By Carley Watman
After four years of rowing against the tide to bring dragon boating to LREI, Lucas Wong and the “LREI Gotham Thunder” are finally making headway. Since he attended his first dragon boating competition in ninth grade, Lucas Wong became dedicated to creating a team of his own. This year, Wong finally assembled a team that is currently preparing for their first competition in March.”I wanted something to leave LREI with–something to remember me by. So I figured why not start a real team?” he said.
According to the International Dragon Boat Federation, a dragon boat is a watercraft that consists of a team of paddlers that work together to row as quickly as possible to the finish line. In addition to the rowers, there is a steering position and drummer. The drummer determines the speed of the boat and helps the rowers synchronize their pace. Dragon boats were traditionally crafted in China’s southern Guangdong Province and are made of teak wood. A race often consists of between four and six dragon boats and can range from 200 to 2000 meters.
For Wong, dragon boating was in his blood. “It started way back before I was even born. When my mom was pregnant with me, she was still drumming.” Wong officially started boating in his freshman year of high school. His parents convinced him to participate in a race and from then on he was hooked. “My first race was in Baltimore,” he said. “I enjoyed it partly for the exercise but mostly for the mechanics of it. The first time I paddled I tried to keep pace with the rest of the team but that wasn’t easy. Over the course of the practice, I was coached on keeping the pace even if it means giving up on the form. Over time, I learn more and more about how to dragon boat.”
With his newfound love for dragon boating, Wong sought out students in the LREI community to get involved. “If you remember from freshman year,” he said, “I had tried to get people to come out and try the sport. After that failed attempt, I thought, maybe if I can get people interested by making it worth PE credit. I tried again in sophomore year; another failed attempt.” Finally, this year, he got nine of his friends to try out dragon boating.
“The first time,” junior Aidan Zajac said, “Lucas had a workshop and we went out to the Marina in Queens and their family has an actual team which competes like, for real, so they have the boats and equipment and everything.”
“After that day I asked if anyone was interested in competing,” Wong said, “I got a few responses so I sent them the details and then we started training.”
Wong now has a powerful team of 4 members: himself, sophomore Daniel Mintz, junior Nicholas Simbaqueva, and Zajac. Together they train every Sunday at the gym in Lucas’s building. “We take turns on the rowing machines so that we have about three minute breaks in between,” explained Zajac. “We track our statistics, how far we can go in one minute.”
Since that first time in the water, the team has trained only indoors.
“Though we are just doing physical training,” Daniel Mintz said, “expectations are high and I’m pretty nervous for our first competition in March.”
Wong is excited for their competition in March and he plans to continue dragon boating indefinitely. Though Wong might leave New York for college, he says this will not prevent him from continuing dragon boating.
“There is always something to be improved on and that goes with anything else we do in life. That’s what drew me and kept me dragon boating.” he said. “This is definitely something I will continue. I would join a new team if I leave New York or start a new one if there isn’t a team there.”