Alvin Wang, BAD’s founding President and board member, moved to the SF Bay Area in February of 1995. By November, he was missing his favorite sport. There was no Dragon Boat racing in the Bay Area so he talked to a new friend David and they formed the Northern California Dragon Boat races. A key part of forming a festival is coaching new teams. The coaches should be paddlers so BAD was formed.
Alvin talked about dragon boat racing to everyone he met. He recruited people that had never paddled before – “It will be a blast. You’ll have fun. I guarantee it.” To kick things off, he scheduled a 3 week tour in June of 1996 – Portland, Hawaii, and Vancouver.
The first race for BAD was to go to Portland. Only 3 paddlers committed to go – Alvin, David, and Brian (Alvin’s brother). For some reason, everyone else wanted to go to Hawaii or Vancouver. They went to Portland anyways and attempted to recruit paddlers in Portland to form a team to race. They were able to convince a number of people from Portland to paddle with BAD, but as expected, they finished last in every heat.
The next week, Alvin managed to convince 8 paddlers to go to Hawaii to race. They had never stepped in a dragon boat before and were teamed with the Sheriff’s department. Have you ever seen a 300 pound drummer? After getting eliminated after only one heat, BAD was off to a rough start, but they were left with more time for jet skiing and beach watching so it wasn’t that disappointing.
The next week, 12 paddlers from SF went to Vancouver. They joined with 10 paddlers from Alvin’s old club in Calgary. This was the first of many journeys to Vancouver by BAD. They lost again but managed to defeat a few teams – not many but a few – okay, very few. Not bad considering the majority of the team had never set foot in a dragon boat before the race.
The next week, the boats arrived in the Bay Area. They were rented from a company in Redondo Beach. All the paddles were made of foam and they shattered regularly. One of the boats had a broken spine; however, the reality was that dragon boat racing had arrived in the SF Bay Area.
The first dragon boat race of the current era was held in Foster City on July 4, 1996. Around 8 teams took to the water after only 3 weeks of practice. BAD won, but more importantly, dragon boat racing in the Bay Area was taking off.
Determined to create more interest in the Bay Area, BAD borrowed an outrigger triple trailer and took the boats to Oakland in July for a demo race with 6 teams. BAD was coaching and steering all the teams.
In August, the team went down to Redondo, their first road race with a full team. Yeah!!! They came in second.
In September, the team went to Portland for the Dragonsports race. There was only half a team so BAD teamed up with a local crew for a mixed race. It was pouring rain BAD managed to finish in the pack. BAD ended up winning a good sportsmanship award.
In October, the first Northern California Dragon Boat Championships were held. Thanks to a relentless email campaign, there were teams from NYC, Calgary, Vancouver, Portland, and Toronto. Luckily the local outrigger teams provided some strong local representation.
Since BAD had to steer all the local crews and help run the race, BAD didn’t have anywhere near their strongest team. They did manage to win the novice category by barely beating Oracle.
Lots of miles for a first year team. The Legend of BAD is born – traveling and having fun!