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Posted On: 14 January 2020 04:17 pm
Updated On: 14 January 2020 05:31 pm

Qommunity Voices: Jeff Ching and the growing dragon boat racing community in Qatar

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Enter the dragon! Boats, that is. A dragon boat is a long and narrow wooden boat with a dragon's head on the prow (front) and tail on the rear. At the tail is the steersperson, commanding the team of 10 to 30 paddlers who row to the beat of the frenzied drums played by the drummer seated at the dragon's head.

Originating from a more than 2000-year old Chinese tradition and celebrated every year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, dragon boat racing is believed to have started with communities along the Yangtze River as a ritual to encourage rainfall and to ensure bountiful crops. The origin of the Tuen Ng (Dragon Boat) Festival, meanwhile, is attributed to Qu Yuan, a celebrated Chinese poet and patriot, who drowned himself in the Miluo River. The modern version of the fastest growing water sport in the world began in Hong Kong in 1976.

Here in Qatar, dragon boat racing has been around in Doha since 2014 thanks to Jeff Ching who shipped the first dragon boat in the country. This year the biggest water sports event, QNB 2020 Qatar Winter Dragon Boat Festival, will be held at the MIA Park. 20 teams will be competing this time which is a first according to Jeff as they only have 16 teams in the previous years and had to turn down some teams due to time constraints.

The ILQ team had the privilege to get in touch with Jeff Ching and learn more about Qatar Dragon Boat. Scroll down below to read about him and dragon boat racing in Qatar!

ILQ: How long have you been in Qatar and how has your journey been so far?

Jeff: I have been in Qatar since 2014 and it has been a thrilling experience so far. I am involved in the construction industry so for me professionally it is exciting to see and be involved with so much transformation in such a short span of time. It has become a second home to my family.

ILQ: Tell us about your journey with Qatar Dragon Boat.

Jeff: We started in 2014 when the first dragon boat was shipped to Qatar. At that time, the Grand Hyatt Doha supported our initiative and allowed us to practice at the beach. Over the years the sport expanded and we are now in the eighth edition of the festival. This is the first time the QNB 2020 Qatar Winter Dragon Boat Festival is officially held at the MIA Park as in previous years the competition was held at the Grand Hyatt Doha or Katara.

Image courtesy of Jeff Ching

ILQ: How did you get into dragon boat racing? How did you start?

Jeff: I started many years ago during a work secondment in Hong Kong, which is considered the epicenter for dragon boat racing. The modern era of the sport is considered to have started in 1976 with the first Hong Kong international dragon boat race. I was exposed to the rich cultural traditions of the sport while working there and met many people while training on the teams and it has been going on since then.

ILQ: What most often inspires your journey as the founder of Qatar Dragon Boat? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Jeff: The sport is unique in that it has the ability to draw people together and develop relationships. The whole premise of dragon boat racing is teamwork so it's always refreshing to see our new participants practicing together especially when they experience that eureka moment when all paddles are pulling at the same time. Seeing new people participate and enjoy the sport is one of the key drivers to our effort to continue to promote dragon boating in Qatar.

ILQ: Why do you love what you do?

Jeff: To me, dragon boating is about having fun and a medium for me to escape from the daily grind. It allows me to connect with others that share the same values so this is one of the aspects of why I love what I am doing. I also love being out on the water and just enjoy the serenity of what Doha has to offer.

ILQ: Was it easy to set up the Qatar Dragon Boat and the dragon boat festivals? What is the biggest difficulty you have faced?

Jeff: Starting any new concept is always difficult. During the early days, the difficulty was establishing relationships with key stakeholders to allow access to training facilities and competition venues and to be able to sell the idea of dragon boating. It takes years to develop the trust of our venue partners such as the Grand Hyatt Doha but it is starting to pay dividends as more of our partners realize the mutual benefit of hosting the events since everyone benefits.

ILQ: What is your biggest achievement so far in terms of your initiatives?

Jeff: A key initiative for us is to promote the sport to new participants and we have grown our Recreational League competition by 25% this year (even more if we have to consider the teams we could not accommodate due to time constraints).

ILQ: What's next for you?

Jeff: No particular plans but to spend more time with family and plan our vacations =).

Image courtesy of Jeff Ching

ILQ: Do you have any message for the people of Qatar and those who want to try Dragon Boat?

Jeff: It is one of the best activities to network and also to stay in shape. The sport accommodates all abilities and age groups so I would give it a try. There is no harm in contacting a team and to go for a paddle. You might just find a new hobby and some new friends.

For more information about Jeff Ching and Qatar Dragon Boat, check out the following details:

Website: Qatar Dragon Boat

Facebook: @qatardragonboat

Instagram: @qatardragonboat

Email: [email protected]

Image courtesy of Qatar Dragon Boat. Click image to know more details about this event!