As of press time, 13 teams are scheduled to race the Third Annual 7 Wonders Cup dragon boat races on Wallowa Lake Aug. 24-26.
Some of the competitors are well known to the Dragons in the Wallowas race team and some are new to Wallowa County.
“The competition keeps getting stiffer,” said race organizer Mike Lockhart. “Our teams have been training hard, running two or more 500-meter races every practice.”
Among the fresh competitors this year is the Pink Phoenix Soul boat, the first U.S. team comprised solely of breast cancer survivors. Another is the Angry Unicorns, made up of Salem Multicultural Institute Club Members.
And Wallowa County will welcome the Wasabi Visually Impaired Paddlers team for the first time. The Wasabi VIP club is made up of legally blind, fully blind and a few sighted members.
Dragon boat racing is the fastest growing worldwide sport and also enjoys the reputation of being one of the most environmentally friendly team sports.
The race is held at the south end of Wallowa Lake where spectators can set up lawn chairs along the lake edge, shop at the marina store or with vendors and take in the friendly ambiance of dragon boat racing.
When the airhorn goes off, spectators can watch the prow of the boat leap out of the water with the force of the first strokes. The fastest boats keep that prow out of the water to the finish.
The teams are 20 paddlers, a steersperson and a caller in the front of the boat. The caller yells out changes in stroke length and tempo and encouragement and often bangs a drum to help paddlers keep time.
Race events begin at approximately 8 a.m. on Saturday and with timed trials of 250-meter and 500-meter sprints and two practice runs of the slalom course. Sunday will feature the finale 500-meter races and two heat 250-meter runs of the slalom.