Campus Clubs: Dragon boat, a club that keeps Rams alumni around

If you’re looking for something to do outside of class, hitting the Mattamy Athletic Centre or going for drinks at the Ram in the Rye may seem like the only options.

But that’s simply not so! Ryerson is home to many athletic, artistic and quirky clubs where lasting friendships flourish.

From the well-established dragon boat club to the recently revamped trampoline club, there’s more to Ryerson student life than you might expect. 

Each day this week, The Ryersonian will visit one of Ryerson’s clubs to highlight what it’s all about.

Dragon boat, a club that keeps Rams around

Ryerson-D-Boat practices on-water at the Toronto Outer Harbour Dragon Boat Club. (Courtesy Ryerson Dragon Boat)

Ryerson-D-Boat practises on-water at the Toronto Outer Harbour Dragon Boat Club. (Kevin Lam/Ryerson Dragon Boat)

Ryerson Dragon Boat is competitive both on and off the water. The club works hard all year round, paddling outdoors and in to pull boats across the finish line, win races and have boatloads of fun while doing it.

Dragon boat racing involves narrow crafts manned by 20 paddlers on benches, stroking simultaneously to power through the water against opposing crews. The sport is of Chinese origin and has a strong international following. Next year, the International Dragon Boat Federation Championships will be held in Welland, Ont.

Rye-D-Boat consists of about 80 members, forming three to four boats of varying experience levels. The club trains from September to August, practising their paddling poolside through fall and winter, and then transitioning to the water in the spring.

“We hit the water in May,” says club supervisor Nick Fan. “Practices are usually two times a week, or three times for more competitive team.” Club members also work out outside of organized practices.

But perhaps more remarkable than Rye-D-Boat’s work ethic is the group’s commitment to community-building and giving back.

First-time paddlers congratulate each other after a successful first time in the boat.

First-time paddlers congratulate each other after a successful first time in the boat. (Michelle LePage/Ryersonian)

Fan says many members call the club their “paddle family.”

“We have a very good support system,” Fan says. “(We) try to keep it in the family…We’re trying to keep the club going as long as possible.”

Fan himself has been involved with Rye-D-Boat almost since its inception in 2002. After graduating in 2007, he stayed involved with the club and has acted as supervisor for the past three years. Most of Rye-D-Boat’s management team is made up of alumni.


As an icebreaking exercise, new club members try to unravel themselves from a human knot. (Courtesy Ryerson Dragon Boat)

Chetan Singh joined the Ryerson Dragon Boat Club in his second year. Six years later, now a master of engineering student at McMaster University, he’s still committed to the club and also helps with its management.

“Dragon boat gave me a lot when I was in undergrad, and I wanted to continue on with giving back to the team that gave me so much,” he says.

Singh attributes his strong desire to return and help Rye-D-Boat grow to the great times he had while paddling for the Rams.

“The best experiences I ever had were with dragon boat, and I wanted to give other people the opportunity to do the same thing.”

Chetan Singh (right) helps new paddlers out of the boat.

Chetan Singh (right) helps new paddlers out of the boat. (Michelle LePage/Ryersonian)

Another Ryerson alum, Cassie Peralta, has been coaching with the club for four years. Prompted to try dragon boat racing by a member who had gone to her high school, she’s paddled ever since.

Paddling with Rye-D-Boat has inspired Peralta to even greater athletic goals: she plans to try out for Team Canada.

“It’s the sport. If you try it, you’ll probably fall in love with it,” she said.

The club usually competes in three or four races per season, including the annual Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival at Toronto Centre Island. Last year, Ryerson placed fourth in the university championship race.

Rye-D-Boat paddles in the Welland Dragon Boat Festival this past June.

Rye-D-Boat racing in the Welland Dragon Boat Festival this past June. (Courtesy Ryerson Dragon Boat)

“We want to be the top team for universities in Ontario,” Singh said. The team would also like to participate in more international regattas, in the U.S. or maybe even overseas.

Fierce racing aside, Rye-D-Boat emphasizes team dynamics and fosters an accepting, happy community.

“We want to promote Ryerson with pride and show what our school’s about,” Singh said.

Alumni involvement is a big part of that. “We’re trying to keep students on campus longer, so they can experience Ryerson to the fullest.”

Apart from working to leave other boats in its wake, Rye-D-Boat also does a great job self-promoting through social media. It made a video for the Ontario University Indoor Championships, which Ryerson hosted at the Mattamy Athletic Centre last winter.

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