It might best be described as a tug of war on water.
The Manitoba Paddling Association will be bringing a summertime tradition to the Pan Am Pool in the middle of February when it hosts its first Indoor Dragon Boat Festival.
The event, which will raise money to support the Canadian Cancer Society, will attempt to mimic a typical outdoor festival at The Forks in every possible way — live music, food, etc. — except on the water.
The Feb. 17 event will mark the first indoor dragon boat race ever held in Western Canada, and it’s sure to cause quite a splash.
Each heat will feature two teams of eight paddlers in the same boat, facing each other. When the whistle blows, both teams will paddle their tails off for 30 seconds, trying to get the boat to move in their direction. Once the 30 seconds are up, whichever team was able to move the boat is declared the winner.
"It’s sort of like a tug of war without the rope," said River Heights resident Keith James, the manager of the MPA’s premier program.
A group of young provincial paddling team members gave the concept a try at Pan Am last week.
"It was very fun," said Ayden Peleuses, a 14-year-old from St. Vital who’s on the bantam provincial team. "It’s more of a novelty, I guess, but it was fun with the team, and we had a few laughs."
Teammate Rylee O’Neill, a St. James resident, said it was an interesting change from typical dragon boating to be face-to-face in the same boat as the team she was racing.
"It was a cool experience," she said. "It’s a really busy event, there’s a lot of people going at once."
James Lavallee, 15, a member of the midget provincial team, said he expected "a gong show" prior to the trial run.
"It was harder to move the boat than I thought it would be," said the North Kildonan resident.
James said the races certainly are sprints with their 30-second time limits, but suggested the winning teams won’t necessarily be the ones that make the most strokes.
"You always have to be in sync," he said. "Otherwise, the dragon boat performance is less than it could be. If you’re all together, speed might not be as important."
The MPA is hoping to attract a wide assortment of teams from throughout the community for its different divisions. There will be junior high, senior high, women’s, men’s, mixed, competitive, recreational and corporate competitions.
Each team is guaranteed three races before the knockout stage of the competition.
"We’re thrilled we were chosen to team up with the event," said Dave McKnight, the Canadian Cancer Society’s dragon boat co-ordinator. "It fits right in with what we do, focusing on a healthy lifestyle. It’ll be nice to offer a little summer in February."
For more information on registering a team, contact Jason MacInnes at 204-890-8262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.