At 90 years young, Camden Haven’s Fran Jordan keeps paddling on

Fran Jordan holding her ‘achievement paddle’ alongside the President of the Camden Haven Dragon Boat Club, Anni Yaringa, outside its boat shed in Laurieton. Photo: Virginia Harvey.

CONFIRMED by the Australian Dragon Boat Federation as the oldest active Dragon Boat Club member in Australia, at 90 years young Fran Jordan keeps powering along.

Fran represents the Laurieton-based Camden Haven Dragon Boat Club (CHDBC), whose 83 members enjoy the region’s spectacular waterways while gaining fitness and cardiovascular exercise.

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Coming from a working background involving juvenile justice for 20 years in Wollongong, Fran never imagined she would take to water-based activity in later life.

“My late husband [Alan] and I moved to the Laurieton area to retire (in the mid-2000s), and I heard that a Dragon Boat Club was starting up.

“That was about seventeen years ago, and I have been paddling ever since,” Fran said.

“I have always been a bit nervous on the water, especially on boats, but I thought in the company of other people in the boat, I would be safe,” Fran said.

Awarded with life membership of CHDBC, Fran said she usually paddles two times a week, and enjoys the social interaction and mixing with people of all ages.

“It has also built up my upper-body strength very well, and it keeps my body in good working order.

“They (paddlers) are good company and you learn a lot from different people, especially at my age.”

Currently serving as a CHDBC committee member, Fran also loves to compete at regattas, and has won several medals and awards.

“I have been to many regattas with the state or national teams at Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane, and I have paddled at different clubs up and down the coast.”

Fran can list about 20 medals she has won, and was presented with a special paddle listing all her achievements at her 90th birthday party last year by Anni Yaringa, president of the CHDBC.

“Fran is amazing and an inspiration to everybody,” Anni said.

“There is not a single person in the club that does not think of her as a surrogate ‘Mum’, and we are constantly reminded of the fact at her age she still gets in and has a go.

“Fran has had to contend with breast cancer earlier in her life, and had a heart operation about four years ago, and she still drives herself to and from dragon boating.”

While dragon boating originated in southern China more than 2000 years ago, modern dragon boat racing began on Hong Kong harbour in the late 1970s, and spread across the world.

In a standard boat there are 20 paddlers (two rows of ten), a steering sweep at the back, plus a ‘coach’ or drummer (to beat out the paddlers’ speed) at the front.

NSW boasts over 3200 paddlers who belong to 63 affiliated clubs, including the CHDBC, which was established in 2008.

The CHDBC possesses three boats; two seating 20 and the other ten.

The club schedules eight runs weekly across six days.

“While our (CHDBC) members’ median age would be in the 60s, they range from 24 to 90,” Anni said.

CHDBC is among thirteen dragon boat clubs in the state’s northern coastal region.

By Virginia HARVEY

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