Bob and Donna Hobkirk will compete in the 2019 IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships later this month.
Plant City is about to be well-represented on one of the biggest stages in the world of dragon boat racing.
Bob and Donna Hobkirk, both Plant City natives and Plant City High School alumni, are competing with Team USA in Pattaya, Thailand at the 14th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships from Aug. 20-25. It’s Bob Hobkirk’s second international stint with Team USA and Donna Hobkirk’s first.
The couple has been involved with the sport since 2003, when they joined TECO’s team in that year’s International Dragon Boat Festival in Tampa. As dedicated athletes and lovers of Mother Nature, the sport was perfect for them. And as they got older, dragon boat racing proved to be something they could continue to do competitively and have a lot of fun with.
“For people our age, there’s not many other team sports,” Donna Hobkirk said. “They do have adult softball and things like that but since I can’t run anymore, my team sports are pretty limited.”
The couple has since relocated to Satellite Beach, just four miles from where they practice with their regular team, Heart & Soul Dragon Boat Paddlers.
Staying in shape has never been an issue for the Hobkirks. Both have always been heavily involved in sports, even from a young age. At PCHS, Bob Hobkirk played football and ran track while Donna was a member of the cheerleading team. Bob Hobkirk competed in Plant City’s “Superstars” athletic competition in his 20s and once won the event. They biked more than 1,800 miles completing the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route in 2017, and have competed in numerous running races, triathlons and Ironman events. They currently train anywhere from 10 to 15 hours per week by land and sea and always find time for workouts at Anytime Fitness during their frequent travels. In addition, the Team USA coaching staff keeps everyone on their toes at all times.
“Our coach kept the pressure on us,” Bob Hobkirk said. “Plus, about a month ago, we had to submit a 1,000-meter time trial. We were doing all this to stay in condition.”
Bob Hobkirk is back with the Team USA after last making the cut in 2015 for the championship series in Welland, Ontario, Canada. Donna Hobkirk planned to try out in 2017 but fell ill on the day of tryouts. This is the first time both have tried out and made the cut in the same year, though they found out at different times: Bob Hobkirk learned in February he had made the cut, while Donna Hobkirk’s coach confirmed her spot in May.
“They wanted to make sure everyone was in peak condition, so they didn’t want to tell you ahead of time,” she said. “They found that sometimes people lallygagged a little bit after they found out.”
The Hobkirks will compete in 200-meter, 500-meter, 1K and 2K races in Pattaya. Bob Hobkirk said the US senior men’s and women’s teams have never won a gold medal in the championships, so they’re hoping they’ll be able to help change that later this month. They’ll make the 30-hour flight from Orlando to Thailand on Aug. 14, spend a few days taking in the sights before practices start and then start competing for real after the Aug. 20 opening ceremony.