Dozens compete in 16th annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Festival

Paddles cut through the water, propelling competitors from all over the world one stroke closer to victory. 

"The strategy is basically making sure you lock it in, don't really pay attention to what's going on around, just focus on your boat, because that's the only boat you can control out there," said Mika McGee Kleinschmidt, a member of the Tampa Bay Blade Runners. 

Over 40 teams took part in the 16th annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Festival. Some participants have been training for the event for months. 

"We train hard, three days a week at Julian B Lane Park, but this is the one we are training for," said  Kleinschmidt.

But for some athletes, the event is more about comradery than competition. 

The Dueling Dragons from Orlando were on the water rowing for change in an attempt to bridge the gap as cops and kids sat side by side. 

"When I was growing up, I actually wanted to be a cop. I never experienced next to being next to cop, so it's actually fun for me," said 13-year-old Maleak Bennett, a member of the team. 

It's a relationship that has benefited the kids involved, while also impacting the officers as well. 

"They're just more talkative, and they want to get to know us better and vice versa. So it's a good experience to get to talk to them and learn more about what's going on in their lives," said Officer Miguel, a police officer involved in the program. 

For other teams, the battle has already been won. 

"We were told a long time ago, you can't do anything with your arms after surviving breast cancer and we proved that that's wrong," said Tessie Young, a member of the Pink Dragon Ladies. 

Young's team, all survivors of various forms of cancer, use the competition to support each other through some of the toughest walks of life.

"One of our members right now is at home struggling, fighting, fighting, fighting. That's what we're about," Young said. "We have fun on the water, but we're a family. We come together in situations like this."

Whether it's for support or sport, spectators and athletes alike are already marking their calendars for next year, looking forward to a day where dragons have the ability to bring people together for all the right reasons.