Mindfuck. “Pick up the rate,” he yells. The water is heavy, no one is in time, eyes shut against the torrential rain. “Faster.” I’m screaming inside – no, outside. Tears and rain in my eyes, a million curses in my head – this is my fastest, I’m going to get sick, it hurts, you try it, fuck you, fuck. Something bestial tears through my lungs, and we break through the storm.
In time. Surging, together, finally in sync. The ever-welcome call: “Let it ride.” Twenty paddles hit the gunnel, and the boat glides through the choppy water, propelled by our shaking sweat. We’ve left the “me” in “team” back on the dock.
When we are out on the water, our immediate lives are intertwined, if only for a while. When we step onto that boat, we release ourselves from our autonomy, our individuality, and wrap ourselves in that embrace of camaraderie that only a sports team – a dragon boat team – can offer. Closer than family, we think, feel and paddle with one mind and one heart to one beat.
So maybe I’m a pushover. Maybe I’m the quintessential echo boomer for running away from all the “me, me, me” mentality. But achieving with others is so much more ambitious a task than achieving alone. Virginia Woolf may have written a novel on intimacy and how it doesn’t truly exist, but that was always the goal: to strive as close as possible toward unity. And this sport, with its incessant need for absolute sameness of mind and body – is it not a form of communion? Is it not the expression of each paddler’s ferocity, desire to succeed and unadulterated passion? Is it not the response of the entire boat to that passion? Is it not, in some form, art?
So what if I’m a pushover. I’ll push myself over the limit for this team. Because this is the only place I have ever truly believed that the people around me would not let me down. This is trust. This is family.
Rule No. 3: Back each other up.