On the smooth training waters of Bedford Channel, 70 (and older) is the new 50.
The Fraser River in Fort Langley is where a group of women in the 70-plus age group have found their place on rows of seats on a Dragonboat.
After publicly appealing to senior women in the area to try Dragonboating, Ruth Bedell was inundated with potential participants.
“I (had) 60 phone calls, and ended up with 40 paddlers” Bedell said.
As a result the paddlers were split into competitive and recreational teams.
D-fyance (competitive) paddles Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 4:30 p.m., and the Dragon Dolz (recreational) paddle Fridays at 5:30 p.m.
Bedell’s long-term goal was to fill as many Dragonboat seats as possible with female paddlers aged 70 and older.
The challenge, said Bedell, is that “it’s hard to find 70-year-old women who want to Dragonboat.”
Suffice to say, she has more than achieved this goal.
Bedell said ‘D-Fyance’ is the only competitive Dragonboat crew made up of paddlers in the 70-plus age group in Canada — and possibly the world.
The oldest member is 81-year-old Thelma Bell who describes Dragonboating as “fantastic.”
“I didn’t think I could do it but it was so exhilarating being out on the water I had to go again,” Bell said.
Since April, the team representing the Fort Langley Canoe Club has been training twice a week on Bedford Channel.
The hours on the boat have paid off for the D-Fyance team, which won a bronze medal in their division at the Steveston Dragonboat Festival on Aug. 26.
In a razor-close race against younger teams, D-Fyance edged out the fourth-place squad by a fraction of a second, and at the same time were a hair’s breadth away from taking silver.
Of the 22 D-Fyance team members, only eight had previous paddling experience.
D-Fyance member Barbara Maestri said the race before was “a gong show” but in the medal contest, her team got off to a great start.
“We settled down for the last race and we all got into the rhythm and we were all in time from beginning to the end,” she said.
Novice paddler Linda Harrison said, competitive races aside, being out on the water with her friends is a rewarding experience.
“I’ve never done anything like this before in my life and I will never give it up,” she said. “It is fantastic, it really is. It’s a great, great sport for any age and any ability level.”
D-Fyance’s goal is to compete in the Club Crew Pan American games in March of 2019 in Trinidad.
“We are still looking for women 68 and older,” Bedell said.
Anyone interested can call Bedell at 604 888-4591.