Written by Kerrie Alexander
It was in 2011 that a simple team building exercise changed the life of Hervey Bay’s Jim Eaton.
At 96kg and a self-confessed coach potato, Jim was working for the Victoria University (VU), being responsible for their Capital Works program, for 23 years.
When the call came to take part in a corporate dragon boating event with the VU team, he never imagined the sport would sweep him off his feet.
“I was talking to the DBV allocated coach for the event and he invited me along to a come and try for Dragon Masters, who paddle out of Docklands in Melbourne,” Jim said.
“So, I was hooked, joined the Club after one session, and was on the committee in 2012 and was President for four years from 2013.
“I had never done a team sport before, and it was just a great way of building comradery in a team.
“They were all also about my age and keeping fit and healthy.
“I was 96kg and I’m now 78kg … I’ve certainly realised the benefits of exercise.”
Since then, the 2000-year-old ancient Chinese sport has taken a highly competitive Jim around Australia and abroad to China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The Dragon Masters World Club Crew took part in the championships four times in the Senior C category (60+) and once as in Senior B (50+), where Jim was a member of the squad that competed at Adelaide in 2016.
They won two silver and one bronze medal from three events.
If not for COVID-19 Pandemic, the team would have competed in France for the 2020 championships.
“It’s one of the biggest sports in Asia and one of the fastest growing water-based sports in Australia, and I absolutely love it!
“I was also fortunate enough to make the Victorian State Squad for the first time as a 55-year-old in the 2013 premier open team and we took away a bronze medal.
“Since then, I have represented Victoria at both Senior B & C and one of my proudest moments in Dragon Boating was being the stand in Victorian Flag Bearer at Lake Kawana in 2014.
“I was also fortunate enough to have been part of the Dragon Masters Senior C squad at the 2019 Australian Championships where I was involved in six events and the team won 5 gold and one silver medal.
“You get to meet some great people and it can take you to many different places.”
The fact that there was a Dragon Boat Club in Hervey Bay, and one of the best water playgrounds in Queensland, was the reason why Jim and his wife Louise chose the region for their retirement years nine months ago.
Since then, Jim has been an active member of the club and maintains his cardio and strength by doing 20,000 steps a day, hitting the gym and taking part in dragon boat training three times a week, including their Sunday morning paddles at the Urangan Marina where come and try paddlers are more than welcome.
He and Louise also volunteer at the Maryborough Animal Refuge, and Jim is a familiar face at the Hervey Bay Hospital’s Pathology Unit where he volunteers at reception.
It proves that age has no barriers when it comes to doing something you love.
The Dragon Boat Club has members aged from 12-79, from all walks of life, and even if you are not super competitive, Jim encourages those looking for some fun, fitness, and friendship to give it a go.
A standard dragon boat is 19.6m long and can hold 20 paddlers, one drummer who sits at the front and keeps time, and a sweep, who stands at the back and steers.
Originally Dragon Boats were used for religious purposes to appease the rain gods.
Each boat has an ornately carved dragon’s head at the bow and a tail in the stern and the boat is painted with scales.
The paddles represent the dragon’s claws, while the drum represent the heart.
“It really is a good team building sport, it’s very social, and the club is made up of a really great group of people.
“People would be surprised how much fitness they would get out of it, and how easy it is to get into the rhythm of dragon boating.
“You can try as hard as you want, be competitive as you want, or just go at your own pace.
“You don’t have to be full on like I am! I enjoy the sport and I am very competitive, but primarily it is a great social activity.
“We finish up paddling on a Sunday and head over to the Boat Club for a coffee or breakfast on a Sunday … it’s great fun!”
To find out more, head on over to the Hervey Bay Dragon Boat Facebook page or drop by the Urangan Marina (next to the Boat Club) of a Sunday morning from 6.30am.
Special thanks go to the Hervey Bay Boat Club who sponsor the not-for-profit group by housing their massive boats at no charge.