ASU Dust Devils Dragon Boat team is still competitive despite Tempe Town Lake draining

ASU’s Dust Devils Dragon Boat team is preparing for their competition this Saturday in San Diego with an unusual caveat — their practice habits took a hit after the draining of Tempe Town Lake.

Team Captain and President Eilleen Candidato said the San Diego Dragon Boat Race swapped festival days with the Arizona Dragon Boat Association to accommodate the draining of Tempe Town Lake. Tempe typically hosts the Dragon Boat Festival in April and San Diego hosts in October.

The swap solved the problem of how to host the festival, but the team has still had to figure out how to practice without any large body of water within the vicinity of campus.

Candidato said that before the draining, the team practiced three times per week in Tempe Town Lake, and they now practice once a week in a pool while doing physical training during the week. 

However, she said she doesn’t think the changes will negatively affect the team’s performance.

“I feel good about my team,” she said. “As a team, we all just can’t wait to get back into the water. It’s been way too long.”

One team member, philosophy and economics junior Joseph Wahl, feels confident heading into the competition despite changes from previous festivals.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I always feel a little nervous, but I’m not nearly as nervous as I was for the first competitions.”

Wahl said the only thing he’s concerned about is whether or not the lake will have water by the time the team starts recruiting more members in the fall.

Candidato said the team currently has 27 members, 20 of whom will be participating in this Saturday’s competition.

And Candidato said they can get competitive; the team's top competitors are University of California Los Angeles, University of California Irvine and the University of California at San Diego.

While they have enough members to compete in festivals, Candidato and Wahl said they’d like to see the ASU dragon boating community grow further.

“It’s cool that it’s a little niche right now, but it’s good to have more people know about it,” Wahl said. “Maybe it’s not for everybody, but just the fact that they know it’s there would be important.”

Co-coach Alex Lee is an ASU alumnus who was introduced to dragon boating during his freshman year and continued it throughout his college career. Even after graduating, Lee decided he still wanted to be a part of the ASU dragon boating community.

“I really loved the team,” he said. “They’re like family to me. I felt even when I’m done I should contribute in some way and help them grow. It’s hard to find people interested in the sport and actually nurture them.”

He said coaching has been an “enriching” experience and that he’s excited for this Saturday’s event despite some nervousness about not having as many water practices as they’re used to.

“We love San Diego,” he said. “We’ve been there a few times. In general, I’m pretty sure the team can get through this.”

As for the future of the Dust Devils, Candidato said she just wants the team to have more recognition so more students can reap the same benefits she received from the club. She said the Dust Devils are seeking to be recognized as an official ASU sport instead of a recreational activity.

“I’m passionate about dragon boating,” she said. “I want to spread more awareness to the ASU community, because it’s an awesome sport that not a lot of people have ever heard of.” 

Related links:

With empty lake, ASU water sport clubs shift focus

Tempe Town Lake draining will affect ASU's men's rowing team

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