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Paddlers want a voice in Dragon Boat Festival's future

dragon boat paddlers attend AGM meeting to provide input on future of festival.

Paddlers want a louder voice on the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival Society board and input on how event progresses in the future.

Ken McVay, a paddler, coach and prostate cancer survivor, was one of about 20 people who attended the society’s AGM Tuesday at the Ramada Inn.

McVay said there is a lot of dissatisfaction in the paddling community about how the festival is being run and there needs to be changed.

“The athletes felt they needed more input,” he said.

McVay said a Dragon Boat Advisory group was recently formed by coaches and stakeholders to address issues they say are holding the sport back, including the high profile of dragon boat festivals raising money for breast cancer.

He said it’s difficult attracting men to the sport because of the connection and dragon boating is often relegated to the community sections of newspapers instead of the sports section.

Padders want to work with the society to help change perceptions of dragon boating, McVay said, adding the focus of the board is all fundraising and little on the athletes themselves.

Karen Addison, a former director who was ejected from the board three weeks ago, also attended the meeting.

She said it’s not an issue about supporting breast cancer survivors, adding that numerous pieces of equipment were purchased for the hospital for breast cancer treatment and early detection and with that equipment in place, it’s time to look at funding other areas.

“We want to do as much as we can,” she said. “We love breast cancer survivors and have incredible respect for them.”

She also said paddlers feel as if their needs aren’t being met in terms of addressing competition at the festival.

Addison said dragon boating is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world and paddlers want to work to fundraise, but also raise the profile of the sport itself.

Calls to Bob Buchanan, president of the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival Society, weren’t returned by press time.