Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival has international field and good times

Two California crews added to the mix for this year's race weekend, July 5-7

It’s a new era for the always amazing Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival, one of the most popular events of the competition season, slated to drop paddles July 5-7 , 2019.

According to the organizers, there are many upgrades this year, including the level of competition and international flavour with two teams making the trip northward from California.

“We raced in Victoria, B.C. a couple years ago and met paddlers from Nanaimo who told us it’s a great race in a great place,” says Carol Beaver, captain of the Alameda Dragon Flyers from San Diego. “Several of our teammates were particularly excited to go and offered to organize our trip. They have done a fabulous job of selling us on Nanaimo and the Nanaimo race experience.”

The DragonFlyers, like many dragon boating crews, enjoy the opportunity to travel to competitions having competed in both Victoria and Vancouver on previous occasions as well as overseas in Dublin, Ireland and Venice, Italy.

She is quick to note that Canadian teams are the best in the west. Natch.

“We expect to see some fantastic racing and meet some fun-tastic people,” she adds. “Along with that we will eat some good food, drink some great beer and paddle our hearts out.”

Each year, the Nanaimo Harbour erupts with a powerful roar as the dragon boat teams make their presence felt and their voices heard. And the reputation for a quality event is only growing. During the 2017 festival, James Hill, team captain of Latitude 48, the fastest team in the mixed platinum final, remarked to the local newspaper that Nanaimo “is probably the most fun race on the circuit.”

This year will be the 17th running of the Save on Foods Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival at Maffeo Sutton Park. There will be Light of Courage-paper lanterns available for sale before the festival that have a tag to write about an experience with cancer. The lanterns will then be hung during a special ceremony.

Sue MacSporran is the captain of the MS Warriors team, which boasts the very fitting motto “water is our happy place.” She calls the Nanaimo Festival her favourite of the year.

“Everyone on the team loves the venue, the camaraderie with all of the teams, the crazy races (you never know how the water will be), going to the dance in the evening,” she says. “It is a really well run festival.”

The team has come a long way since its first competition back in 2007 at a dragon boat festival in Victoria. They finished dead last out of 90 teams, snagged a new coach, and ended up with a gold medal around their necks the following year.
“We are very proud of all of our accomplishments,” she says. “It has literally been life changing for all of us.”

And although she says she does have expectations for this year in Nanaimo, it really has nothing to do with the colour of medal.

“We just want to go out there and give it 100 percent of what we are able to do,” she says. “The biggest expectation is to have FUN.”

This year, the festival, which is capped at 72 teams and more than 1,700 athletes, has also scheduled a new Guts and Glory 1500-metre timed race at the end of the normal racing schedule on Saturday and Sunday. There will also be a market, food trucks, the Longwood Beer Garden and three days of multicultural performances.

The Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival Society, who organizes this yearly event, donates 100% of the net proceeds to improve the treatment and care of breast cancer patients and their families.

All registration and festival information available at  


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