France, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, and United States. Due to the quality and ferocity of competition, every race, from the first preliminary to the repechage rounds through the finals all felt like the Competitive A Finals at Alcan/Rio Tinto race in Vancouver, Canada (often the largest race in North America), our previous international measuring stick. To finish squarely amongst the top crews in the world is a direct reflection of the organization and serves as recognition to the hard work of its members and leaders.


The journey to Hong Kong started in October of 2011 at the PDBA world qualifiers in San Diego, California when LARD earned the honor of representing the Western United States in multiple divisions, Premier Mixed and Premier Open (accepted invitation as the runner-up).

Cross that. The journey actually started far before that.

Following a couple of seasons of paddling for a cultural organization made of a motley cast of parents and obligated/reluctant kids, the Los Angeles Racing Dragons (affectionately known as LARD) was founded in 1998, comprising of a slightly less motley congregation of co-workers, friends and family. And family could not be more understated, with my girlfriend at the time (wife now) Wynne, brother Jason, sister Karen, cousin Arthur, cousin Megan, even a relative I discovered only after he had already joined for almost a year (Eddie), participating. At the time, I wore several hats, coaching, stroking/paddling, serving as a captain, rostering, designing and ordering all uniforms, and poorly handling finances (as my credit card could attest). Initially, our racing schedule was relatively local, limited to the Bay Area and southern California. We showed up to all new races wide-eyed and met all new teams with a bit of awe. After all, we were brand new, and it could be guaranteed that almost every team we met had more experience than us. That was then.


Today, the Los Angeles Racing Dragons is consistently one of the top teams in western North America, a recognized brand name that extends beyond our local shores, having competed in many races throughout the United States and traveling regularly internationally, with quite a few members representing on the U.S. National team at various world competitions. It is an established federal non-profit corporation, comprised of a board of directors with officers specifically tasked with various positions (such as overseeing team finances, president, secretary, etc.) captains, a coaching staff, current foundation membership of over a hundred and an extended alumni base of several hundreds. A proud accomplishment for the organization, LARD helped to found the first breast cancer survivor dragonboat team in California, the Los Angeles Pink Dragons (LAPD), who continue as members of the foundation.


Tabitha nd Crystal, Captains 2012

What has not changed, however, is that today, the spirit and values of family and friendship still serve as the principle of the team. Hong Kong is the culmination of 15 years of the Los Angeles Racing Dragons; a culmination of all the sweat, smiles, tears, friendships, hard work, dedication, laughter, all the lessons learned, difficulties faced and challenges overcome. It’s about all paddlers and supporters who made the trip, those who didn’t, the predecessors and alumni who helped shape the team, a story of the before, the now, and the laid foundation for the future.

Speaking of the future, the plane takes off, leaving the Hong Kong tarmac, headed to our next adventure. You see, we’re on a plane ride to visit my grandfather, part of an once-in-a-lifetime family reunion in Taiwan. Can’t wait.

Seven Levels of Epic

Noel Villegas (Nov 11, 2012)


It was going to be seven levels of epic. Stories about the LARD 2012 Award Banquet's opening dialogue were to be passed down to generations of little lardies. Statues of Billy and me would be erected at the spot of where we delivered this Earth shattering revelation from the high heavens of comedy to the chosen few boatloads of paddlers in attendance. It was to involve pelvic thrusting.

Ok, so maybe it wouldn't have been that epic. I may have overstated the degree of divine inspiration. the scale of the statues may be be less statuesque and more bobblehead. I may even have exaggerated the existence of a plan for the opening. We'll never really know, because the House of Blues had audio problems, which completely ate into our time allotment for the banquet opening. But damnit, there really was to be pelvic thrusting.

At the closing of this year's banquet, Leon talked about building a narrative. The coaches have talked about this before: imagining how your actions tell a story to others - something that's resonated with me because I've framed my life using that same vocabulary. And it's not because I think about the actor that would play me (someone who is the genetic average between Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Leonard Hofstadter from The Big Bang Theory), but because I enjoy telling stories and it's natural for me to consider myself as a character in a story. Being able to choose not only the content of your stories, but how and when they end is a powerful method for introspection and improvement.

What is the story I choose to tell about banquet? Is it how billy and I were defeated by a House of Blues employee not adjusting a potentiometer?

Last year, when I was asked to help emcee the LARD banquet, I had never really considered myself of the extroverted personality type that entertains or even speaks to an audience. An engineer by profession, we're genetically predisposed to a life of introversion and advanced mathematics. And it's true, I used to be painfully shy. One of my earliest memories in grade school is being afraid to sneeze, because it would draw attention to myself. This fear of new social situations has never entirely dissipated. Out of the absurd list of sketchy and or near death experiences I seem to be accumulating, the most scared I can remember being was in september of 2010, when I flew into a city and spent the weekend with 60 or so members of this weird red cult of paddle wielding maniacs whom I barely knew (SPOILERS! I SURVIVED).


The story I choose to live is a story of self improvement. To prepare myself for the new experience of speaking in front of a room of people, I took an improv class. Every thursday for two months, I left work early to throw myself into a crowd of extroverts that all self identified as either comedians or actors. And guess what? I enjoyed the crap out of it. I love being forced to think on my toes, in new situations that I'm unfamiliar with. After our last performance, I even furtively awarded myself the dubious, yet singular distinction of Not The Worst One There. Prepared with that experience, along with help from Billy, Tk, and a room full of supportive lardies, I managed to not wet myself while co-emceeing last year's banquet. I even managed to enjoy it enough to volunteer for co-emcee LARD's 2012 Award's Banquet.

