Ready, set, paddle…

My dragon boat team pauses to stretch in the sun.

Dragon boat racing originated in China and traditional dragonboats seat up to 50 paddlers. The smaller dragon boats at the Dragon Boat Club in Kelowna, BC fit 20 paddlers seated two by two plus a caller in the front and a steerer in the back.

As the caller drums or chants, the paddlers plunge their paddles into the water, pulling the boat swiftly along with their rhythmic synchronized strokes.

Unlike the sideways motion of the paddles in canoeing or kayaking, dragonboat racers lift their paddles straight into the air and reach their paddle straight ahead. Like pistons in an engine the paddles lift vertically up and down in unison, powering the boat ahead.

The two paddlers in the front of the boat are called the “strokes”. Along with the drummer, they set the pace for the whole boat. When their arm goes up, everyone’s arm goes up. When they bury their blade, everyone buries their blade, deep in the water.

“The water is your friend” chants the coach. As you slice your paddle into the water the break catches your blade, allowing you to pull the boat up to your paddle and then just as your outside arm is about to bend you “release” and your paddle pops out of the water.

This is just in time for you to twist your body towards your partner and reach your paddle ahead, all while keeping your paddle vertical and not bobbing your head.

“Timing” reminds the coach. We can’t forget to watch up and across the boat so that all our paddles strike the water in one beat. The adrenaline rushes and the sun beats down and the water splashes your arms. Splash. Make that, the water splashes your whole body…

“What’s the most important part of dragon boat racing?” asks the coach. “Focus” yells one. “Timing” chants another.

“Having fun!” cheers the coach.

We are called the Red Hot Chili Paddlers. If you are interested in sponsoring our team in exchange for advertising exposure, you can download a PDF of sponsorship opportunities here.

“Paddle away, paddle away, paddle away now,
Paddle away, paddle away, paddle away now.”

Filed under: Dragon boating.

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