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'The Need for Giga-Speed' claims Dragon Boat Festival championship win

The final round of the 16th Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival had an unexpected shakeup, which led to the first-time team The Need for Giga-Speed claiming the championship.

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The Need for Giga-Speed team cheers after winning their first championship title on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — There's a new team of champions in town.

The 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival concluded on Saturday, Aug. 6, with an adrenaline-filled finale that saw the top teams race against each other not once, but twice to call the winner.

A last-minute upset during the initial final race caused two boats to briefly collide after the Prostate Paddlers boat accidentally steered toward the wrong lane. This led the judges to call for a redo, and the Prostate Paddlers were disqualified.

This unexpected shake-up threw some teams off balance, but one new team took it as the second chance of a lifetime.

Facing off against stiff competition — the reigning champion HydraHeads and the Nordic Whitecaps, who won Friday night’s Sprint Cup competition — the brand new team The Need for Giga-Speed, of Paul Bunyan Communications, took the chance to rally.

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In a close race that had the crowd holding its breath, The Need for Giga-Speed beat out both the Nordic Whitecaps and the HydraHeads by mere tenths of a second to be crowned the new festival champions.

“We had to gather as much energy as we could, and we just ran on pure adrenaline,” said Rosie Berg, a member of The Need for Giga-Speed. “It was amazing.”

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Members of Paul Bunyan Communications team, The Need for Giga-Speed, celebrate after winning the championship race on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Paul Bunyan Communications team, The Need for Giga-Speed, poses for a group photo after winning the championship race on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

The final race ended with The Need for Giga-Speed taking first with a time of 2:04.24, the Nordic Whitecaps in second at 2:04.65, and the HydraHeads in third at 2:04.95.

The chance for new and unheard-of teams to take the crown is one of the things that makes the Dragon Boat Festival so exciting, especially for organizer Scott Turn.

“It’s fun when you see new teams that do well. You never really know how they’re going to do,” Turn said, and this year’s festival was a prime example of just that.

But for more established teams like the HydraHeads, who had won the voided final by nearly a boat’s length, redoing the race meant they lost out on their 10th championship title as they slipped from first to third.

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The HydraHeads cross the finish line in the championship race on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“We had a good run. We paddled it the way we wanted to,” said Mark Walters, a HydraHeads member, though he added that he still considers this year a half-win. “We’re going to take that initial win as a half, so we’ve won nine and a half.”

Throughout the day, 44 separate teams participated in the races, which marked a return to normal for the festival after a reduced number of teams were able to participate in 2021.

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“I think we raced 36 last year,” said Turn. “We put a lot of time and energy into these things and you hope to get to a point where it’s back to where it was pre-COVID.”

But the racing isn’t the only thing that makes the festival worthwhile to Turn, and the number he was more impressed by was the turnout of this year’s crowd.

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Attendees watch teams race in a morning heat on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“This is probably the most people I’ve seen on the hill watching as spectators, and that’s a lot of fun to see,” Turn said.

The chance to bring together community members and provide a fun, enjoyable activity is part of the reason why Turn worked to organize the festival back in 2006. Over the past 16 years, it’s become a well-known fixture of summer in Bemidji.

“That’s what we hoped this would become. The racing is great, but it’s the things that go on during the week and the people that come out that really make it special.”

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Teams head to the starting line to compete in one of the morning heats on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Off the Edge teammates high-five after racing in an afternoon heat on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

16th annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival winners

Championship

  1. The Need for Giga-Speed of Paul Bunyan Communications: 2:04.24
  2. Nordic Whitecaps of the Bemidji High School Nordic skiing team: 2:04.65
  3. HydraHeads of Headwaters Canoe and Kayak: 2:04.95
  4. Prostate Paddlers: Disqualified 

Gold Cup

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  1. Paddle for Paul of Paul’s Muscle Mecca: 2:06.14
  2. Misfit Paddlers: 2:07.72
  3. Giga Paddlers of Paul Bunyan Communications: 2:08.48
  4. Broadbandits of Paul Bunyan Communications: 2:09.47

Silver Cup

  1. Wooly Irishmen of Keg N’ Cork: 2:08.06
  2. The Dynamic Dragons of Team Stittsworth Counselor Realty: 2:14.19
  3. Dragon Slayers of Oxford Realty: 2:14.44
  4. Coyote 102.5 Howlers of Coyote 102.5: 2:16.62

Bronze Division

  1. First Nautical Bank of First National Bank: 2:18.77
  2. Nortech Terminators of Nortech: 2:19.47
  3. Dondelinger MotoDragons of Dondelinger GM: 2:20.51
  4. Dude, Where’s My Paddle? of the Department of Corrections: 2:23.14
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Teams compete in the bronze division race on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Mike Briggs holds up the Bankers Cup after the Purple Paddlers, from Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, won it on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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A team takes off from the docks to head towards the starting line on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, during the 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

More Dragon Boat Festival coverage
The 16th Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival will take place Wednesday, Aug. 3, through Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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