Visually impaired paddlers compete at Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival

WATCH: The 27th annual Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival kicked off this weekend, and a team made up of blind rowers proves there are many different ways to see success

The Eye of the Dragon team wasn’t the first to cross the finish line at this weekend’s Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, but they didn’t seem too upset by the result.

After their race on Saturday, the paddlers shouted their team slogan: “We can’t see you beating us!”

Eye of the Dragon is a dragon boat team consisting largely of blind and visually impaired paddlers. More than 5,000 participants and 128 teams took part in this weekend’s competition, one of the largest of its kind outside of Asia. So how do visually impaired paddlers compete?

“We actually go by the feel of the boat,” said Eye of the Dragon member David Brun. “The boat has a real rhythm that goes to it as the boat surges and drops a little bit. It really tells you when to drop your paddle into the water, do the pull, and then recover and do it all over again.”

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Team members say they get much more out of their experience than following a leader and gliding through the water.

“Life doesn’t end,” said team member Mike Hocevar. “It just carries on and you [adapt]. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but darn, it’s sure inspiring to be a part of this whole thing.”

“It’s about celebrating abilities,” added team co-captain Liz Charyna. “I know that it’s been a place too for people that have been diagnosed with eye conditions…we’ve have people on the team who come on and say, ‘it’s going to be OK.'”

-with files from Julia Foy

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