10th Annual Lake Superior Dragonboat Race & Festival – Superior, Wisconsin
Fantastic weather on August 26th and 27th for the annual Superior-Duluth Dragon Boat Fest. Sunny to partly sunny skis and low wind greated 92 race teams and thousands of spectators and festival goers. Friday evening started off with the annual team parade, followed by the “Waking of the Dragon” celebration. The food vendors, beer tent, and the entertainment stage were open as competitors and spectators enjoyed the pre-race ambiance. In the Food Court I sampled Rampaign’s Cajuns Crawfish Etouffee and found it very good, spicy but not too overly so. Later I topped it off with a fresh corn-on-the-cob from another vendor.
We were told by race publicist Jim Keough that the Lake Superior Dragonboat Race is one of the largest in the United States. We’ve attended a few other races and can confirm that if not one of the largest races of its kind, it is certainly large!! And lots of fun. The main festival grounds are on Barker’s Island. The race itself is held in a well-protected bay between the island and the mainland. There is a goodly amount of parking near the festival area but due to the popularity of the race & festival the city arranges satellite parking at the nearby Mariners Mall shopping center with a free shuttle bus between the mall and the festival grounds. Being the largest city of Superior event of the year, the city and the Douglas County Visitors Bureau go all out to make sure people are safe and have a good time. There are also numerous corporate and civic groups co-sponsoring the event with money and volunteer time.
There are two basic kinds of teams that compete in the race. The normal compliment is a drummer who sits in the bow and acts as a pace-setter and cheerleader. Then there are 10 pairs of paddlers (of which a minimum of 8 paddlers must be women) followed by a steer person in the stern of the mammoth canoe. The second type of team is an all-female team of paddlers and drummer. Many of the teams are sponsored by business organizations or civic, community service organizations. Teams also raise money for health/medical facilities and various other kinds of charitable organizations.
When Jo and I were last here, a self-sponsored women’s team from Thunder Bay (“Women on Fire”) was among the top 10 fastest finishers out of over 90 teams. Their team uniforms are really sharp so these gals look good and race good too! In this year’s race they also had a top 10 finish and were the overall women’s division champion beating out two other very fast women’s teams: the Doggie Paddlers and the Invincible Dragon-Women.
But another group of women who weren’t in the race the last time we were here were the “really big news” of the day. WikiWiki Wahine is a Duluth-Superior area all women’s team organized a few years ago by Julie Deters. The team is coached by Julie’s husband Ron Deters, a competitive racer and runner-up to the 2006 US Canoe & Kayak Championship Race. Ron has brought a distinctive racing style to the Wahine team involving shorter paddles stokes but more strokes per minute. Whereas the men’s teams tend rely on brute horsepower, the Wahine team uses high RPMs to achieve their speed.
The conditioning of the Wiki women and their technique has paid dividends. Last year they won the US National Womens Dragonboat Championship held in Tennessee. And in this year’s Lake Superior race they were in the overall championship heat finishing in second place only one-half of one second behind winner Arashi. (See the video of the championship race below) Next year they hope to go to the World Championships in Hong Kong. Here’s the WikiWiki Wahine website to learn more about this fantastic team. Also note there is a donation page where you can help them finance their trip to the World Championships.
You can go to our DragonBoat Race web pages in SuperiorTrails.com for more pictures of the 2011 and earlier events. Plus we’ll be posting more videos at a later date.