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First Regatta Experience by Louise Kwok

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

Growing up in a Chinese family, Dragon Boat Racing is something that I’ve always

heard of – the festival where we eat rice dumplings (joong / zongji) right?

I remember seeing the boats on the water in Rhodes on Sundays and naively deciding one day, “that looks like fun”. I signed up for the club’s Come and Try session, and after the biggest shock my body will ever experience, I somehow found myself paddle-in-hand at the Penrith International Regatta Centre for DBNSW Regatta Race 2 six months later, waiting to compete at my first regatta.

Walking into the centre, it suddenly felt real – Dragon boat racing was actually a thing - other crazy people do this too! I’d finally emerged from my DSA bubble to join paddlers from clubs all over NSW for Round 2 of the DBNSW Regatta Series.

Not one to religiously follow sports, it was a strange thing to feel as a grown adult – glowing pride, a sense of comradery, and fierce loyalty – for a team that I only recently joined. It was clear who the newbies were as we raced down to the water to cheer our lungs out each time there was a DSA crew racing. It felt like I was back at a school carnival barracking for my ‘house’. All that was missing was some blue and yellow hair spray, and face paint!

After celebrating the Senior A’s Open 10s gold and Senior B’s Mixed 20s silver, it was time for the Prems to do our bit for the club. The energy and adrenaline were pumping, as a cocktail of nerves and excitement swirled through my body. We head off for our first race. Honestly, the rest was a blur. All I remember was watching the paddler in front like a hawk, feeling that familiar burn in my shoulders, the oxygen draining from my lungs, and all the noise being drowned out by George’s calls. While we didn’t make the final, we came second in both of our heats, and I couldn’t have been prouder of our crew – six first-time racers and the first time this Prems team raced together. I was pumped!

What felt like only a few minutes later, the women’s crew backed up in the Prems Women’s 10s – one of the most challenging events I’ve been part of. Supporting and seeing other women succeed is something I’ve always been passionate about, so racing with a team of fiercely strong, competitive, and supportive women was definitely a highlight of my day. I was so proud of the girls and can’t wait to see this inspiring group of women grow even stronger on the water. Special kudos also to the incredible Prems Open 10s team for claiming bronze in their category.

While the weather played havoc all day, I left the regatta centre with a huge smile on my face, feeling grateful to have found this incredible sport, and welcoming community at DSA.

It's probably safe to say that I’ll be sticking around – see you in Round 3!

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