1 Dragon Boat Festival
Never heard of dragon boating? Jason Mackenzie, captain of the Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Dragons, explains how you can get paddling.
Dragon boating – so what’s that then?
I’ve been doing it more than 30 years. It’s huge in Canada, where I’m from, as well as Europe, Asia and North America. More than 50 million people a year register and race dragon boats around the globe. In fact it’s the fastest growing team sport in the world.
Do you need the strength of a dragon?
To join you just have to be human – we have young and old people; everyone from janitors to CEOs. There are 22 paddlers per team and you do a kilometre in about four minutes. Depending on the level of interest, we direct you to the right team: competitive or social.
When do you race?
We have about six domestic races a year and during the spring and summer the UAE national team takes the best dragon boaters from across the UAE and travels the world. This year we went to the World Championships in Prague. There are also some good regattas in Asia – dragon boating is due to be part of the Asian games in 2010.
What about practising?
If you want to go to the World Championship you need to practise a lot. If it’s just domestic and you’re in it for fun, you only have to turn up once in a while. Practice is usually held at the Marina (near Abu Dhabi Mall) or the Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri.
Has the dragon boat league grown quickly in the UAE?
Every single team is looking for new people because there is so much turnover in the population; it’s a great way to meet new people. There are more than a thousand competitors racing against each other in five or six heats – we don’t all race at the same time, that would be chaos! It starts at 8.30am and finishes around 6pm, so just head to the Shangri-La Hotel and watch the action from there.
The Dragon Boat Festival (part of Adrenaline Sports Live) is at Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri from October 9-10. To join, contact Jason Mackenzie on 050 763 4008. For info on the other events, see box at the end of the article.
Scream rating: 4
Time Out says: It’s too late to be in a team for the festival, although it might be worth enquiring about those that have already entered in case of drop outs.
2 Snow joke!
Snoworld, Abu Dhabi’s answer to Ski Dubai, may still be under construction, but don’t let that stop you: soon there will be a real-life ski slope in the capital. It may sound like a recipe for chilblains in the desert, but they’re driving in snow from Ski Dubai to create a genuine ski slope. We’re serious. They’re actually trucking the white stuff on an hour-and-a-half drive from Dubai to the capital. They did something similar in Jumeirah Beach Residence once; it wasn’t long ’til they were knee deep in slushy water, and the snow had dribbled down the road. Nevertheless, skis and snowboards will be on hand for people wanting to give it a go.
Scream rating: 5
Time Out says: We reckon it’ll be a solid ice block in a few hours. So it’s downhill on slightly wet ice – you’ll go like a Roadrunner-shaped bullet!
3 Go wakesurfing
Surfing is something of anathema to the UAE; the same breakers that stop the sea from washing away manmade islands and beaches ruin the chances of any real surfing, much to the chagrin of sunkissed surf bums. Consequently, like a Beach Boys Theramin solo, surfers must be ingenious and create their own surf, which is where this unique sport comes in. The premise behind wakesurfing is pretty similar to wakeboarding.
First, the surfer is towed along by a motorboat until the right speed is achieved; however, at this point the rider drops the tow rope and attempts to ride the steep face of the wake left by the boat alone. This roughly mimics the look and feel of real surf. It’s harder than it sounds (and it sounds pretty difficult); the board is a lot shorter than a normal surfboard, which means there’s more opportunity to fall off and, even for seasoned wakeboarders or surfers, it requires quite a bit of getting used to. Certainly mucho practise is demanded if you’re to make the most of the wake (see ‘Wakeboarding: the next level’, above right).
Scream rating: 4
Time Out says: Frustrating for beginners and even seasoned surfers might want a longer ride, but it’s worth a go.
4 Declare war
Paintball and airsoft competitions are essentially a battle to the grisly end – albeit, in a non-fatal way. Certainly, if you’ve ever gazed at the bright red welts that slowly appear on your body and cried, ‘oh, the humanity’ then you’ve probably experienced the joy of paintball (or just fallen down the stairs). Fewer might know of airsoft, which is similar in style but without the satisfying splatter – you run around a restricted area, wielding a compressed airgun and occasionally firing a small pellet wildly into nowhere before diving under cover once more. In the end, we favour the all-out assault, it gets the suffering over and done with faster and once you’ve counted the ‘corpses’ (those covered in neon paint), it means you can go for a refreshing drink all the faster.
