Different Strokes Team
Different Strokes Team

Our members consist of individuals who identify themselves as GLBTI, as well as their friends, family and supporters.

Members age from 15 to 60, there are a wide variety of body shapes and fitness levels and a reasonable split between genders.

Lounge Lizards wait! This isn’t just another story about sport. Well, ok it is, but this sport is different. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Ok yes, until I hit my mid 20’s I was 100% sporty dyke. Once I hit my mid 20’s I settled down with the inevitable long-term relationship/s and this is when I became involved with women who considered sport something akin to the antichrist. With a love of bad foods like bacon, chocolate and an assortment of other evil delicacies, who was I to argue with their lifestyle? Finally, I could slow down and see the world while NOM’ing on my favourite foods. To say I became a lounge lizard would be an understatement. SciFi, iPad games and movies became my way of life.

As a result of not exercising and hitting the dreaded “30”, I had gained 30kg and my fitness dropped to the point it was no longer obvious I was once an athlete. My health suffered, I was always lethargic and tired, I had 2 chins and had gone beyond muffin top to “my cake runneth over”.

I had always promised myself that I would get back into sport and try to be more athletic but I wasn’t very good a delivering this promise to myself. In 2011 when my ex-wife and separated I changed my diet, hit the home gym and lost 10kg but I didn’t have what it took to stay focused. I needed a team sport to push me, yet with 20kg extra weight and poor cardio, I was lost as to what to do.

Life takes you on some interesting twists and turns and after relocating to Sydney, an end to a turbulent relationship, losing another 10kg from stress and a change in careers, I found myself at Fair Day 2013 looking at all the team sports. I was overcome with how friendly and happy the club members promoting the sport were, and on the upside you get to sit down while you do the sport. Bonus.

I went to the Open Paddle day and was hooked. Not because of the sport so much, although that’s been a bonus because I had found the most amazing group of people I had ever come across. Different Strokes is a competitive club but they are also the most friendly and inclusive group you will ever come across. Other clubs are very welcoming and Dragon Boating is definitely a family orientated and friendly sport, but Different Strokes is genuinely special.

I’ve really struggled with my fitness up until recently but I’m very surprised at how fit I am now and how far I’ve come since March.I started as someone who could hardly paddle, let alone breathe during training, to now being someone the coach makes a point to tell they’re getting it right. There’s nothing like ending a training session wondering if you’re doing the right thing and having the coach reassurance that you are. It’s a definite confidence booster.

Different Strokes Head Coach, Tanya White, is a bubbly, happy, dedicated coach known for her catchphrase “same, same, but different”. She is more than happy to give you one-on-one time to get your technique right (which does make paddling so much easier) but she’s also just another misfit in the club ready for a pub night, social event or opportunity to let her hair down with the rest of us. You couldn’t have a better combination of professional coach and friend than you do with Tanya.

There is no better person to tell you about our club and Dragon Boating than our Head Coach herself.

We interviewed Tanya between training sessions for our upcoming regatta and our pub night theory lesson.

What is Dragon Boating? 

Dragon Boating is a fast-paced team sport with origins stemming back to Southern China. It is the ultimate team sport with 22 people in a racing crew. Paddlers must work together to propel the boats across sprint distances of 200 – 2000m. Competitive teams will cover 200m in 40 to 50 seconds at rates of up to 100 strokes per minute. The sport is one of the fastest-growing water sports in Australia, attracting people of all ages and fitness.

What is a Dragon Boat and what is the origin of the name? 

The origins of the Dragon Boat festival date back over 2000 years. Originally a religious practice, it is now purely recreational.

The race was traditionally held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of the Chinese Calendar to encourage rains for prosperity. The dragon, the symbol of water was their object of worship. It is said to rule the waterways and dominate rain making.

From this tradition emerged another legend integrating the sport of Dragon Boating with Chinese history. This is the story of Qu Yuan. It’s worth a google!

How is paddling different from rowing?

Paddlers face forward in a boat, rowers face backwards… we love to see our finish line!

Different Strokes Team

What core muscle groups do you use when paddling?

Contrary to popular belief, Dragon Boating is an all-body sport. Whilst it will help, you don’t need to have a strong upper body to excel in dragon boating. Essential to good technique is a strong core. Leg strength and back strength are also important to drive force through the blade. Wall sits, planks and push-ups are some of the favourite pass times of Dragon Boat Paddlers.

What kind of people participate in Dragon Boating in the club? (Who can do it? Size, fitness, etc.?)

Anyone can do it! Dragon Boating is a very inclusive sport that thrives on good team spirit. You don’t have to be super sporty, super fit or a size eight to have a go. If you enjoy working as part of a team, love a personal challenge and are prepared to work hard to get there then it could be the sport for you!

When did the club start & why?

Different Strokes is one of the new clubs on the Sydney Circuit. The club was established in 2008 and predominantly caters for the GLBTI community as well as friends, family and supporters. The club has grown rapidly and is now one of the largest clubs on the Sydney scene with just over 90 members, ranging in age from 15 – 60.

Our love of the sport has seen us develop our competitive edge as well as our social spirit. We have enjoyed increasing club representation at State and National competitions, and when not hard training on the water, you are likely to find us practising for Mardi Gras, hunting out new restaurants or working towards another goal i.e. City to Surf, Urban Challenge and Tough Mudder to name a few!

Is Different Strokes the only GLBTI/PFLAG Dragon Boat crew in Sydney?

It is the only club that predominantly caters for the GLBTI community.

Brief, what is your Dragon Boat experience/history?

As a kid, I used to watch the Chinese New Year races down at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair (I was hardly tall enough to see over the wall!) but stepped into a Dragon Boat for the first time almost fifteen years ago. In that time I have been lucky enough to meet many special people, challenge myself to new heights and had some unforgettable racing experiences.

