Don Mulhall, the executive director of the Penticton Dragonboat Society, leads a group of new dragon boat participants for a day of learning at Skaha Lake on Aug. 13.

Don Mulhall, the executive director of the Penticton Dragonboat Society, leads a group of new dragon boat participants for a day of learning at Skaha Lake on Aug. 13.

Never too late: First-time dragon boat racers find new hobby at Penticton’s Skaha Lake

More than 80 per cent of newcomers continue with it after being introduced, said Launa Maundrell

A 17-year-old tradition continued at Penticton’s Skaha Lake on Saturday morning, Aug. 13, as dozens of residents tried out dragon boating for the first time with the hopes of finding a new hobby.

Since 2005, the Penticton DragonBoat Society has invited newcomers twice a year to participate in the sport that local experts say is “much harder than it looks.”

For some, it was day years in the making. And for others, it was about being spontaneous.

Either way, Penticton is home to dozens of new dragon boaters as a result of Saturday’s event.

“I’ve wanted to try this for decades,” said Julie Munro, who isn’t only new to dragon boating, as of Saturday, but is also new to Penticton. “I’ve realized that in Penticton, there are so many things to do and now that I’m here, I can make dragon boating one of my things.”

The event welcomed two full teams of racers, starting at 10 a.m.

According to the society’s president, Launa Maundrell, more than 80 per cent of those who partake in the introductory events join a dragon boat team shortly after.

“Some get it right away and some just don’t, but they all realize how difficult it can really be,” she said with a laugh.

Watching the new dragon boaters reminded Maundrell of when she decided to first try out the sport, more than 20 years ago.

“I loved it right away,” she recalled. “It’s great to see people meet each other for the first time here and find a new interest.”

The event comes one month before the anticipated Penticton Dragon Boat Festival, set for Sept. 10 and 11. A total of 53 teams from across the province will take to Skaha Lake when the event returns for the first time since 2019.

“It’s looking like it will be a great turnout,” Maundrell said. “We’ll have all out vendors, the beverage garden and make it as good as we always do. Things like this (the introductory event) proves to us that we have some new teams coming soon.”

In the aftermath of dozens trying out dragon boating for the first time on Saturday, the society is organizing formal lessons for those interested newcomers starting on Monday, Aug. 15.

VIDEO: Okanagan dragon boat racers return to Penticton for first race of 2022


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