Haide Acuña: marathoner turned dragon boat paddler

Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a boat of a traditional Chinese design, typically decorated to resemble a dragon, propelled with paddles by a large crew and used for racing.”

More than 2,000 years ago, dragon-boating started in China. It originated from superstitious beliefs that racing boats would bring bountiful crops. Today, the sport of dragon boat in the country is “making waves.” Last August, the Phil. Navy Dragon Boat team was the winner in the Ordos International Nadam Dragon in Inner Mongolia. Last Sept., it was the Filipino paddlers who harvested six medals in Moscow.

Here in Cebu from April 28 to 30, we will all be witnesses to the 2017 Cebu Dragon Boat Fiesta. I can’t wait to watch that event and I’ll write more in future columns.

Atty. Haide Acuña, a celebrated ultramarathoner, has since hopped from running on the road to paddling at sea.

“I’m very new at this sport,” Acuña said, starting only last June and admitting, “Hadlok ang bawod sa Mactan Channel at first but you get used to it,” opting to wear a PFD (personal flotation device).

“Unlike running where you can be very independent or train like a lone wolf on your own,” she said, “in DB you have to rely on and trust your teammates to show the same dedication, commitment, discipline and work ethic as you. It can be frustrating at times. It challenges your patience and people skills. That’s why DB is a great tool for teambuilding in the corporate setting kay kung dili synchronized inyo bugsay, pildi jud mo.”

DB is also ideal as cross-training for endurance athletes. Acuña cites Gruppo Habagat, whose members include triathletes, runners, adventure races and mountain climbers.

“It is by no means an easy sport (even for an endurance athlete) because paddling demands that you learn a specific skill set,” she said. “It is a sport that rewards consistency, diligence, discipline, dedication and teamwork. Even those who are not naturally athletic to begin with can try this sport.”

Dragon boat in the country has been around for 25 years. “But in Cebu, we only started in 2015 with teams like Kugtong Paddlers, Gruppo Habagat, Lexmark (now disbanded), Bogo DB Team. This year, 3 to 4 teams are being formed including a possible team composed of cancer survivors and the team by Niño Abarquez, whose base will be at the SRP,” Acuña said. “Our topography, climate and natural affinity to the sea and rivers for inland paddlers make for perfect conditions for this sport.”

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