top of page

Meet The Paddlers

Meet our Leader, Inspiration and Head Coach………..

Meet Lee Curtis, head coach of Bristol Empire Dragon Boat Club, paddler on Great Britain Premier national team and Paddlesports Racing Canoe Club, ex-paddler on Great Britain U18 national team. World Champion U18 2017.

Lee is the heartbeat of our club and is a real presence in every sense! He is trained to the highest qualified coaching standards and is a former World Champion! We all learn and gain inspiration from Lee and his coaching techniques are inspirational to our beginners, intermediates and advanced paddlers. Lee is supported by a number of members qualified to Level 2 BDA standards, so we are privileged to have such an experienced coaching team.


Who you are?
I am James and I am the current Chairman of the Bristol Empire Dragons. I am 48 years young and husband to Nicky and father to Ellie. Dogs and horses consume most of our time and income!
How long have you been a member?
I joined in August 2021, so I am one of the newer members of the club.
Why do you paddle?
For me, it is about regular physical exercise which doesn't aggrevate my lower back and to meet new people. The most important element however, is to improve my mental health, which I suffer with. I find time on the river massively improves my mental wellness.
What do you do off the water?
I work in the wine trade so gastronomy is a big part of my life. I love to cook at home (especially on the BBQ) and enjoy a glass or two of my favourite wine. I support both Bristol City and Bristol Bears and watch loads of live sport whenever I can.
Fun Fact...
I am a fully qualified advanced PADI Scuba Diver and never happier than when I am submersed below the ocean and surrounded by aquatic life. I actually proposed to my wife Nicky on a dive off the barrier reef, 16 metres under water!
Why should anyone want to join BED?
Dragon Boat Racing has to be one of the most inclusive of all sports. We have paddlers on the boat from teenagers to pensioners and a pretty equal split of men and women. We always have fun, but you know you have had a workout after a training session or race event. 

James Burston (Chairman)

Claire Gane.jpg

Claire Gane - Regular Paddler


Abbie Redmond - Committee Member

Who you are?

I am Abbie and I am the Social Secretary for the club. I am 35 years old and in my professional life I am an Executive Assistant. I love to organise things, a true Capricorn trait. My family refer to me as their Capricorn Queen!

How long have you been a member?

I joined in June 2021, after discovering the club by chance when I came across it on a map, whilst out on a bike ride nearby!

Why do you paddle?

I enjoy the variety that paddling provides and I love the team spirit. Each time we go out on the water is different, we never know what the helm is going to challenge us with! You really have to concentrate to stay in the rhythm of your fellow paddlers and follow instructions from the helm, so it’s a great way to switch off from daily life.

What do you do off the water?

Since returning to my hometown of Bristol during lockdown following a 15 year stint in London, I really enjoy spending quality time with my family and friends, making up for lost time! I have four nieces ranging from the age of 18 to 1, so when i’m not on the water, I will most likely be found running around after them!

Fun Fact...

I helped to deliver my youngest niece, Goldie, who made a very fast, surprise arrival at home on the kitchen floor!

Why should anyone want to join BED?

It’s an inclusive sport, which is good for the mind, body and soul. Not only do you get a challenging workout, you will also meet some wonderful people and make some great friends. We also have a beer fridge, so there are lots of beers to try after a hard paddle!


Philip NG - Regular Paddler

Who you are?

Hi all, my name is Philip and my family name is NG, which doesn't mean NO! In Chinese it is literally a count of numbers 5. So next time when we see each other, maybe you can give me a Five!

How long have you been a member?

l moved from Hong Kong last November of 2021 but l just couldn't wait to join you guys as l had done my home work before coming. Tell you, having a Dragon Boat team to join is one of the major reasons, or say the main reason compromised with my wife, that l came to Bristol!

Why do you paddle?

l paddle for love because l enjoy a teamwork and loves shedded on me by the team members. you guys.

l also paddle for belief, be it religious or traditions. ln Chinese cults and myth, each Dragon boat is spirited with a diety and will protect its worshippers for health and lucks. l may see the Dragon boat as my big brother who would always watch over me for my deeds and personal belief.

What do you do off the water?

I am approaching 60 in November of this year and, being new to here, l think l will be, though unwillingly, given an early retirement. However, l will never retire in Dragon boating. 

Fun Fact About Me..

l am honoured, or embarrassed, to be named "Phil the Splasher" last Sunday morning by the BED teammates because l am always too generous to offer our teammates free showers if they were just sitting in front of me in the boat!

Why should anyone want to join BED?

As said in the above, BED is an inclusive team for fun and joy in dragonboat, no matter you are just aged 8 or proudly to claim 80, speak flawless English, well, the Bristolian accent, or my poor Hongkongers accent, or, physically strong as our Monster Coach Lee.

Who are you?

Hi I’m Claire, I’m 52, wife to Paul & mum to Phoebe and our fur baby Ted!

I met my husband whilst I was out jogging one night and he offered me a lift home! He could clearly see me struggling lol! I knew then he was a keeper!

How long have you been a member?

I joined the club recently in April 2022 so a real newbie! I saw an advert on Facebook looking for new recruits and as I’ve always loved the water thought I’d give it a try!

Why do you paddle?

I’ve always loved exercise I find it a great way to relieve stress at the end of the day and combined with water it’s the perfect combination for me! I love it!

What do you do off the water?

I am a hairdresser by trade and am now also the very proud owner of an online clothing company, CeCe’s that I started during the pandemic!

I also love walking my gorgeous cockapoo Sir Ted, he’s a real Bobby dazzler and the love of my life, sssh! Don’t tell the hubby!

Fun fact about me

I’ve always had a love of horses and used to be a regular volunteer with the RDA riding for the disabled association who were involved with teaching children and adults from a deaf and blind school how to ride….. It was a joy to see their faces and I loved being involved with it

Why should anyone want to join BED?

I’ve always loved fitness in various forms but particularly love being near the water so when I saw The Bristol Empire dragons looking for new recruits I thought I’d go and see what it was all about! It’s right on my doorstep but I’d never really heard much about it until I saw the advert on Facebook.

I went along to a training session not really knowing much about dragon boating but thought how hard could it be lol?

Everyone there was so welcoming and inclusive, various ages & experience! And a few other newbies like me! I felt at ease immediately and loved the team spirit even though I didn’t know most of these people!

The session was fantastic, lots of banter from the helm as well as super instruction I loved it and knew then that I was well and truly hooked! Each session is varied as are the crew that you paddle with.

There’s lots to learn and my fitness has improved week after week, it’s a full on workout, and ladies it’s great for your bingo wings It’s a great fun water sport, so expect to get a little bit wet lol!

My advice to anyone would be come & give it a go you may catch the bug like I did!

bottom of page