What began with a paddle stroke has taken Nelson’s Brooke Campbell to the national club crew dragon boat team in Victoria. After less than one minute speaking to Campbell about dragon boat racing, it’s apparent that she is passionate about the sport.
A Kootenay Rhythm Dragons member since 2012, Campbell’s drive to elevate her skill led her to apply to train with the Canadian national team.
“I wanted to up my game,” she said, adding she had always been involved in sports, which she attributes to her upbringing as both her parents were very active as her father, a university professor, and her mother, a teacher, were always involved with varsity sports.
Campbell, who is in her 60s, travelled to Victoria last March for the 10-day tryouts. While her physical and technical abilities were tested she said it was also about how a person meshes with the team. One ability she figures was in her favour was her ability to paddle both left and right.
She passed the test and made the team which will represent Canada at the Club Crew World Championship in Adelaide, Australia in March.
Brooke Campbell (second from left with blue bandanna) racing with the Canadian National team. Anthony Gallaccio photo
The team qualified at the Canadian Nationals Dragon Boat competition in June. In Australia, they will defend their silver medal in the 500 m at the 2014 World Championship in Italy. They will also race in the 200 m and the 2 km.
“We are gunning for gold,” she said.
To prepare, Campbell is training with the team all winter out of Victoria.
“It is getting pretty cold on the water these days but the coach warms us up with our pretty darned fast with our training,” she said.
As a senior athlete she said she is humbled by the team’s efforts and history.
“They are all just awesome and great role models,” she said. “I am the newbie and just trying to keep up to this amazing bunch of athletes.
Campbell loves dragon boat racing. When she first joined the sport, she found it an “amazing experience” as she was going though personal changes at her life.
“There’s a mental toughness,” she said, “that’s more about your focus on the stroke and timing.”
The team immediately after a race at the nationals this summer. Anthony Gallaccio photo
At the nationals she said the difference between medal winners were a matter of .05 of a second. She set the scene of 20 paddlers, and a drummer in the boat paddling.
“You all have to work like one,” she said. “You can’t be a caterpillar. The water is going so fast.”
She said so far her experience training with the team has far exceeded her expectations.
“The training…you have to push really hard.”
The ever changing conditions of the water adds another element to the sport.
“The water is always different-the wind, the tide,” she said.
She said the two kilometre races is like “watching the chuck-wagon races”.
“It’s a running start with paddlers bringing the boat around the buoy so tight, all in unison.”
The comparison for the potential chaos of the gladiator type rodeo sport becomes clear when she described the stormy weather conditions during one race that took them through 85 mm of rain and high gusting winds.
“It’s a living hell, and the adrenaline in the boat- it’s a grueling race at the national level.”
Campbell credits the Nelson club for her love of the sport and Kootenay Ryhthm Dragons coach Puleng Pratt for instilling in her the love of dragon boat racing.
“Sport is a really good thing to bring into the family,” said Campbell, who can see that legacy now being passed on to her two girls as well.
She believes there are so many “great athletes” in this community because many parents are active.
Campbell is committed to dragon boat racing.
“It is my present marriage,” she said. “I love it so much, I think it’s a wonderful sport… great for grounding people and for a group of women to get together recreationally. We have a great team in Nelson.”