Scream rating: 3
Time Out says: We love the smell of paintballs in the morning. On the other hand, airsoft scares the bejeezus out of us.
5 Plunge into the depths
Scuba diving might not seem like the most exciting thing in the world, but when you’ve only a little tank between you and soggy oblivion the heart certainly gets racing. Thankfully, the Empros try-dives at Adnec’s Marina let you try it in a special pool. The dives are run daily until sunset, so if you’ve never done it before and are put off by the exorbitant costs of learning, we reckon this is a decent way to at least whet your whistle.
Scream rating: 3
Time Out says: If you’re new to the sport, prepare to become addicted.
6 Try kayaking
For those who haven’t already sampled Noukhada’s mangrove and eco-kayak tours, here’s your chance. Located in the marina, across the footbridge from Adnec (Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company), there will be plenty of kayaks for beginners to have a paddle, as well as a Hobie catamaran for those who prefer to sail.
The added bonus is that they will also be running their adventure tours from there, just for the weekend.
Scream rating: 1
Time Out says: A gentle paddle isn’t exactly a thrill ride, but we highly recommend their eco-tours.
7 Get jet propelled
If you haven’t already had enough water-inspired madness then look out for the jet boats, which are set to turn part of the marina into a fine mist of spraying water and barely muffled wails. Both the Speed Needle and Super Nova are supercharged and guaranteed to make your face contort in a variety of unattractive ways.
Scream rating: 5
Time Out says: A rip-roaring, face-smushing festival of speed. You might want to bring a change of trousers though (for various reasons).
8 Take a leap
For those with a gift for heights (a category in which we don’t include ourselves), there will be a chance to climb and abseil on the mobile wall set up inside Adnec. Instructors will be on hand to ensure you don’t lose your footing, while the chance to indulge on the zipline will suit those for whom dangling 20ft off the ground is not danger enough. But, most terrifying of all, is the freefall tower, which allows you to climb a 15m-high tower and literally plummet onto a crash mat. Think you can do it? So did we. We were wrong.
Scream rating: 5
Time Out says: Just gazing up at the freefall tower makes us quake!
9 Learn to zoot
Eh? We’ve heard of a zoot suit and we’ve heard of zorbing, but never zooting. Well, the zooter is set to go on show for the first time in the UAE, with try-outs and kits available to buy for those wanting to zoot for themselves. It’ll go on sand, snow and sea – or so says the press release. We’ve yet to try this all-terrain wonder, but it seems pretty similar to a landsurfer, with the standard kitesail set-up. We can’t wait to give it a go.
Scream rating: 4
Time Out says: If you can get a good breeze going you’re in for a good time. If not, you might as well walk on land, snow or (er) sea.
10 Become a drifter
Ready for a really scary time? European Drift Championship driver Mark Luney will be doing demos and taking visitors on practise drives around the Adnec track. He tells us what it’s all about.
So what is this drifting malarkey?
Drifting is basically ice skating, but with cars. It is the art of car control at high speed: the object is to make the car go as far sideways as possible, but also to keep it balanced on the track.
Where did it all start?
The sport evolved in Japan where people would race each other down the mountains sideways. Eventually it turned into a proper competition. There’s plenty of footage on the internet. That’s still where a lot of Japanese guys honed their skills for the circuits.
How does a race work, then?
You compete against each other in a knock-out situation. We’re bringing brand-new, 500-horsepower cars for demos. It’s supercar performance in the size of a normal family saloon. On the actual track, drifting gets speeds around 100mph (160kmph) and that’s going sideways. We can get 120mph plus (more than 190kmph) entering the corners.
The dangers are the same as in any motorsport really. The slightest mistake at 100mph – with the two cars running so closely – you can end up in a huge accident. You have to have trust in your fellow competitors, but accidents do happen. It’s a pretty spectacular sport because of the smoke, the noise and the speed.
Scream rating: 5
Time Out says: They won’t go 190kmph, says Mark – just a dawdling 110kmph – but no doubt you’ll still leave finger indentations on the dashboard.
Adrenaline Sports Live and Barbican Turbo take place at Adnec from October 8-10, noon-11pm. Tickets cost Dhs100 for a three-day adult pass. See adrenalinesportslive.com.