The observant reader will note the decreasing amount of text towards the bottom of this entry. did I really just write extra 5 paragraphs of fluff when I basically could have said a Disney employee forgot to turn the volume up from 0? Well no, that was just a minor subplot: a foil to be dispatched, a mere speed-bump on the road which leads to the on-ramp for the highway which goes to the airport where the rocket is being launched. The full narrative isn't done. It's much more epic than that.

and you can be damn sure there is pelvic thrusting involved.


Banquet Closing Notes Redux

Leon Cheng (Nov 6, 2012)


So, clearly I didn't rehearse what I thought would come naturally because it's so easy to talk about - what this team means to me. And it getting close to closing time, I had a lot of things I wanted to communicate that, frankly, may have come out a little disorganized. So I'll jot down a couple of notes of what I was thinking with the hindsight of a structured re-review of my intended presentation.

My Life as a Movie, Starring Me (What LARD Means to Me, 15 Years Later), A Chronology

In life, there's fate (things you have no control over), and choice (things you do).

22 years ago, at the age of 15, I met Dr. Chen. He was my orthodontist (and ortho to so many of you). I wouldn't know at the time, but he would be instrumental in having found a sport that would be a big part of my life. That was fate.

1996 - Age 22. Wynne's parents, part of a local cultural organization, were looking for participants, ANYONE, to fill a boat. As the boyfriend, I was dragged into participating. Fate?

1997 - Age 23. I had fun, and came back. And invited friends. Choice. I graduated from Berkeley, intent on starting my career and life in the Bay Area. My longtime girlfriend Wynne found her job first. In LA. Fate.

1998 - Age 24. Founded LARD. Choice.

What's transpired since?

Celebrations. Life, new births, deaths, loss, triumphs, challenges, engagements, marriages, fun. Everything. So many of my most memorable moments were memorialized in my experiences with the team. As Phil and Delwin's wonderful video showed, so much, SO MUCH!, just in one year. Imagine, 15 years! But every season unique, every season a different story, different people, or the same people yet altogether different experience, but every one with a place in my heart. And, I remember...

Can you believe it? Barely a college graduate when we started, to now, at the age of 37, 15 years later, almost half my life has been involved in this sport. There's so much to be proud about. So many accomplishments. But the truth? For me, it's not competition, race, or other "measurables" that define team success; they're highlights to success. Rather, the MOST valuable thing and most reflective of who we are, are the relationships we make. You've heard people joke about which actor might play the role of themselves if they were ever given a chance to tell their story. For me, it wouldn't be about who would play my role, but because of LARD and who I've been fortunate to meet, my movie would would feature an all-star cast playing each of you; no one plays a bit part; there are no extras. A big family. I can only be so blessed. It's why I do this every year. It's why I don't see an end. It's a part of my life, a combination of fate and choice, and I'm excited to see what's next.

Thank you all for being part of my story.

"Well said, Leon. It's all about building the relationships and it's the fundamental reason so many of us chose to stay with LARD, and it begins with you!"
-Mark Feng
"Let me just add that just how special teamLARD is comes into focus when you move out of LA. Many of us have paddled with other teams as we move all over the country and we have met some great people, but you will never be as close or tight-knit: nowhere else will you train, paddle, eat, grieve and celebrate together the way it is with LARD. And it has a lot to do with Leon and his extended family; that his extended family by blood has created this wonderful, larger extended family by sweat."
-Yang Hu



James Banh
Richard Boucher
Alain Bourgault
Christopher Caldera
Manny Caldera
Steven Cao
Jay-Ar Caranto
Charles Chang
Vincent Chao
Chris Chavez
Nicholas Chekmizoff
Jeffrey Chen
Jason Cheng
Leon Cheng
Dennis Chhean
Justin Chi
Matthew Chin
Thanh Do
John Eck
Michael Espino
Mark Feng
Aaron Fong
Angel Garcia
Dan Gee
Otto Jan
Jinseong Kim
Kenny Kim
Keith Kimura
Mike Lee
Delwin Leung
William "Billy" Leung
Butch Lucero
Rich Maher
Taylor Mar
Matt Najera
Patrick Ng
Doug Nyland
Willie Peng
Jacob Qin
Brian Solloway
Eric Song
Ryan Song
Philip Sun
Jeffrey Tarn
Tony Tian
William Ting
Noel Villegas
Evan Wang
Kenneth Wang
Jason Wong
Jeremy Wong
Jesse Wong
Paul Hung Wu
Scott Wu
Mel Yee
Liang Yu


Judy Barnes
Linda Blumenthal-Gero
Betty Chang
Crystal Chen
Lilly Chen
Karen Cheng
Ana Coo-Lam
Kristine Gay
Tabitha Huang
Cathleen Kim
TK Kimura
Evelyn Lim
Jeannie Lin
Ging Masinda-Quinto
Diane McCabe
Alicia Muller
Darlene Palaganas
Meghan Potter
Kat Quinto
Lynda Razo
Sheryl Sack
Sue Safianoff
Cheryl Schmid
Lori Skelton
Dian Tanuwidjaja
Clara Tran
Crystal Wang
Karen Wang
Huay Wee
Sandy Yang
Megan Yeh