Never a city to shy away from activities on the water, Gig Harbor’s newest team is unique: A dragon boat racing team.
The Tacoma Dragon Boat program brought over two boats for Gig Harbor’s fourth annual Paddlers Cup in April. Gig Harbor resident Sharon Shaffer and Gig Harbor mayor Jill Guernsey, both in the winning Rotary Club boat, were hooked.
“By the end of the day, we were all in this wonderful, wining boat,” Shaffer said. “Jill and I walked out of the park and said, ‘This park is so cool today. It’s filled with people, everybody is having fun. Everybody is exhausted. We need this in Gig Harbor.’ We were just kind of dreaming then.”
Their interest piqued, they filled another Gig Harbor boat (20 people) for Tacoma’s Rainier Cup three weeks later. After that, they linked up with the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team and held an informational meeting. The community interest was apparent, but Gig Harbor was still without a boat.
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That’s where the Gig Harbor Marina and Ron Roark came in. The Marina spearheaded a project called the Northwest Maritime Academy three months ago, a Coast Guard-approved group that does a variety of training for emergency responders, on-the-water training, etc.
“Being the entrepreneur that I am, I said, ‘What do you guys think about a dragon boat as a platform for team building?’ That would really be neat,” Roark said. “We started to model it, we can pay for the boat in about three years doing corporate team building. That’s the business model.”
So Roark purchased a dragon boat for Gig Harbor. The Gig Harbor team will practice once a week with two sessions, a 6 a.m. session and a 6 p.m. session in the summer. Unlike the Gig Harbor kayak team, the dragon boat is open to people of all ages, is less competitive, time-consuming and intense. It’s a fun option for men and women of all ages to race together with friends or peers.
Ideally, Gig Harbor will have at least two dragon boats at some point, and maybe even four eventually.
“There are visions of expanding as we go on,” Shaffer said. “We really think that once this boat is on the water, it’s going to be like a magnet to people. It’s pretty and it’s a group thing — it’s fun. Anybody can do it. Kids can do it, adults can do it, men and women together. It was totally a grassroots thing.”
While the deadline for the upcoming summer session has passed, those interested in joining a future session can email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.