Sure, brawn and endurance matter when helping to paddle a 40-foot-long dragon boat across the water.
However, if the vessel’s team of paddlers is not in sync, one person’s talents and skills won’t be of much use in the long run.
“The individual’s ability, their strength and their speed is not quite as important as the team’s camaraderie and their ability to work together,” Robert Norman, of Inverness, said about dragon boat racing, “and I think that’s what separates it from most other paddle disciplines.”
On the heels of a recent tournament win, Norman’s Hernando-based Ka Nalu Nui (K2N) paddle club hopes to bring that same teamwork dynamic to the 2022 Lake Hernando Dragon Boat Festival on Nov. 5 at Hernando Beach and Community Park, 3699 E. Orange Drive, Hernando.
Dubbed as the “Beast of the Southeast,” the festival hosted by the Citrus County Education Foundation (CCEF) in partnership with Tampa-based PanAm Dragon Boat is expected to attract thousands to help raise money for local education.
This will be the fourth time since its 2018 inception the paddling club Ka Nalu Nui – “big wave” in Hawaiian – will be at the annual festival, which Norman first raced in 2013.
“I didn’t know anything about it when I participated but after doing it, it was a lot of fun,” he said.“The community participation is unmatched in any sport in any other dragon boat festival; the amount of local paddlers that come out to participate in that is second to none, and I think that’s what makes it so special.”
Wednesday, Oct. 26, is the last day to register a paddling team in the dragon boat festival.
Teams of either 10 or 20 friends, classmates, co-workers and relatives at least 14 years old can register at lakehernandodragonboatfestival.com. Each team races at least three times.
Club and community teams forming a 20-person team pay $750 to race, while a 10-person team pays $450 to race in the smaller dragon boats.
Proceeds benefit the Citrus County Education Foundation (CCEF) programs and services supporting teachers and students in the county school district.
Registration also includes a practice session to get teams prepared on how and where to race, along with all the necessary equipment, life jackets and a steersperson/coach.
“Just believe in the coaching staff they provide to you,” Norman said. “They give you pointers on being safe on the water, as well as being successful out there on the water.”
Don’t want to race? Come to the lake anyway to enjoy the events and what the festival’s vendors have to offer.
Norman also recommended bringing warm clothing because “the running joke” with the Lake Hernando Dragon Boat Festival is that it’s always a cold day.
For more information about the festival contact CCEF Executive Director Shaunda Burdette at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-726-1931 ext. 2240; or contact race coordinator Bobbie McCue at either email@example.com or 352-552-5025.
Norman and five of his K2N club’s paddlers placed first in a racing event at the Sept. 24-25 Clearwater Beach Classic, which features paddling races for six-person outrigger canoes, surf skis and single/double outrigger canoes.
With Norman steering their carbon-version outrigger canoe, Cynthia Gibson, Christina Gonzalez, Jim Green, Hank Oppenborn and Amanda Walker won the 8-mile mixed unlimited division race.
“It is definitely a monumental feat,” Norman said of the victory. “Many people in the canoe world have been doing it for a lifetime so to start a club and rub shoulders with a lot of those paddlers … I didn’t think it was possible … It’s really amazing.”
Norman, 29, was also surprised to win the John Kee Perpetual Steersman Award, which highlights an individual’s dedication to promote paddleboat sports in Florida.
“It’s great; it’s like being on Mount Rushmore,” he said. “I’m very early into my paddling career so it’s very nice to receive such a high honor early on … Winning the award bring lights to the club and our objective, which is to get new people out on the water and enjoy a new sport.”
Interested in joining K2N and its 50, 60 members who race in five or six races each year? Just contact Norman with a desire to take part in the team. K2N also offers year-round paddling instruction on Lake Hernando in dragon boats, outrigger canoes and kayaks.
“The only thing we’re looking for is someone being interested in participating,” Norman said. “For the most part, we just promote an ongoing fitness activity that helps with your quality of life both on and off the water.”