PORT RICHEY — Dragons flew in Port Richey by boat rather than air last Sunday as teams paddled furiously to win dragon races on Miller’s Bayou as part of the inaugural Pasco Paddlepalooza.
A dragon ornament marked the bow of each of the very long, slender boats during the very first Battle In the Bayou Dragon Boat Races. Waterfront Park served as the launch point.
How do more than 20 teammates board such slim crafts without tipping them over?
Two contestants boarded toward the front, followed by a pair of paddlers toward the back to keep the load balanced. A drummer sat perched on a chair near the bow to keep the paddlers in rhythm with drumbeats.
In the first race, the Bayou Dawgs No. 1 outdistanced Club VW to win handily. The Dawgs turned in a time of 1:29.03. Club VW struggled a bit to compile a time of 1:44.05.
Other races came down to the wire.
Teams came up with some pretty whimsical names, such as Magical Butter, Harbor Pirates, Wun Fun Cru, Dragon Sisters, and Bayou Dawgs No. 2, along with the straightforward name for the Kia Motors team.
Before and after races, many kayakers and paddleboarders enjoyed cruising the waters near Gill Dawg, the marina that served as the base for Paddlepalooza.
Participants and spectators had plenty to do during the inaugural event that also featured a steady stream of concerts.
The first night featured a sunset paddle trip.
The second day brought Durney Key Challenge endurance event, followed by the Stilt House Craft Beer Festival at Gill Dawg Event Center.
The final day brought the Salt Springs Alliance Classic, in which racers paddled from scenic lagoons at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, through the open Gulf of Mexico waters and up the Pithlachascotee River to Jasmine Park.
The dragon races helped conclude Paddlepalooza. Organizers strived to make a big splash to boost tourism in the area and keep them coming back for more.