Three dragon boat teams from the Fort Langley Canoe Club will be paddling in international waters in Tobago for the Pan American Club Crew Championships from March 22-24.
Teams Paddles up Titanium, Fast and Furious, and D’fyance make up the paddlers who will be competing.
“I am over the moon excited. I really am, this is been my dream. I’m very happy,” said Ruth Bedell, D’fyance team captain.
72-year-old Bedell and her senior teammates are headed to Tobago on Sunday, March 17, to compete as a senior C team, meaning all paddlers are 60 and older.
“We have one women who is only 68, and our oldest is 82. Age is not an issue. If you can get on the boat, you can paddle,” explained Bedell, who has been paddling for 14 years.
Prior to dragon boating, Bedell said she was “out of shape, and overweight.”
“I was not athletic at all. I was the last kid picked on the ball team,” she laughed.
And after being invited to join a different dragon boat team years ago, Bedell said the sport is the “best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“You have to be physically fit but you can still have conditions – we have women on the team with hip joints replaced, knee joints replaced, and they still get on the boat. It’s great for seniors. It gets you out in nature in the fresh air, and you meet a lot of amazing women with amazing stories.”
Eventually Bedell hopes to compete internationally as a senior D level team. Bedell explained that means team D’fyance is always looking for women aged 70 and older who want to paddle.
“There’s always teams looking for paddlers, whatever age group, men or women,” she added.
Bedell’s teammate Heather Grausdies is also 72 and headed to Tobago.
Grausdies started dragon boating two years ago, although she said she has always been “fairly active.”
“I found myself on my own after my husband passed away in 2014, then I saw the advertising for ladies over 70 for paddling and I thought ‘yes that’s me,’” she explained.
And since trying out the sport, Grausdies plans to continue with it as long as she physically can.
“Even on days where you don’t think it’s a good idea to go out, or you don’t want to go out, well you go out and you think ‘yes it’s great.’ It’s been such a great experience.”
Grausdies explained as a newer member, she hasn’t travelled very far with the team, and is somewhat nervous about the trip to Tobago.
“I’m a little anxious actually. It’s quite nerve-wracking for me, but I’m looking forward to it,” she added.
Club member Belinda Burke is part of the 50 and older team called Fast and Furious, and has been dragon boating for four years.
Burke explained she tried dragon boating 20 years ago, but was discouraged because she lacked the skill needed for the team she practiced with.
“I left absolutely demoralized and crying. I had this awful memory and I had to see if I could beat the challenge, and see if it’s as bad as it started out.”
And years later, she gave the sport another try and hasn’t looked back.
“I love the feeling of pulling the water, and the feeling of getting stronger all the time,” added Burke.
Burke explained competing in Tobago will be a challenge because the teams will be paddling on the ocean, so the waves will be different.
“It’ll be really interesting to see,” she added.
Those interested in joining team D’fyance can contact Ruth Bedell at firstname.lastname@example.org, and those interested in joining various teams can contact Johanna: email@example.com
For more information on the Fort Langley Canoe Club and drop-in dragon boat sessions, visit: https://www.fortlangleycanoeclub.ca/