Last Lessons Start Paddling, Dragon Boat Still Seeking Help - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Last Lessons Start Paddling, Dragon Boat Still Seeking Help

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BIGFORK -

The countdown has gone from days to hours and now, teams are starting to converge on Bigfork for the Dragon Boat Festival.

The boats are already on the water for the Dragon Boat race this Saturday and Sunday.

"We're doing the hard part right now," explained Mike Gehrke, a competitor and member of the Tacoma Dragon Boat Association, "We're training all the community teams...some of whom have never been in a boat before so that's exciting."

Gehrke is the second oldest member of his twenty-person team (and two alternates), out of Tacoma, Washington. He competes internationally and is looking forward to the competition this weekend, despite some rough water.

"I had a major ankle repair job. I had torn a ligament that goes down around the ankle and attaches to the foot," said Gehrke.

The mandatory practice session ended at 8:30 p.m. on September 5 and was geared more towards newcomers to the sport.

"Although they may have kayaked and canoed and done other water activity," said Diane Medler, the Director of the Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau, "a dragon boat is a very different experience. The paddling motion is very different. We want to ensure that when they're out on the water racing on Saturday and Sunday that we're able to keep them safe."

Right now, Gehrke is all smiles, but there is no question as to whether he takes the sport seriously. When asked if he thinks his team will advance to the finals on Sunday, he responds, simply, "absolutely, yeah, no question."

Medler also points out that the Dragon Boat Festival relies on volunteers, needing about one hundred fifty to make ends meet.

If you want to lend a hand, just call the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce at 406.758.2800.

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