When Audrey Pau and Crystal Gutenberger joined co-workers in a quest to find an activity that would bring them together beyond their full-time jobs at Southern California Edison (SCE), they discovered dragon boat racing.
In 2005, they competed in their first dragon boat race at the Long Beach Festival through Edison Chinese Connection, an SCE employee resource group which formed the Electric Dragons. The team has raced every year in the Long Beach Festival since then.
“It was through Edison Chinese Connection that I first learned about dragon boat racing,” said Pau, Information Technology architect at SCE who has been a coach and captain for the Electric Dragons since 2007. “Over the years, our team has included different members from the company’s various employee resource groups. No matter where we all worked in the company, it has been a place for us to go for some fun and a chance to work together as a team.”
Almost 10 years later, the team continues to meet every weekend.
“We practice Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine — as long as we are in safe conditions,” said Pau.
Recently, the Electric Dragons rowed in the 2014 Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival, placing second overall. This was their best performance and the team included Les Starck, SCE senior vice president of Regulatory Policy and Affairs, Doug Bauder, SCE vice president of Operational Services and Jack Huson, director of Finance in Generation and Shared Support.
Gutenberger, who has also been a coach and captain on the Electric Dragons, enjoys the sense of community and competition that comes with dragon boat racing.
“I enjoy being around the community of dragon boaters because they are so respectful of each other and at the same time are competitive to be the best,” she said. “Many are good friends on land, but are fierce competitors on the water.”
Dragon boat racing is the fastest-growing international team water sport and traces its origins back 2000 years to China. Dragon boat racing is one of the earliest known forms of boat racing and is celebrated at festivals and races throughout the world, including Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States.
For some, being able to travel around the world attracted them to the sport of dragon boat racing.
“Joining the Electric Dragons dragon boat team was a great way for me to exercise, make new friends, and be able to travel to different places for race competitions,” said Michael Huynh, SCE Local Public Affairs manager. He has been to San Francisco, Vancouver and has plans to do a race in Shanghai in September.
Unlike other team water sports, there’s an incredible diversity among dragon boat racing participants. Gutenberger has met a 70-year-old grandmother and her teenage granddaughter paddling together, husband and wife teams, parents and their kids and a group of three best friends.
“Because we are a recreational team, we don't have competitive tryouts for anyone to join our team,” she said. “As a result, we have a great variety and diversity of paddlers on our team — age diversity, ethnic diversity, physique diversity and gender diversity. While it is challenging to train such a diverse team, we're encouraged and fortunate to have such diversity which makes the team a lot more interesting, enjoyable and rewarding.”
In addition to employees, the Electric Dragons have invited company executives to participate in the VIP races during the Long Beach Festival every year since 2006.
“The Electric Dragons are a great team and they make coming out to participate in the annual Long Beach race great fun,” said Huson, who has been with the Edison Electric Dragons VIP team since 2009. “I enjoy it more every year — even the practice.”