SARASOTA, FL (June 19, 2023) — While Nathan Benderson Park (NBP) is world renowned for rowing, its paddling program is taking the international spotlight. Ten NBP dragon-boat paddlers – the largest number in park history – were selected to represent Team USA this summer at the 16th International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) World Dragon Boat Racing Championships.  The biennial event will be held this year in Pattaya, Thailand on August 7-13.

Hundreds of contenders competed at national events over the last two years vying for a chance to compete on the world stage this summer. Team USA members are chosen in age groups and for boat size, which includes standard boat crews of 10 paddlers and small boats crews of five paddlers. Each boat also has a drummer at the bow and a steerer who stands in the stern of the boat with a long oar.

NBP’s newest team member, Paul Hoffmann, is a three-time Team USA member, making the roster in 2019, 2021 and 2023. NBP team members selected for the second time to represent Team USA are steerer Angela Long and paddlers Mandy Boyers, Doreen Clyne and Don Bickel. Making their world debuts are paddlers Brian Long, Dana Trimble, Duneska Grant, Joni Carone and drummer Paula Murray.

“The 2021 event in Hong Kong was cancelled due to the pandemic, so we’re ready and excited for this opportunity to compete at the world championships,” said Long, dragon boat coach for Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy. “We started with one member making the U.S. team and have steadily improved over the years to now have 10 contenders selected. Everyone on this roster has proven that they can be competitive on the world’s biggest dragon boat racing stage.”

Long said Beth Turconi, a two-time Team USA veteran, was “instrumental to the paddling program’s growth and success.” Turconi was the only NBP athlete to make the cut in 2019 and was selected again for Team USA in 2021. This year, she’ll be sharing her experience and encouragement to help get the group ready for the summer event.

In alternate years to these biennial championships, entire club teams qualify for the club crew national and world championships. The next national club crew championship is at Nathan Benderson Park July 21-22, 2023.

“We are so proud of this tremendous 10 on their achievements,” said Bruce C. Patneaude, chief operating officer of Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy. “With Coach Angela at the helm, the NPB paddling program is poised for long-term success. Paddling, specifically dragon boat, is a sport for all.  We invite the community to get involved at NBP, whether as a paddler, volunteer or supporter.”

The park’s paddling program has steadily grown over the last several years. Part of the program’s success is credited to the facility and its staff. The NBP conservancy provides coaching, clinics, timing, logistical support, promotion and communications, as well as equipment for the program and its paddlers. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, the conservancy purchased several outrigger canoes so paddlers could continue practicing while maintaining social distance.

aerial shot of Nathan Benderson Park