Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival has international field and good times

Two California crews added to the mix for this year's race weekend, July 5-7

It’s a new era for the always amazing Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival, one of the most popular events of the competition season, slated to drop paddles July 5-7 , 2019.

According to the organizers, there are many upgrades this year, including the level of competition and international flavour with two teams making the trip northward from California.

“We raced in Victoria, B.C. a couple years ago and met paddlers from Nanaimo who told us it’s a great race in a great place,” says Carol Beaver, captain of the Alameda Dragon Flyers from San Diego. “Several of our teammates were particularly excited to go and offered to organize our trip. They have done a fabulous job of selling us on Nanaimo and the Nanaimo race experience.”

The DragonFlyers, like many dragon boating crews, enjoy the opportunity to travel to competitions having competed in both Victoria and Vancouver on previous occasions as well as overseas in Dublin, Ireland and Venice, Italy.

She is quick to note that Canadian teams are the best in the west. Natch.

“We expect to see some fantastic racing and meet some fun-tastic people,” she adds. “Along with that we will eat some good food, drink some great beer and paddle our hearts out.”

Each year, the Nanaimo Harbour erupts with a powerful roar as the dragon boat teams make their presence felt and their voices heard. And the reputation for a quality event is only growing. During the 2017 festival, James Hill, team captain of Latitude 48, the fastest team in the mixed platinum final, remarked to the local newspaper that Nanaimo “is probably the most fun race on the circuit.”

This year will be the 17th running of the Save on Foods Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival at Maffeo Sutton Park. There will be Light of Courage-paper lanterns available for sale before the festival that have a tag to write about an experience with cancer. The lanterns will then be hung during a special ceremony.

Sue MacSporran is the captain of the MS Warriors team, which boasts the very fitting motto “water is our happy place.” She calls the Nanaimo Festival her favourite of the year.

“Everyone on the team loves the venue, the camaraderie with all of the teams, the crazy races (you never know how the water will be), going to the dance in the evening,” she says. “It is a really well run festival.”

The team has come a long way since its first competition back in 2007 at a dragon boat festival in Victoria. They finished dead last out of 90 teams, snagged a new coach, and ended up with a gold medal around their necks the following year.
“We are very proud of all of our accomplishments,” she says. “It has literally been life changing for all of us.”

And although she says she does have expectations for this year in Nanaimo, it really has nothing to do with the colour of medal.

“We just want to go out there and give it 100 percent of what we are able to do,” she says. “The biggest expectation is to have FUN.”

This year, the festival, which is capped at 72 teams and more than 1,700 athletes, has also scheduled a new Guts and Glory 1500-metre timed race at the end of the normal racing schedule on Saturday and Sunday. There will also be a market, food trucks, the Longwood Beer Garden and three days of multicultural performances.

The Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival Society, who organizes this yearly event, donates 100% of the net proceeds to improve the treatment and care of breast cancer patients and their families.

All registration and festival information available at  


Race Reviews

Race reports from running races, triathlons, duathlons, adventure races, obstacles runs, bike races and more!


Going Barefoot in the Colder Temps

Die hard barefoot runners continue on in the winter temps just as regular runners do but is it safe?

The cold temperatures have arrived and winter running is here. Dodging icy patches on the roads and sidewalks, jumping over snow piles, trying to get some traction to get your run completed safely. For the normal shoe wearer this is a feat alone but for the barefoot runner there are other things to take into consideration; for instance frostbite. A popular saying among barefoot runners is “numb feet are dumb feet”.  Basically if you are out running barefoot and you cannot feel the ground beneath your feet, get your feet covered ASAP. Losing feeling is a sign that your feet are too cold. This is when damage can occur.

Is barefoot running for everyone? Of course not. Running isn’t for everyone. Barefoot runners make it clear that this is an activity that you need to gradually build up to. You cannot just shed your shoes and go outside and become a barefoot runner.  It takes months of conditioning your feet to the conditions whether they are hot or cold. As well, you need to gradually build your distance. This is a whole new sensation to your body and one that you need to adapt too. 

Barefoot running in the winter can be done if you follow some simple tips:

  1. Warm up your feet indoors before you leave the house.  Jump up and down, run on the spot, get the blood flowing. 
  2. When you are outside don’t stop (if possible). Once you stop your core temp will drop thus allowing your feet to get cold.
  3. Wear a hat. We all know that you lose heat out of your head first. Ensure your head is covered. 
  4. Keep your core warm. When you have a warm core the heat flows throughout your body faster. 
  5. Be smart. Know your limits. If you can’t feel the ground beneath your feet, its time to cover up.

Have fun, be safe and Get Out There! Written by: Sue Strong