It is an honour to represent your country and I have to say this has been a highlight of my time in the sport. In particular was the chance to race in China, the home of our sport. Twenty lane highways were decorated with welcome signs to the international Dragon Boaters, people followed us in the street wanting signatures, school groups would surround me on my morning run and want to touch our Australian uniform! I think that was my five minutes of fame (or is this it!)…

Wearing the Australian uniform on Australian soil is also very special in my paddling history. You really could hear the roar of the crowd, and knowing my mum was up in the stands made it pretty special to me. Topped off with a medal and a chance to stand on the podium at the Sydney International Regatta Centre. Amazing!

There are so many great memories over the years beyond paddling like the chance to work with great people in my role on the DBNSW Board and more recently as the Head Coach of Different Strokes. I had an amazing coach in my paddling years, someone who will always remain a mentor to me. I think your coach can really impact your experience in any sport and I hope I can pass on some of the things I learnt.

How long have you been Head Coach?

I have been Head Coach of Different Strokes for 2 years, this is our 3rd season together.

What made you first put your hand up to become the Head Coach?

Funny story. I had actually decided that it was probably time to hang up my paddle when a friend of mine contacted me about the position. I have to say I was a little nervous about going for the job. I hadn’t been to an interview in years and had to come prepared with a CV… what’s that!

What kind of challenges do you find as Head Coach?

I believe Dragon Boating is a sport that offers a safe and supportive environment for people to challenge themselves and achieve great things. In so many areas of our lives, individual performance is the criteria for success. My challenge as a Head Coach is to help our members identify and tap into their potential and then support them in achieving their desired goals.

How does it feel to have your mum and your partner paddle with the club?

I am one of the luckiest kids in the world! My mum and partner are my best friends, to have them so involved in a sport that has been such a big part of my life is very special.

Do you coach your family differently?

I don’t call anyone else in the boat mum! I try to put myself in their shoes. If they were coaching me I would hope to get the same feedback and support that everyone else gets..so no… same-same!

Do you feel you have a strong connection with Different Strokes because it’s a GLBTI/PFLAG club?

My connection to Different Strokes is strong because of the people. I have paddled in a couple of different clubs over the years and I have to say I have never experienced such a strong team spirit and sense of support across the whole club as I have with Different Strokes. I have paddled with top crews and within the crew, there is an unbreakable and unquestionable team spirit but in Different Strokes, this runs across the whole club… no matter what your paddling or sporting CV might say!

Are you currently part of or affiliated with any other clubs?

I am currently the Chairperson of Sydney Zodiacs. This is the first Youth exclusive Dragon Boat Club in Sydney

What made you get involved with Juniors? 

A meeting of the minds… and a walk around the Bay!

After a discussion around the benefits of Dragon Boating, my partner and I started up a business called Leaps and Bounds Ahead offering Dragon Boating Programs to schools, corporate and community groups. Some of the kids really enjoyed their experience and were keen to take it further. It was then that we realised we had an opportunity to start up a youth exclusive club for young people aged 12 – 23 years to train and race together… and so Sydney Zodiacs was born!

How do you juggle all of your commitments?

I really don’t know! Secretly, I think mum joined dragon boating so she gets a chance to see me!

Since becoming coach of the team, are there any high points that stand out?

Stacks! Seeing some of our club members wearing the NSW jersey and the smiles when they received their hard-earned medals. The absolute joy of our boys when they won a silver medal down in Nowra this year which was a first for our club! Being part of the Mardi Gras festivities with an amazing group of people! I could go forever…

How does it feel to have so many of the clubs chosen to represent NSW and more recently, to have one of our club represent Australia (and get a gold medal) over in Hungry?

I’m really proud of all our members who take up the challenge to trial for State and National Representation. It is a fantastic opportunity and experience. I encourage anyone who is thinking about it to have a go. To have one of our clubs represent Australia and bring back gold is equally as impressive.

Do you have any funny stories from your time with the club?

On my first day with the club, I was introduced by the President at the time and remember feeling daunted by the number of people. I have never been good with names! I spotted a member with pink hair so figured if I learnt her name then I would remember it… until they came to training 3 weeks later and the pink was gone.

What would you say would be the most outstanding feature of the club?

The friendly and supportive nature of the members.

In particular, why is the club seeking more women than men now?

We are keen to field a competitive men’s and women’s crew this year. Our men’s numbers are looking good (although we always welcome more!) but we would love a few more girls to come and help us build our women’s crew!

Why should I join/try/do it? 

If you are looking for a way to get fit, stay fit, meet people, or just have fun challenging yourself in a safe sport that anyone can do, then why not try it.

What would be your advice to anyone interested in coming along to try Dragon Boating?

The advice given to me was to lock yourself in for three sessions. The first will hurt, the second you’ll wonder, the third you’ll be hooked… it was quite true!

In the words of Albert Einstein… the only source of knowledge is experience.




If you’re interested in trying Dragon Boating but you’re really not sure about it we have the perfect opportunity for you on the 14th of September. We are holding an Open Paddle for anyone interested with a BBQ to follow. How could you go wrong?! Come along and join us, it really is an amazing group of people and it’s a lot of fun because of it.


When:                   14th September 2013

Time:                    8:00 – 10:00am

Where:                 Bank Street, Pyrmont (Google maps actually notes the location as ACCA Dragon Boat Club)

What to wear:     Loose fitting clothes and closed in shoes. T-shirt, shorts and shoes you don’t mind getting wet (just in case).

Don’t forget we have a BBQ afterwards J

If you have any queries please feel free to contact us via Facebook or our website www.differentstrokes.org.au