Joannie Ransberry 70 is looking forward to spring. She came here from Stouffville to retire last year and discovered she loved dragon boat racing after she joined the local dragon boat club the Haliburton Highlands Paddlers. The club which welcomes anyone from 14 and up is holding its annual open house on Feb. 7 at 1:30 p.m. at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association fish hatchery located at 6712 Gelert Road in Haliburton. For more information call Carolyn Ellis at 705-457-2464./DARREN LUM Staff

Dreaming of coming dragon boat season

By Darren Lum

Before Joannie Ransberry 70 came here from Stouffville to retire she used to watch the dragon boats paddle by her home on Musselman Lake and wonder.

The mother of six grown children and retired newspaper reporter didn’t have to wonder any more after joining the local dragon boat club the Haliburton Highlands Paddlers because of an open house last year advertised in the Echo .

Just before joining the club she chose her house in Carnarvon without knowing much about the area during a random search for a house. The average prices of the homes she first saw when compared to what she was used to from the Greater Toronto Area blew her away. The affordability and the natural beauty of the area which she continues to discover and characterizes as a “little utopia with all these lakes” motivated her to pick the Highlands as her retirement home.

Months after her first season ended she calls dragon boat paddling one of her favourite things she has ever done in her life.

Ransberry said there’s nothing quite like being part of a team of more than a dozen paddlers working together to paddle across a lake in the 41-foot long dragon boat named Susanna Foo on a crisp morning in the Highlands.

She remembers the intensity of the start and the rush of the experience at her first race.

“I was amazed at the speed we all went and the other boats. [I was] very competitive in a race. I didn’t know I was that competitive. I’m usually not” she said.

In dragon boat parlance races are held as part of events called festivals.

The shorter races she said only last close to two-and-a-half minutes.

“You feel it at the end of that two-and-a-half minutes. You’re just trying to give it all the power you can.

You have to be in sync. That’s where it gets tricky” she said.

Paddling together with more than a dozen other paddlers is an amazing feeling and requires practice.

“There’s something about being in sync. I don’t know. We all kind of feel that way. You feel very good being in sync that you’re part of … no one person is more important than the other” she said.

She adds this an affordable recreation for anybody particularly those on fixed incomes.

The club provides the boat and the paddles. Participants must provide their own CSA approved life jackets and are encouraged to bring or wear anything to be more comfortable.

There isn’t any pressure by the coaches or other members to perform to an unreasonable standard. The emphasis is on fun and the atmosphere is positive encouraged by the wonderful members.

“You don’t have to be an Olympian and that’s good. The technique is not difficult to learn at all so it’s an easy learn” she said.

Despite what she thought the paddling technique requires less arm strength and more of her core strength and legs.

This was her first return to water sports in 40 years. She retired more than a year ago after a 51-year work life and has savoured the time for recreation. She only missed one session from last year and has joined a snowshoe club participating regularly.

Joining the club was part of her new life and has enabled her to not just meet people but also become active.

Being active is important for the retiree with diabetes and a heart condition.

“If you don’t stay active you die” she said.

She adds her father was active up until he died at the age of 92.

Open to people from 14 and up the club welcomes everyone and encourages young people to join.

She adds the age differences are insignificant when it comes to the friendships made and the experience of being part of the group that works to a common goal.

“The age goes out the window. It has nothing to do with your relating to the people or really your physical [capability]” she said believing she will do this until she is 80. “Nobody should ever feel they are too old ever or too young.”

This club is for everyone she said. Even for her with a heart condition she knows her own body and never feels pressure to do more than she can.

The club’s second annual open house event is at 1:30 on Feb. 7 at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association in Haliburton. It is appreciative for the support from Patient News RPM and Rodco Enterprises.

Club members meet at the dock near the back of Patient News publishing starting in May and ending in September.

A season membership is $125 if paid before Feb. 29 and after that date the cost is $150. The club encourages drop-in paddlers to try it out on Sundays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. which includes a brief introduction and lesson.  The cost is $15.

The scheduling is very flexible.There are also four practice sessions available to choose to join. From 7 p.m. to 8:30 on Mondays and later in the day from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Wednesdays the practice is held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 and in the afternoon from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Practice sessions are not compulsory.

When the club ended its season in the autumn Ransberry was disappointed.

“I was fairly sad when it was over for the season. It was kind of interesting because you run into teammates here and there. There’s just this bond with us” she said.

For more information on the club call Carolyn Ellis at (705) 457-2464.