An Interview with Aaron Soroka, Director of Business Devleopment - GWN Dragon Boat | Sports Destination Management

An Interview with Aaron Soroka, Director of Business Devleopment - GWN Dragon Boat


What is the mission of your organization?
Dragon boat racing is the fastest growing water sport in the world. Great White North (GWN) Dragon Boat, the continent's largest, full-service dragon boat racing company is helping to drive that expansion in North America. We turn planning a dragon boat event into a turnkey operation, supplying everything from expert event staff to the actual dragon boats.

GWN is the driving force in developing the presence of Dragon Boat Racing at an elite and grass roots level in communities across Canada and the United States. Delivering a professional level of event management similar to other sports events, GWN strives to always be on the cutting edge of the dragon boating, leading the charge of product development, marketing and client services.

Part of fulfilling that mission is helping to create and implement successful inaugural events as well as giving local organizing committees the tools to manage the event independently in subsequent years. GWN has also developed specialized corporate team building opportunities to assist in promoting group spirit and teamwork in companies and organizations throughout North America.

Nationally, how many participants do you have?
Of the several events that we own and run, our largest event, the GWN Dragon Boat Challenge, attracts 5,000 participants. We also execute other events all across North America, ranging from inaugural events to events that are well on their way to establishing a strong following. These events can range from 750to 4,500 participants.

How many events are held each year?
In North America alone, there are over 100 dragon boats each year. GWN produces approximately 50 of these events.

In what regions/locations are they held?
Currently, GWN promotes and provides services for events all across North America, with a number of events in Canada, and the Southeast, Midwest and Northeast U.S. We have also supplied equipment as far off as South Africa.

As an organization, what do you look for in a location?
We are a dragon boat event production company, so generally we are contacted by locations interested in creating their own event. The first step is usually to discuss what kind of water they need, resources, the kind of equipment that we will provide.

A lot of elements come together to create a successful dragon boat event, so we place equal importance on the quality of the water venue and the land-based infrastructure, including the team that will be executing things like sponsorships, team registration and marketing. As far as actual water goes, dragon boating can be hosted on a wide variety of flat water environments, depending on the size of the event. Dragon boating also incorporates very well into existing waterfront festivals.

From an event management standpoint, what is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The logistics involved in moving 40 boats throughout North America poses the biggest challenge. Some weekends, there are teams in as many as six cities running events. Another challenge, one we really enjoy, is attracting participants. The sport attracts a very diverse group of passionate and committed competitors, dragon boat teams that compete together regularly. But our goal is to involve the whole community, not just the people who already know about dragon boating. That means we have to work hard to entice novice rowers to hop in a boat and give the sport a try. At the end of the day, they always love it.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The growth and development of the sport is most rewarding. It's so exciting to play a role in increasing awareness and popularity for a sport that only a few years ago had only a few, dedicated followers. If the sport continues to grow as it has over the past 10 years, and we intend to ensure that it does, it won't long before there are clubs and events across North America in every city with water.