Photo by Jessica Keller: Seattle SAKE dragon boat members, including Sandy Chock-Eng, right, prepare for a practice at the moorage dock in Leschi next to Lake Washington in July.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Seattle SAKE dragon boat members, including Sandy Chock-Eng, right, prepare for a practice at the moorage dock in Leschi next to Lake Washington in July.

On most afternoons Madison Park resident Sandy Chock-Eng can be found at the moorage docks in Leschi or paddling on Lake Washington with other members of the Seattle SAKE Paddling Club.

According to its website, the club’s mission is to “promote physical, mental and emotional benefits of the paddle sports to the community.”

The club offers stand-up paddleboarding and also has two outrigger canoes for member use. The biggest activity with the most participants, including Chock-Eng, however, are the dragon boat paddlers.

According to the club’s website, dragon boating began centuries ago in China and is a fast-growing sport.

“You can’t beat it when you’re out on the water on a beautiful day,” Chock-Eng said.

She said, although Seattle doesn’t have the same dragon boat culture of other cities, such as Portland, Oregon, or San Francisco, it is growing in popularity. She said enthusiasts often join just to try it out and stay because it is fun and accessible to people of all skill levels, ages and abilities. Among the club’s recreational dragon boat paddlers, Chock-Eng said the oldest members are in their 90s, with most in their mid-40s through their 70s.

That includes the dragon boat racing team members. The youngest is 21 and the oldest is 77.

Club member and dragon boat racer Pat Halloran, who like Chock-Eng is retired, said she was recruited by a woman in her 80s.

“I came on a hot day for a day of fun and ended up competitive paddling,” she said. “I love it, the camaraderie, for one thing. I just absolutely love it.”

Chock-Eng said she joined for the exercise and stayed for the fun and companionship.

“The other thing I love about it is the physical activity keeps my endorphins running,” she said.

Chock-Eng said people who join the paddling club treat each other like family.  When her son died tragically, the dragon boaters gathered for a special ceremony and placed flowers in Lake Washington in honor of Chock-Eng’s son.

“There’s an extremely high ethic of care, I think,” Chock-Eng said.

Currently, the dragon boat racing team is wrapping up its racing season and has been performing better than ever. At the two-day Concord Pacific Dragon Boat festival races in Vancouver, British Columbia in June, the SAKE teams beat expectations, with the women’s team entering a higher competition category and the mixed team leaving with a bronze medal.

Dragon boat general practices take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and at 9 a.m. Saturdays, with extra practices during racing season. Practices with a more recreational focus are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursdays or 8 a.m. Saturdays. Survivor SAKE, a special team for cancer survivors, practice at 9 a.m. Saturdays.

SAKE also offers dragon boating 101 sessions for people who wish to try out the sport. The next one will begin at 9 a.m. Aug. 13, but beginners should get there by 8:30 a.m. Sessions typically take place at the Leschi South Sailboat Moorage, 100 Lakeside Blvd. in Seattle, but while that is under construction, club activities are meeting at the North Moorage, 324 Lake Washington Blvd.

Visitors can attend club sessions three times before deciding whether or not to become members. The club provides all needed equipment.  To learn more about the Seattle SAKE Paddling Club, visit www.clubsake.com.