Out 2 Paddle, a gay rowing team sponsored by metropolitan Washington's Asian/Pacific-Islander Queers United for Action (AQUA), took the gold at the sixth annual Dragon Boat Festival last weekend.
The traditional Chinese race, held at the Thompson Boat Center on the Georgetown waterfront on Saturday, May 19, and Sunday, May 20, attracted nearly 1,500 participants from across the country, who formed more than 60 teams to compete in various categories.
Out 2 Paddle, the only gay team participating in the event, won the 500-meter final in the ''open'' category, breaking last year's record by finishing just a few seconds past two minutes, according to Linh Hoang, AQUA board co-chair.
''There's a fun, competitive aspect,'' says Hoang, ''but at the same time, it's raising visibility, and building a bridge, letting people know that we're here, we're gay and we love paddling as well.''
John Tinpe, a member of AQUA, also participated in Out 2 Paddle.
''[Our win] meant that gays are good in sports too,'' Tinpe says. ''We surprised a lot of people, because our team was very openly gay, and very camp[y]. It was a very tough challenge, but we were hopeful and we kept it fun.''
Tinpe laughs that their team of 19 men and one woman took Paris Hilton's troubles as inspiration: ''We said we were rowing for justice, and our slogan was 'Free Paris!'''