The sound of steadily beating drums filled the shores of Haulover Beach in North Miami this weekend as the University of Miami’s Asian-American Student Association competed in the Seventh-Annual South Florida Dragon Boat Festival.
Dragon Boat Racing is a traditional Chinese water sport that is over 2,000 years old. Teams paddle against each other to the beat of a drum in boats decorated as dragons.
AASA has raced in five of the seven festivals in the past.
Last year they won first place in the Academic Cup Division race, beating St. Thomas University by less than a second.
This year, AASA raced against Florida International University, local high schools and St. Thomas University in the Mixed Division and Academic Division races.
“What makes us a tough team to beat is that we’re especially spirited and excited to show the community what we’re all about,” senior Melvin La, AASA President and four-year veteran of the event, said.
This year’s AASA team had 25 members, most of which were freshmen. La said that the freshmen participation had a huge impact in the overall success of the team.
“Their energy and vitality is definitely unmatched,” he said.
Getting the team pumped before each race by singing and clapping to the C-A-N-E-S chant, freshman Te Hoang said that he is now hooked to dragon boat racing.
“I always wanted to try it, but after experiencing the culture, the people and excitement of it, I know this won’t be my last time out here,” Hoang said.
Announcer and event official Grace Genetia said that every year at least one out-of-state or international team competes.
However, due to the downturn of economy this year, the 33 teams, made up of clubs and organizations, were all from different areas of Florida.
“I did see a rise in competitiveness, especially among the college teams,” Genetia said. “You definitely see that college rivalry break out in the water.”
The United Chinese Association of Florida and Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation organized and hosted the event.
Aside from the races, the festival also included authentic Asian food vendors from all over Miami, martial arts demonstrations, belly dancing performances and a popular egg roll eating contest.
Since mid-September, the AASA team practiced every weekend leading up to the competition.
For senior Andrew Lam, hours of strenuous training, painfully sore arms and blistered fingers were worth the bonding experience he shared with his teammates.
“I wanted to make the most of my last year with AASA, and being a part of this year’s dragon boat team really showed me how lucky I am to be in such a close-knit organization,” Lam said.
“Aside from gaining some extra muscle, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for AASA as well as this sport.”
The AASA’s coed team finished third with a time of 3:08. The winning team, the Southern Dragons, finished in 2:47.