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Fresh salt air. Camaraderie. Exhilaration. It’s all part of the fun of being on a dragonboat team! Residents of Harbor Heights, a 55+ community in Olympia, are participating in the Olympia Dragon Boat Festival on July 13, 2024. It’s just one of the many perks of living in the heart of all our gorgeous Puget Sound city has to offer.

After 30 years of living in different parts of Washington, including Yelm and Tenino, Lyndy Slyker decided to make Olympia her home. “I’ve lived at Harbor Heights for one-and-a-half years,” shares Lyndy, “with doing dragon boating, the location is convenient for me.”

people in a dragonboat
Lyndy says there is nothing like being out on the water with friends and living at Harbor Heights makes it easy for her to do just that. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton

The 55+ community in Olympia not only has incredible amenities including a movie theater, bar, fitness area, game, activity, and craft rooms, as well as organized events for residents. It’s within walking distance or a short car ride to Olympia’s best, including fun events like the Olympia Dragon Boat Festival.

Rowing a Dragon Boat in Olympia: Meet Friends, Stay Active in Later Years

Originating from China over 2,000 years ago, dragon boats are long, paddle-driven boats, now used for racing. Boats typically can hold 10 to 20 people, with two people per bench, rowing on either side of the vessel. The nonprofit Olympia Dragon Boat Club has a team named the Olympia Sea Otters. They practice on Budd Inlet and provide life jackets, paddles and coaching for their members.

close up on the dragon head on a dragonboat
It’s easy to see where dragon boats got their name! Experience the excitement of the races at the 2024 Dragonboat Festival. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton

Lyndy heard about dragon boat racing on MeetUp. Now a member of the Olympia Sea Otters, Lyndy loves being in the front of the boat. “Our coach moves us around so we can get different experiences in the boat – being in the middle or back feels different. For races, he tries to put us especially where we are the most comfortable and do the best,” she explains.

Part of her regime includes getting to the dock early before practice to exercise, which is easy for her since she lives just a short distance away. “It’s a whole bunch of fun, and I’ve made a whole lot of friends there,” says Lyndy. “Nothing better than to spend the day out with friends. We go year-round. Sunset paddles are beautiful, moonlit starry night paddles are beautiful, and I am hoping to catch a paddle in the snow!”

Lyndy didn’t just make new friends at the Boat Club, however, but at Harbor Heights too. In fact, she invited fellow Harbor Heights resident Mary Ann Steele to join in on the fun of dragon boat racing. “My neighbor changed my life,” says Mary Ann, who has lived in Olympia for 23 years and moved into the 55+ community three years ago. “Lyndy and I connected here at Harbor Heights,” she continues. “That’s one of the nice things about living here, which is meeting other residents and learning about other activities, travel, or careers that some of the other residents bring to the community. I love my friends and activities at Harbor Heights and learning about new things in the area, even after living here so long and being on the West Side. It’s been a great experience for me,” she says.

Mary Ann Steele, William Hannah and Lyndy Slyker enjoy a day out on the Puget Sound in a dragon boat. Photo credit: Sarah Coates

Mary Ann went out on the dragon boat during Harbor Days last fall and was hooked. She joined the club in January 2024. She also likes being in the front of the boat and loves how the sport keeps her active. “Learning about the sport has been really fun,” she adds. “The people are amazing, and it’s very user-friendly, whether you are brand new to the group or have been paddling for a while.”

Olympia Dragon Boat Club also participates in Harbor Days, where you can go out on the water with them for free, the Lighted Boat Parade in December, and this past year, they did a New Year’s Eve Paddle just before midnight at the Swantown Marina.

Olympia Dragon Boat Festival 2024

Cheer on Lyndy, Mary Ann and the whole crew at the free Olympia Dragon Boat Festival on July 13, 2024, at Port Plaza in Olympia. There will be 16 teams racing throughout the day, with four boats racing at a time. You don’t want to miss the fun and excitement! You may decide you want to join the club too.

And, if you wish home was just a bit closer to all the fun, check out Harbor Heights, a 55+ community in Olympia. Your new neighbor just might change your life, too.

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