Senior dragon boat racing team ready for Steveston

Twisted Dragons operate out of the UBC Boathouse and their paddlers average 65 years of age

The legacy of the 2009 B.C. Senior Games being held in Richmond lives on with the Twisted Dragons.
It was seven years ago when Fred Kohlberg came up with the idea of the host city entering a team into the Games’ dragon boat racing event. Today, he oversees a year-round program that became Richmond’s first team exclusively for seniors.
The summer season continues with Saturday’s Steveston Dragon Boat Festival and the Twisted Dragons are hoping to build on the momentum from last month’s event in Penticton. However, Kohlberg is quick to point out, winning competitions is not at the top of the priority list.
“Our mandate is fitness, fun and then competition,” explained Kohlberg, who serves as the team’s manager and coach. “We do like to win when we compete but the main reason we are out here is for the camaraderie, fitness and fun.”
The Twisted Dragons’ summer season typically runs from March until the end of September and features a handful of competitions, capped by the B.C. Senior Games. Ninety minute training sessions are held twice weekly at the program’s home — the John MS Lecky UBC Boathouse, located on the north arm of the Fraser River and not far from the Richmond Olympic Oval.
There is also a winter season to maintain fitness and includes a 10 week indoor program at the Oval.
Kohlberg says the Twisted Dragons are open to anyone over the age of 55, although there are limitations.
The summer roster is capped at 30, with the boat capacity being 26. Three underage rowers are allowed to join if they happen to have older partners, however, they cannot participate in senior designated competitions. That’s something the Twisted Dragons never have to worry about. Their average age is around 65 and their oldest paddler is 78.
Races range from a 250 metre sprint to 500 metres. This weekend in Steveston, the Twisted Dragons will compete in four mixed races and one designated for seniors only. In Penticton, the team entered six events over two days and placed first in five of them.
Still, the emphasis is on fitness and fun.
Judy Allen signed up after seeing a newspaper ad three years ago. The avid tennis player and golfer now has another physical activity to enjoy.
“It’s great core exercise,” she said. “For people who may have knee or ankle problems it’s not weight barring. I like to play tennis and golf but I have a ligament strain in my ankle. I can still come out and paddle. It’s good for cross-training and a cardio workout too. Plus all the (wildlife) we get to see in the river that people usually have to pay to see.”
For more information on the Twisted Dragons visit

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