When it comes to adventure you have to keep an open mind. You must be willing to try things that intimidate you and explore that which is not familiar. Some say why, I say why not. Because sometimes you need to push yourself past your comfort zone to learn and grow. Such was the case meeting up with my new Instagram friend Matt. Matt noticed on @TheUpstateExperience that I was planning to visit his current residency, Ithaca, on my New York State road trip. He had a very enticing recreational opportunity to offer me. Of course my attention peaked at the prospect of recreational activity. I must applaud Matt on his courageousness. Social media can be a beautiful thing, but the truth is you never really know who’s on the other end of the screen. But Matt did it, he took a leap of faith and he offered me the opportunity to join his club for one night of recreation in Ithaca.
The name of the club is the Ithaca Dragon Boat Club. This is a Dragon Boat.
The Ithaca Dragon Boat Club practices at Cass Park along the Cayuga Inlet. It was a relatively easy drive from my campsite at Robert H Treman State Park, my third stop on my New York road trip. I met with Matt at a parking lot in Cass Park. Very genuine individual. He introduced me to some of the other club members and equipped me a lifejacket and paddle. Matt gave me the general sport overview and taught me how to follow commands to paddle the Dragon Boat as a team. I have kayaked plenty of times and gone whitewater rafting, but this was a whole new kind of paddle workout! For practice the club splits into two Dragon Boats. One boat that is training competitively and another for recreational purposes and newbies. I was the newbie. Good thing too, I have no idea if I could have kept up with the pace of the more competitive Dragon Boat. After one hour of paddling my arms were ready to fall off. The consistent repetition of the team’s strokes became too much. I paused my strokes while the team carried on without skipping a beat. Luckily I was in the Dragon Boat where this sort of noob behavior was allowed. At the end of the club’s practice the two boats competed in a series of races. The races were a lot of fun. I could feel the familiar nature of adrenaline takeover as I pushed my body to meet the rhythm of my fellow paddlers. Perhaps with more practice I could have offered a better performance for my team. Nonetheless, the experience was superb and I have a newfound respect for a sport I knew nothing about before.
A huge component of my Upstate Experience are the people I interact with during my travels. Someone’s perception of their community or their willingness to say hello or offer directions will impact your own perception of that community. Upstate is defined by those who shaped its past, live in its present, and mold its future. Matt served as a wonderful liaison for Ithaca, and his club. His generosity made my stay in Ithaca unique (I typically only hike when I’m in Ithaca, this was the first time I was on the water).
The club is a part of the Ithaca Asian America Association. They meet regularly Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:00pm – 7:30pm and Saturdays from 9:00am – 10:30am. They have been practicing at the Cayuga Inlet for the past 15+ years with no sign of stopping. My new friend Matt discovered a deep bond of community competing with his club peers. The club attempts to compete in 3-4 races a season within the Northeast region. Practices are open to the public so feel free to join one! You can find information on club meet ups and membership here (https://www.meetup.com/Ithaca-Dragon-Boat-Club/). They recently won Gold at a race in Jamestown/Chautauqua and silver at a race in Mercer, New Jersey. The rowing doesn’t stop after practice, several members are also responsible for community projects and cleanups. Members share a mutual respect for each other and often become involved in other member’s events, like the Cancer Resource Center Walkathon. If this type of community is your jazz then I recommend you join them for one of their practices, I sure had a wave of fun!