Monday, April 8, 2024

The Thrill of Dragon Boat Racing

 During my volunteer work at the Sarasota Invitational Regatta (SIR) at Nathan Benderson Park, I encountered Rickard, a fellow US Army veteran, adorned with a cap bearing the Army insignia. Our shared background quickly led to a conversation about our interests in the SIR, during which Rickard introduced me to the exhilarating world of Dragon Boat racing—a sport I was about to dive into headfirst.

Compelled by my mantra 'Never say I wish I had...,' and despite my extensive background in various paddling sports, I realized I knew nothing about dragon boats. Eager to expand my horizons, I took Rickard up on his offer for a lesson just two days later, embarking on a journey into a new paddling style.

Below, you'll find a 30-second video showcasing a Dragon Boat practice session, expertly captured by NP Paddling Coach, Angela.

Notice there are two types of dragon boats here. One has 20 rowers sitting two to a seat, plus a steerer. The second type has ten rowers, two to a seat, steerer, and a drummer.

This video offers a glimpse into the dynamic world of dragon boat racing.

Can you spot OutdoorSteve in the light purple hat, red life jacket, and sitting on the far side of the closest boat, third-row seat in front of the steerer(be sure to click Full Screen)?

( I edited the below from Nicholas Anderson's, "Exploring the History, culture, and evolution behind this dynamic water sport.")

Dragon boat racing, an ancient Chinese tradition, has evolved into a global phenomenon. The sport originates from the heroic tale of Qu Yuan, integrating cultural significance with the thrill of competition. Today, dragon boats, recognized by their distinctive designs and dragon head adornments, symbolize power, honor, and fortune. Despite its ancient roots, dragon boating has seen a resurgence as a competitive sport and team-building activity, thanks in part to the efforts of the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) established in 1991 to standardize the sport and foster international competition.
For many years, the sport was a leisurely pastime across the world, used primarily as a team-building exercise for various organizations. It has only been in recent years that national dragon boat federations that race have attempted to coordinate to standardize the sport.

Additionally, they are typically custom-built so that they can be properly fitted with the dragon’s head and other traditional details that adorn the hull. Because of these requirements, dragon boats are difficult to build, making them relatively expensive and difficult to find.

Dragon Boat’s main feature is the distinctive long, vibrantly painted rowboat, ceremoniously adorned with a large dragon’s head when in a race. This well-known iconography of the dragon in Chinese culture is associated with power, honor, and good fortune. These ornately carved wooden heads that sit prominently at the bow.

See the Dragon Head

Embarking on the dragon boat journey not only introduced me to a new realm of paddling but also deepened my appreciation for the sport's rich cultural heritage. As I continue to paddle and compete, I'm reminded of the community and camaraderie that dragon boating fosters, uniting paddlers from diverse backgrounds and ages in pursuit of speed, teamwork, and tradition.

Nathan Benderson Park (NBP)


1. From Ancient Tradition to Modern Sport: The Thrill of Dragon Boat Racing – The Science Survey  From Ancient Tradition to Modern Sport: The Thrill of Dragon Boat Racing

2. NBP Paddling Program

3.      Exploring the history, culture, and evolution behind this dynamic water sport. Nicholas Anderson, Staff Reporter • March 12, 2024


Thank you to Rickard Jensen and Angela Long for their tutoring and encouragement.

"Everyone must do something. I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends" S. Priest

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