|Vancouver Rowing Club photo by Junie Quiroga|
It's not just humans who are fascinated with rowing either. If you look closely from the seawall you will often see one of the local seals keeping an eye on the rowers. One seal in particular has been given the name of "coach" because of its habit of popping up around the rowers and seeming to offer advice. And while I'm swimming in English Bay I often encounter another group of rowers, the False Creek Rowing Club, and their mascot "Ellie" a dog who rides around in the coach's dinghy keeping an eye on things and generally having a great time skimming over the water.
But rowers are only one group of human powered boaters racing in the Vancouver waters, with the paddling community being perhaps the most visible, particularly the Dragon Boaters. Dragon Boat racing has a much more ancient history than rowing, going back 2,000 years in China but was only introduced to Vancouver at the 1986 Expo. Since then it has exploded in popularity with the annual Dragon Boat festival now drawing nearly 200 teams worldwide to compete in a colourful, multicultural event with thousands of spectators ringing the shores of False Creek.
The obvious difference between the rowers and the paddlers is that one group is facing forward and the other is facing backwards as they ply their oars. As to which method is faster it's hard to say. A quick review of the Olympic records for paddling a kayak or canoe on a 1,000 metre course is somewhere between 3.5 - 4.0 minutes but, on a 2,000 metre rowing course the times are between 5.5. - 6.5 minutes.
It's a bit like comparing apples to oranges but suffice it to say either method is right up there with the 1,500 metre run which has an Olympic record of approximately 3.5 minutes. Why anyone would need to row or paddle that fast is beyond me unless of course they were being chased by something.