The concept of dragon boat racing is quite simple. You take a 40 foot boat and race it down a 500 meter course as fast as you can. That is it. No bells, no whistles, no motors. The typical dragon boat will be filled with 20 paddlers seated in rows of 2, a steers person to direct the boat and a caller to tell the paddlers what to do.
Teams will be lined up at the start line. The race official will blast their air horn and the race starts. Each team will paddle through a series of strokes to get the boat to the finish line before the other teams. A typical race will last about 2 1/2 minutes.
Learning to paddle in a dragon boat is very easy and can be taught to anyone in a matter of minutes. Racing in a dragon boat is another story altogether. You need to train your body and your mind to be able to compete. This part takes time and dedication.
All paddlers need two basic pieces of equipment to paddle. They need a paddle to move the boat and they need a life jacket for safety. Most clubs will have both these items at their paddlers disposal. The life jackets are a generic fit and the paddles are usually made of wood and on the heavier side.
Though club equipment is great when first starting out, most paddlers prefer to have their own equipment. The racing style life jacket is usually the first purchase by new paddlers. They can find one that is more appealing both in fit and colour. The second purchase is usually a better quality paddle. A new paddler will be looking at either a lighter wood paddle, a carbon fiber paddle or a hybrid between the two.
Once the paddle and life jacket are purchased the paddler will turn their attention to other accessories. Items like neoprene gloves, butt pads and paddle specific clothing that complete their wardrobe. A list of local businesses that supply these items is located to the right.
This sport is not for everybody but it is for most people. The sport of dragon boat racing can be a daunting one for a new paddler. You are placed in a boat with 19 other people that you may or may not know. You are asked to put your body through a workout that you have never trained for. You are asked to learn a new vocabulary and you are asked to do all this on the first day of practice. It can be a challenge. Accepting this challenge can and will be very rewarding. One of the most asked questions has to do with fitness levels. Fitness levels within this sport vary from team to team and from club to club. Most new paddlers to the sport will start on a recreational team. Regardless of fitness level a new paddler will slowly and methodically build up an endurance base from practice to practice. They will develop muscle memory from repetition and they will gradually move away from thinking about what they are doing to just doing it.
Their bodies will get stronger, their cardiovascular system will get stronger and their endurance will improve. What they thought was so daunting when they first got into the boat will become second nature. For some paddlers this comes easy, for others it takes a little while.