The United Paddlers Club won two golds in the 2018 Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta in Kuching City, Malaysia held last Oct. 27 and 28.
Photos By Iya Forbes
United We Paddle
EXISTENTIAL BLABBER - Kara Ortiga (The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2018 - 12:00am

The United Paddlers Club, a group of non-professional dragon boat rowers, took home gold medals at the 2018 Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta.

It’s 7 a.m. and we’re perched inside a dragon boat in the middle of Manila Bay. In the distance, the sound of honking from back-to-back traffic snaking along Roxas Boulevard is drowned out by the stretch of water. There is a peacefulness to being here, out in the water. It rained the night before, so when we arrive in the morning, we are greeted with a rainbow. It’s actually quite nice to see the city from this angle.

This view, at this hour, is not uncommon for the United Paddlers Club — a team of amateur dragon boat paddlers from Manila who are competitive to the bone. The team trains six days a week, starting around 5-6 a.m., doing intense workouts like a hundred or so push-ups, pull-ups or burpees, aside from the actual rowing. They schedule it frequently enough and early enough so that when the day starts at seven, there is ample time for members to get showered and dressed for the day’s work.

Top row: (L to R) Team Captain Dennis Anacin, Ralp Adrian Buan, Joe Dimla, Jay Arr Ibong, Jim Lozano, Henry Leynes Dela Cruz, JJ Henson, Patrick Padilla, Aldren Neri Madrigal, Ryan Taclan, William Chng, Isaiah James Quipit. Bottom Row: (L to R) Harold Pacana, Benji Cortaga, Wilson Bernabe, RJ Dimayuga, Patricia Villanueva, Monica Policarpio, Patrick Lance Esquillo, Karlos Cruz.

Last October, the team won two golds in the 2018 Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta in Kuching City, Malaysia, taking home one gold in the 300-meter mixed 12-crew category, and another gold in the 300-meter masters 12-crew category. The mix crew was made up of six male and four female paddlers, a signaler and steersperson, while the masters crew was made up of 10 paddlers ages 40 and above. They competed against 30 teams from 12 countries, and also won bronzes in the 300-meter open 20-crew, and the 300-meter women 12-crew categories.

 This is the first international win for a team that is only one-year-old, but has won top prizes in regattas in Manila, Ilocos and Davao. Leading the team was coach Ricky Sardena and team captain Dennis Anacin.

Team captain Anacin says that while training is a big chunk of the sport, another factor for winning is also the chemistry of the team: the social aspect is crucial in their performance. “Kaya nga ang first core value namin is teamwork. Yes, we all have different backgrounds and we’re all unique — but if you sacrifice your uniqueness a little para manalo, ’yan ang teamwork.” Because, he says, with so many different types of people of different ages, the one common thing that brings them together is competitiveness. It is the thirst to win, and this hunger can be quite contagious, they warn.

“The one good thing about this, especially if you’re working, is it’s a reset button from everything,” says Patricia Rosario Villanueva, one of the few women in the team.

Isaiah James Quipit, 30, is a sales manager by day, but has been competitively paddling for almost nine years. “It’s really a passion, a part of our lifestyle,” he says. “The one good thing about this, especially if you’re working, is it’s a reset button from everything. Once you get in the boat, once you get into the routine of training, no one is above the other person. We’re not paid to do this, we’re all volunteers, but it shows how much you want it. The results are just as strong as your weakest member, because you have to move as one, think as one. It’s a good lifestyle talaga for me, I can’t imagine doing anything besides waking up early and training.”

Patricia Villanueva , 27, is one of the few women in the group. When she’s not doing work as a wedding planner, she is out on the water, paddling competitively. “This sport kasi is always hard. It’s like even if you train for how many weeks, it’s not that easy to just bounce back.” It takes a fierce tenacity to keep up with the group. “And that feeling always when you train is like the first time. You will always get tired after every training. The feeling of pagtiis, your mental toughness — it’s really important, and it’s a challenge every time.”

(Left) They took home one gold in the 300-meter mixed 12-crew category, another gold in the 300-meter masters 12-crew category, and bronzes in the 300-meter open 20-crew and the 300-meter women 12-crew categories. (Right) The team trains six days a week in Manila Bay, and is one of the most competitive teams in Manila.

While most of the members have athletic backgrounds, some have none at all. They reassure me of this when I sheepishly tell them that the only exercise I do is yoga. It doesn’t matter, they say, as they pull out their medals from the recent win.

As the skies clear, and they all amble to work, I can see just how vastly different each person’s life is from the others. Joining us this morning is a 60-year-old ophthalmologist, someone who works in the government office, an advertising creative director, paddlers from all walks of like, in all shapes and sizes, carving out time from their schedule to make this a priority. The energy, being around the good humor and high spirits, but also witnessing the seriousness of their sport, the skill required to do what they do, is evident — it’s what being a part of the crew entails.

The United Paddlers Club is led by coach Ricky Sardena and team captain Dennis Anacin.

* * *

To join or inquire, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/UnitedPaddlersClub.Ph/. 

UNITED PADDLERS CLUB
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