Paddles Up, Paddles Out, Paddles in the Water at the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival

Barker's Island hosts the 18th annual Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival.

SUPERIOR, Wis.- Paddles up, paddles out, paddles in the water; Racers from around the world took it to Lake Superior Saturday for the 18th annual Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival on Barker’s Island.

Dragon-boating is different from other paddling sports like canoeing because it takes a team effort to get a two thousand pound boat moving.

“The real way to do it is all trunk, it’s reach and twist. It’s not arms. It’s basically stick your paddle, out, stick your paddle. So if you get that technique, you’re going to end the race,” race announcer and festival volunteer Scott Soderberg said.

It may come off a little intense, but the Lake Superior Dragon Boat festival is a place for everyone, whether they know how to paddle or not.

“You’re going to see competitive teams here which is really exciting, and they’re very serious about their dragon boat racing. But they represent less than ten percent of the teams we have paddling here,” Soderberg said.

This year’s festival hosted 53 racing teams with paddlers mostly from the Twin Ports and some from as far as Ireland.

“It’s the fantastic comradery and great friendships. I’ve met friends here that I would stay in contact with the whole year round,” competitor Michael Murphy said.

Murphy plans his vacation from Ireland around the festival.

He’s been competing for almost a decade and says the best part about the sport is how much it requires you to work with others.

“It’s just always trying to compete and be the best that you can and not let your teammates down,” Murphy said.

Some people at the festival were there to cheer on a competitor they knew.

“It’s just a high inspiration to know that people are out here and they’re supporting these people that are trying to the best that they can do,” Cheryl Peterson said.

Peterson was supporting her granddaughter in her first ever dragon boat race.

“I am very, very proud of her. I was really happy that she did it. And I told her to just keep going. Don’t stop, just keep going,” Peterson said.

Racers say dragon–boating is easy as long as you can stay on beat.

“For the most part, they’re just here to compete, do something outside, and if you can do that on a day like this, you can’t go wrong,” Soderberg said.

Organizers say the dragon boat festival is the paddling version of grandma’s marathon. It invites people to participate in healthy competition and try their hand at something they may have never thought they could do.

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