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  • Writer's pictureSheree Hoddinett

Paddling to the Max

It’s only been eight months since she first picked up her paddle, but for Sharon Weise getting out on the water with the crew from Dragon Boat Pumicestone is one of the biggest highlights of her week.

After taking time to recover and refocus following a workplace incident, Sharon needed an outlet that was inclusive, welcoming and gave her the chance to be herself. Dragon Boat Pumicestone had it all and as an added bonus, it was the perfect opportunity to enjoy fitness, have some fun and form lifelong friendships while working as a team out on the water.

After coming across a link on Facebook showcasing everything Dragon Boat has to offer, Sharon was keen to jump on board.

“I've always wanted to do something on the water. I thought it might have been outrigging, but then I saw dragon boating and I thought, well that's pretty cool,” Sharon says. “Following my workplace incident, I hadn't been outside for a number of years after that and when I was feeling better I thought I just wanted to join a club that I felt was inclusive and do something different.

“When I found the club online and discovered they were everything I was looking for and I thought, this is me, and so I joined.”

It was love at first sight for this first-timer, who thoroughly enjoyed her first trip out on the water.

“I loved it, I thought, this is really easy,” Sharon says of her first paddle. “I thought, I’m going to be a legend here because it is so easy. And then I realised I wasn't paddling properly and it was really quite difficult.

“I've played a lot of sport in my life and I've never seen anything like it. It is just an amazing organisation.”

“So, after that first paddle I was fine, but once I learnt to paddle properly, let’s just say sitting down was an issue for a couple of days after that. Once I learnt the proper technique and because I’m already pretty fit, it was a great experience.”

Dragon Boat Pumicestone president, Michelle Hanton OAM, brings more than 25 years of experience to the club. She is the founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, president of the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission Trust, a former board member of the Australian Dragon Boat Federation and the first female to be awarded Life Membership of the Australian Dragon Boat Federation.

“Incorporated on January 9, 2023, the rapid growth of Dragon Boat Pumicestone is a testament that dragon boating is something the community welcomes,” Michelle says. “Providing a supportive, connected, safe environment in an atmosphere of fun, friendship and respect is our number one priority. We offer social and competitive training complete with pathways for advancement in the sport via our state body, Dragon Boat Queensland.

“Our members come from all walks of life, aged 29 to 84 years young; some have represented Queensland and Australia at national and international championships.”

Paddling, laughter and plenty of chatter are what you’ll find if you come across a Dragon Boat Pumicestone crew on the water.

“There’s two groups of people, we have our race team, which are the competitive ones and then we have our social paddlers as well and we’re all in it together,” Sharon says. “There’s not a mean spirit anywhere, even with other teams we compete against, everyone says hi and has a chat.

“I've played a lot of sport in my life and I've never seen anything like it. It is just an amazing organisation.”

“Dragon boating is a fun-filled, adrenaline-pumping water sport,” Michelle adds. “Crews of up to 20 people sit in pairs and each boat has a drummer beating time to keep the paddlers in unison and an accredited helm at the stern.

“Originating in ancient China, dragon boating has a strong cultural element, is visually appealing and a favourite among charities and corporations for team-building benefits and has minimal impact on our environment.

“We are officially linked to the peak bodies of Dragon Boat Queensland and the Australian Dragon Boat Federation. This means we operate in line with nationally accredited programs that ensure safety guidelines and best practices are always met. Highly experienced dragon boaters, under the guidance of a nationally accredited coach, lead sessions where participants learn a safe and correct paddling technique in a fun and supportive environment.”

With inclusivity and the chance to do something physical high up there as some of her favourite things about being part of the club, Sharon also highlights the relaxed atmosphere.

“If you can't make it to all training sessions, it's okay and nothing seems to be a bother,” she says. “I’ve even taken my grandchildren along and everyone is just so kind and happy to see them as well.”

Dragon boating really is a sport for everyone and men are more than welcome to join the crew.

“My husband actually paddles as well, so we do that together,” Sharon says. “There is predominately more women than men at our club and we need more younger men to join the ranks. When we go into regattas, we usually have to borrow men, so come and join us guys!”

Michelle is also proud of how far the club has come in such a short space of time since forming.

“Since taking to the water in February 2023, we have competed in three regattas,” Michelle says. “On Sunday, September 17, at the Redcliffe Red Dragons Regatta, our mixed and breast cancer survivor teams came home with third place trophies.”

Given how relatively new she is to the sport, Sharon now can’t imagine her life without it.

“I love it and I build my world around my paddling training now,” she says. “My goal is to keep going as long as I can. I can only hope to be still going at 84 like our current eldest member, she is an inspiration!”

All equipment is provided and attending the Introduction to Dragon Boat sessions is free, but registrations are essential. For further information email, phone 0493 525 980 or find them on Facebook – Dragon Boat Pumicestone.


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