The origins of our club, from HKIPC to “the paddle club”: Hong Kong VRC Paddle Club
It is October 1993 and HKIPC is born with little more than half a share of a teak dragon boat, a few paddles and a temporary base at the Victoria Recreation Club (VRC) at Deep Water Bay. Fast forward to 2015 and HKIPC has merged with the Victoria Recreation Club, the oldest sporting club in Hong Kong, are the proud owners of three dragon boats, nine six-man outrigger canoes (OC-6s), 3 OC-2s and 5 OC-1s, a shed load of gear, a more permanent arrangement with the VRC and a significant budget over $800,000 per annum. But is the increase in equipment, whilst confirming the club’s development, really the true measure of our success?
Perhaps the real test of the success of the paddle club, which is one of the premier paddling clubs in SE Asia, is best measured in terms of the respect that the club is held both in the dragon boat and outrigger communities. This is based in terms of the commitment and selfless voluntary participation of our paddlers both in training and in all the ever-increasing numbers of jobs that need to be done behind the scenes in supporting our on-water activities. From an unknown entity in 1993, the HKIPC, driven by the passion of its members in their desire to excel at the sport, met their preliminary goals by taking the Stanley Residents Association dragon boat races by storm in 1994 and 1995 by becoming both mens and womens champions. HKIPC then went on to test its crews against the leading clubs in the region and in the world.
We were soon to find out that being champions at Stanley was just the first of many steps in our development until we were be able to compete consistently and successfully with the local teams at the fishermen and other races in Sai Kung, Chai Wan, Tsuen Mun, Lamma, Aberdeen and Poi Toi, in the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races and in overseas races such as Taipei, Penang, Singapore, Thailand and China.
But in the process of the club’s development there was a growing recognition that paddling dragon boats for six months of the year was not enough. So in 1994, HKIPC welcomed the arrival of Mahoa and Mahoe, twin Malia outrigger canoes, so that after the dragon boats were put to rest we could continue paddling on the open seas around Hong Kong.
How did this come about? The seeds of the club germinated in a few who fell in love with paddling and quickly developed a passion for it. The club was small, but most of the HKIPC paddlers were professional people who brought to the club their professional ethics, expectations and drive. Our new recruits were made aware of our mission: we were a racing club (not a social club) and our efforts were directed to enable our teams to perform better on the water. Our goals were high and our expectations of paddlers were equally high. As a result lost a few paddlers who were not able to make the commitment. Nevertheless, many remain good friends and we are delighted to see many of our ex-paddlers now continuing the sports of dragon boat and outrigger canoe as leaders of other clubs in Hong Kong and overseas (London, England and Singapore). It is not without a sense of pride that we hear teams using commands and going through technique drills that HKIPC coaches have introduced.
“The club has won medals at the Club Crew World Championships.”
2012 saw the club formally merge with the Victoria Recreation Club to become the new Paddle Section of the VRC. This merger brought with it a sense of financial stability and a chance to take stock and look forward to the future. Excellent results followed that year in the Club Crew World Championships, with a fistful of CCWC medals as the spoils of our fruitful endeavours in Victoria Harbour. Success has continued with seasons full of wins and closely fought battles in both Dragonboat and Outrigger canoeing.
Additionally, we have continued to add more and more outrigger and small boat races for the benefit of the burgeoning paddlesport community. Our VRC Race Series, Dragonboat Regatta, Rookie Rumble and Southside Challenges are now firm fixtures on the racing calendar that many clubs and individuals look forward to.
So what sets us apart from other paddling clubs in Hong Kong? We offer paddling as a life style; our paddling season never ends. From January to June we train and race dragon boats and train and race in outrigger canoes year round. One complements the other and whilst dragon boat is the sport on which we are founded, outrigger canoeing is just as popular. Furthermore, the paddle club now organizes its own annual Deep Water Bay dragon boat race every May. In 2014 we celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of the race which attracts many of the top teams to do battle on the calm and sheltered waters we call home.
“We offer paddling as a life style; our paddling season never ends.”
Our road over the past 12 years has not been without bumps, batterings and soul searching, but we have not only survived, but the club has gone from strength to strength and has gained an enviable reputation amongst paddlers of dragon boat and outrigger canoeing in Hong Kong and around the world.
Our reputation has extended to the tourism industry in Hong Kong and we are repeatedly asked to carry out dragon boat workshops as a team-building exercise for visiting companies either in incentive tours or world and regional conferences. These workshops are often quoted as being the highlight of our clients’ visit to Kong Kong.