The West Coast Dragon Boat Society takes a boat full of rookies out onto the water at Canal Waterfront Park during their open house on Sunday, April 22. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Dragon boating draws interest in Port Alberni

Annual open house had participants young and old

Dragon boating arrived in the Alberni Valley almost two decades ago, but the team sport still enjoys popularity today.

The West Coast Dragon Boat Society held its annual open house at Canal Waterfront Park on Sunday, April 22, and drew participants young and old to pick up a paddle and try out the sport.

Donna James, one of the founding members of the society, watched her son paddle in Vancouver years ago, and immediately envisioned a team in the Valley.

VALLEY SENIORS: Donna James has no time to relax

The West Coast Dragon Boat Society was formed in 1999 to bring the sport to Port Alberni, and in 2000, the society raised $22,000 to buy its first boat after a combination of garage sales, bottle drives and raffles. The very first team to hit the water was the Alberni Wave Riders, and then the Sunshine Dragons—a senior team attached to the Sunshine Club, which later opened up to all ages.

“It just grew and grew,” James described.

Today, there are two teams in the Alberni Valley that paddle on Sproat Lake. The Die-Hard Dragons practice Friday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. and Monday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. The Sproat Ness Dragons practice Monday and Thursday from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

“We have members who have been doing this for many years,” said society president Gail Horvath. “It’s a great way to socialize and get exercise.”

Dragon boating is open to all ages, she said, and promotes fellowship, as well as exercise.

“You can dragon boat ‘til you’re 90,” added James, a self-described “adrenaline junkie” at 86 years old.

The West Coast Dragon Boat Society will be holding a Ladies Regatta on Sunday, June 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This annual event draws teams from all over the Island to Sproat Lake Provincial Park.

If you are interested in getting involved in dragon boating, you can contact the society at, or find them on Facebook. All equipment is supplied.

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