Houston Community News >> Annual Dragon Boat Regatta

10/22/2006 Clear Lake- It took a 2,500-year-old Chinese tradition for Shara Boquiern, a 23-year-old first-generation Filipino-American, to make a connection with her Asian heritage.

The Sugar Land resident competed in her first dragon boat race Saturday at the third annual Gulf Coast International Dragon Boat Regatta on Pasadena Lake at Clear Lake Park. Boquiern was overwhelmed with the opportunity to rub shoulders — and compete — with other Asian-Americans in the Houston area community.

“I think it’s great, even though it’s competitive, just to be able to hang out and meet other people in the Asian-American community,” said Boquiern, who competed for the Filipino-American Counsel of Southern Texas team.

Boquiern jumped at the chance to compete in the two-day event, which wraps up with races from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today.

“I thought it was a neat idea to get out and be active in the community,” she said. “I never realized how massive the event was. I’d never been to one. But I’m having a great time.”

It isn’t just an Asian-American deal. The event draws competitors of many different races from across the country and Canada. It also binds them together — something Jennifer Parrish and Wayland Coe found empowering. Both are blind and competing for the Lighthouse for the Blind team, Blind Fury.

“It’s fabulous,” said Coe, a 46-year-old retired minister from Houston. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us and to be part of the community. Sometimes we get kind of get left out. So this is great for us. It’s great to hear people cheer for us.” Not only does dragon boat racing allow the blind paddlers to make a connection with the rest of the world, but it also gives them a rare competitive sport they participate in.

Not only can they compete, but do so on a level playing field with all people, sighted or not. Since a sighted steersman keeps all the boats pointed in the right direction, all it takes is strength and unity from the 20 paddlers — and a drummer — to get the 40-foot dragon boat across the 500-meter course. In fact, their blindness might give them advantage.

“We can probably synchronize better than other people because we have to focus on sound in order to live,” Parrish said. “Something like this is right up our alley.”
In fact, Parrish could hardly contain her joy at her newfound sport. Two events a year might not be enough for the blind paddlers, but Coe said it opens the door for them to make it a recreational sport, too.

(Contributed by Galveston County News)