As the Northern Spirit dragon boat team began hitting the waters this year, they were marking the start of their 10th year as a team.
The all-women’s team were splitting their attention between training for a May 25th regatta in Prince Rupert and celebrating their 10 years on the 31st.
While the team has grown substantially over the past decade, many original members still remain dedicated to the sport.
Among those early members is Ruth Mills, who explained the team began with Maryann Thompson who wanted to gather some ladies to compete in Vancouver at the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.
“We gathered a group of mothers and daughters and friends and just practiced for a few months,” said Mills, saying they brought back a bronze medal that year.
From then everyone was hooked on the sport, and spread it to neighbouring communities. Now Terrace and Prince Rupert have their own teams and she credits the Northern Spirit for its rise in popularity. And of course Kitimat now has an annual dragon boat regatta at Minette Bay Marina.
“We call ourselves socially competitive,” said team coach Michelle Wakita, who has been with the team for around eight years.
“Northern Spirit is such a great, dynamic group of incredible women,” she said.
She said at all ages the team is very competitive, but those who have been with the team from the start are indeed the most eager to win.
“They give their all in every practice,” she said.
Carole Gagnon, another in the 10-year club, remembers how theirs was the first dragon boat in the northwest, and how the team has grown with each passing year.
“Now we have a more dedicated, competitive team.”
The Northern Spirit
10 year club: