In the dragon’s den

Mum-of-one Marilou Courtot breathes fire over her paddling passion


How did you get into dragon boating?
I’d never heard of it before, but a friend had been paddling for about a year and I thought it sounded like fun. I tried it out and was hooked.

Do you need experience?
Not at all. The great thing about Dubai Sea Dragons is that they have a group for beginners, and many of the more experienced crew come along and paddle with the newcomers, which helps us newbies learn the proper technique and get up to speed without feeling under pressure.

But it is quite energetic, right?
Absolutely! That was another reason for taking it up. I wanted to keep fit, but I needed an extra incentive, too. Here, you’re in a group, so if you don’t turn up you’re letting the rest down and then you get stroppy messages on facebook! But yes, it’s about speed, strength, endurance and synchronisation with your partner. You’re sitting two on a bench, and if you fall out of rhythm you’re potentially in a lot of trouble.

It sounds like you’re all very young and fearless…
We’re quite ‘elderly’ actually. The youngest is around 32, and last year we had a dragon boater who turned 60. Mainly though, we’re all in the 40-50 age group – so there are quite a lot of mums. And the timing is perfect for busy mothers – I train from 8am-9am twice a week and then I have the rest of the day to do other stuff.

Any other advantages?
You can dragon boat almost all year round because it’s in the water. Plus, I’m definitely fitter, though my shoulders are wider and I can’t fit into some of my shirts anymore! The best thing is that I’ve made so many new friends. It’s a really social group, with lots of different nationalities, and we have regular nights out, Christmas parties, coffee mornings and lunches. There’s always someone who’s eager to organise something.

Any negatives?
Only the padded shorts! You do need them for protection, but they’re not the most glamorous. Plus, the cushioned bits stay wet much longer, so we tend to drip from our bottoms which can be really embarrassing. When we have coffee afterwards, you can always tell where we’ve been sitting.
Fancy a go? The Dubai Sea Dragons train at Mina Seyahi Lagoon with several sessions held throughout the week. Individual sessions cost Dhs50, full annual membership (unlimited sessions) costs Dhs1,500. Contact Julia Garside on 055 584 0588;;

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