WAM History



In September 2011, at the Portland, OR, Dragon Boat Festival, a group of paddlers, at that event, from western Washington, aged 40 and over, spontaneously came together to fill a boat for the special category Masters race.  While the field of competition was small (only three other boats), we won the gold medal for that division.  The Portland race is typically the last big race weekend for the season for Washington teams, and one of our favorite festivals. 

That was the genesis for WAM, and in 2012, we formed the Washington Masters Dragon Boat Team, for paddlers in western Washington aged 40 and over, under the Seattle SAKE Dragon Boat Club umbrella.  We met for the first time in June of that year, scheduled two practices a month, and fielded two crews at the San Francisco Dragon Boat Festival in September.  The following year we continued to train together on water, and race occasionally.  


In January 2014, our coach, Lesley Blyth, attended the annual general meeting of the Pacific Dragon Boat Association (PDBA USA), and became aware of the Regional Championships.  By the end of 2014 a new goal for WAM had been set - field a team at the PDBA Regional Championships in August 2015.  The only crew we could field based on numbers, age and gender, was a Senior B Women's Crew.  The Senior B category is for paddlers and steerspersons aged 50 and older, but half of our crew were actually in their 60s.  The Regional Championship was a pathway to being awarded a berth for the Club Crew World Championships (CCWC) in April 2016, in Adelaide, Australia, so we were intent on giving it our best shot. 

Expectations were set for attendance at training sessions and off-water workouts.  At the PDBA Regional Championships, WAM women came second in five out of six races, but placed first in one of them by .03 second!  We were ecstatic - we had exceeded our own expectations, beating a team from one of the strongest clubs in our region.  

A few weeks later, we learned that the women's team who had won the gold in our division, had decided to decline the berth to CCWC, and it was now being offered to us!  Of course, we accepted. 

The experience of racing at CCWC in Adelaide was challenging but also extremely valuable.  We learned a lot, both from what it takes for a whole team to travel overseas for an event, to understanding where we ranked among our competitors.  There were six teams in our division, and we came fifth in every race.  While it was discouraging, the fire was lit.  It burned through the rest of the season and gained in intensity and strength.


The training plan became more focused, and the intensity with which everyone applied themselves increased. 

In 2017, we fielded a Senior B Mixed and a Senior B Women's Crew at the PDBA Regional Championships.  Both crews placed in their divisions, earning silver medals. We doubled the number of crews since our first Regionals in 2015, while also fielding a Senior A Mixed Crew for the Club Crew National Championships in New Jersey that same year.  This division is for racers aged 40 and up, and the ages of our crew spanned 3 decades.  We placed third out of three crews, but that was sufficient for us to be awarded a berth for Club Crew World Championship in Hungary in 2018!  In addition, we submitted petitions for some unallocated berths and were granted a Senior C (aged 60 and up) Women’s berth, and a Senior A Open (no gender requirements) berth.  Now we had three crews racing at the CCWC.  The strategy and planning began! 

At the CWCC in Szeged, Hungary, our Senior C Women's Crew earned bronze and silver medals.  It was our second time participating in a CCWC event - we had tripled our number of crews, and also brought home medals!


The training increased significantly, the team commitment intensified, and the club grew.  We had an exceptionally successful season in 2019 - see our WAM Accomplishments page for a full review.  In 2021, the team again committed fully - after 15 months out of dragon boats and off the water due to COVID restrictions we had an aggressive timeline to prepare for the 2021 USDBF Club Crew National Championships.  We persevered and returned from Nationals with bronze, silver, and gold medals, and qualified for the 2022 Club Crew World Championships.  Over the winter, we pursued Intense land training, erg workouts, and time trials in the spring to improve our competitiveness on the water.  At the 2022 CCWC in Sarasota, Florida, our Senior C Mixed Crew earned a bronze medal, and our Senior C Women's and Senior A Mixed crews fought for several close 4th place finishes. 


In January 2024, we entered a new chapter in our history when we launched our own boats in our new home at Renton Rowing Center.  How did we get here ?  In October 2022, discussion began regarding WAM finding our own location rather than using facilities and equipment of other clubs, who graciously supported us during our formative years.  With the perseverance and huge efforts of one of our members, a year later we forged a partnership with Renton Rowing Center at the south end of Lake Washington.  We purchased two used standard Champion boats from Kelowna Dragon Boat Society and brought them to Renton.  We are excited for the new opportunities of bringing dragon boating to the Renton and south Lake Washington community.  Want to get involved and learn more ?  We have plans for Dragon Boat 101 sessions, community days and corporate/team building events.  Go here to find out more.