The Dragon Boat Life by Alex Feng

Hello my name is Alex Feng and I am an ASAP student at City Tech. I am currently a freshman that is majoring in civil engineering technology. Hobbies are what differentiate one individual from another individual and a hobby that defines me is dragon boating. For those who do not know what dragon boating is, it is a competitive water sport where you have up to twenty two people on one boat paddling together in unison down a race course against other teams for the fastest time. This sport not only made my life more competitive, but it also completely shaped me into a new person. The sport and the team that I am a part of, the people and community I met, and the races and dinners that happened, all influenced me to become who I am today. From being a part of the biggest team in the city to having several mentors and coaches who had coached the youth team for team USA this year, and to all the events that I participated in, made my past few years incredibly exciting. Prior to joining dragon boating, I lived an average boring life like many other teenagers do. Dragon boating appealed to me as a way to get away from this mundane lifestyle.

Growing up from a child to a teenager, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or the direction that I want to take it in for that matter. As I attended my high school, I still had no idea what I wanted to do. Then junior year started. For that year’s resolution I vowed to myself like everybody does to themselves to change. So I thought of multiple ways of how I could accomplish this objective. Then I remembered that a couple of my friends had recommended me to join their club, dragon boating. I initially was not interested because it sounded like I had to put a lot of time, effort, work and dedication into this club. Despite these thoughts I had, I started attending the club activities, which was primarily going to a gym in Queens that was in somebody’s basement. Upon discovering this, I was skeptical, but my worries were dissolved when I got the opportunity to meet students from other high schools. Later on, as the temperatures began to increase, I had my first water practice which was incredibly fun, but still freezing. I began to show sincere interest and curiosity in this sport as I watched my fellow peers push themselves to their limits at the gym and on the water and gained admiration for the adults. Afterwards, I did some research about this club and learned that it was actually part of the biggest dragon boat team in the city, DCH. Being part of this team and sport taught me dedication, commitment, courage and loyalty. Becoming a dragon boat paddler who paddles for DCH gave my life a new purpose and opened up my social life. The team taught me to be dedicated to what I do, to give my best effort, and to always be thankful for those who helped me to where I am today. While it showed me the beauty of loyalty, the team also showed the negative social aspects of being in a club. There was always someone talking behind another’s back. Fortunately, I had the courage to face this one negative aspect of the club and remained unfazed by the drama. Having said this, my fellow peers and teammates played the most important role in shaping me.

When I first joined this club, it was extremely awkward as I did not actually know how to interact with others normally. When I went to the gym in Queens, it was full of students who I did not know from other high schools and my high school. As a result, I was a lonely individual who looked gloomy all the time. The only two people I was acquainted with were my two friends that recommended me to join and a few others from classes that I had. However, as time passed and I learn about others from their conversations, I slowly started to unconsciously open up to them and tried to interact with them. I really admired and envied them on how they could be extremely funny and be openly weird without caring about how others viewed them. These same people that I admired, my fellow peers and teammates, reached out to me to eventually and I joined their circle. Prior to this happening, I had never experienced that feeling of warmth and defining moment of making a friend. My new friends made me feel like they were the family that I never had. Today, I would say that two of them are my best friends and I am glad that I met them by joining this dragon boat club. Aside from the friends I met, there were also two particular coaches that influenced me as well. Randy Ng, the head coach of DCH racing and the head coach of team USA U18, and Irene as well. Randy Ng, the head coach of DCH racing and Irene Hu, head junior coach of DCH. Never before in my life did I have a role model until I met Randy and Irene. Randy is a man full of charisma, open minded, tough, but caring at the same time and can crack a few jokes here and there. While Irene is very kind and dedicated as well since she sacrifices a huge amount of her time to coach the juniors while studying to become a doctor.  What Randy and Irene is capable of doing and the sacrifices they make is very touching and I hope to follow in their footsteps by becoming a junior coach this year and continuing their and the team’s legacy of coaching a youth program as it helped me changed.

As I was part of the youth program in DCH, all youths were invited to attend all sorts of events that DCH hosted or was participating in. There are countless amount of races across the country, but as a team, DCH usually only participates in the closest ones. Although we were all teenagers, we won against adult teams. This accomplishment boosted my own self-satisfaction and ego. However, aside from the competitiveness at these races, every single paddler at these races, regardless of gender, age and race, are very friendly and have good sportsmanship. I realized what a great and united community this is and I was astonished by how random strangers would lend a helping hand to other strangers. Living in New York City, it is natural to see people ignoring each other while commuting. However, I immediately became a member of the dragon boat racing community and found myself interacting with strangers and helping them with my team. Aside from attending races, the team hosts their own team dinners such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and the annual sponsor dinner after the New York race. At these dinners, I was interacting with everybody from playing cards with the juniors to dancing and lip synching for the adults. Every single time that I attended any of these dinners it was a fun experience that I would never forget. Also other than the races and dinners, as a team annually we would fundraise during Chinese New Year, clean up our team equipment when the season is over and clean up the whole area near the docks where we practice at. There is never a boring moment for me as a paddler in DCH and I am glad that it has helped me improve with my social interaction with others.

If I had to tell another about dragon boating, then I would say, “DCH for life.” I acknowledge that DCH and dragon boating is what completely changed my life. Dragon boating, the people I met and will meet, and the countless of events that I will attend are what defines my life aside from currently being a college student. My plans this upcoming year is to become an apprentice junior coach that assists both Randy and Irene. Also to continue to improve my social interactions to the point that I can be weird and talkative without caring to much about other people’s views on me. Lastly for all the years to come, I would love to give back in any way I can to the team as my sincere thanks for the existence of DCH and dragon boating.


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