Once you hear about dragon boat racing and become involved in this world of sport, community and fun, there is no turning back. There is much more to it than a great day on the water. There are different and interesting ways to experience the sport for both team members and spectators. Whether you’ve never paddled in a festival, or you paddle regularly in a dragon boat, you feel connected to it. That’s the beauty of it – from the moment you pick up a paddle, you’ll love dragon boat racing!
Traditional Hong Kong style dragon boats are 46-feet long, with 10 seats and 20 paddlers. A drum seat in front of the first two paddlers (seated beside each other) holds a drummer – you want the smallest, loudest, most rhythmic person you can find. A steerer guides the boat with the steering oar in back. These 22 people make up a dragon boat team. The stroke is unlike any other (the most similar is outrigger canoe) and taught in practice. All ages, skill levels and physiques perfect their stroke and timing for the ultimate teamwork experience!
Every paddler plays a specific role. They sit next to each other, and against the gunnel to balance the boat as they paddle. The strokers occupy the front three seats of the boat, while the fourth seat is a transition place where, ideally, the paddlers have rhythm and power. Then, seats four, five, and six consist of the “engine room,” where the largest and strongest team members sit. The last four rows of a dragon boat are filled with strong paddlers who are also typically shorter and able to paddle faster. Paddlers at this location in the dragon boat are considered “rockets,” because the water is moving faster to them, from the first 14 seats since they’re scooping water back. The paddlers are taught to watch up the middle of the boat and two seats across – when that paddler has his or her paddle up in the air, ready to engage the water, it’s the cue for the person watching to get his or her paddle up, as well. While the drummer plays keeps the rhythm for most of the boat, it can be difficult to hear on race day. It’s also a very visual sport, and if everyone is watching the right person, magic absolutely can happen in a dragon boat. Teams have to follow the strategy, and then execute: the team members in the front must paddle in perfect timing as an example for the back half of the boat. When the power from the middle is mixed with the speed and capabilities of the athletes in the back, a dragon boat can glide quickly through the water like a bullet.
Teams feel a connection to the racing. They feel connected to the experience.Co-workers, church groups, school clubs, greek organizations, athletic teams, friends, family and neighbors all make great dragon boat race teams. Get your team together and sign up today!