About Dragon Boating

What is Dragon Boating?

It is a dynamic and exciting watersport, with representation in over 35 countries.

The fibreglass boats are just over 12 m long (~40 ft), weigh about 255 kg (~560 lbs) and hold a crew of 22 – 20 paddlers sitting side-by-side on 10 benches, as well as a sweep who steers the boat and a drummer who beats a large drum at the bow. Dragon boats are brightly painted and are decorated with a dragon head and tail for race events. Theoretically, the crew paddles in time with the drummer, but in practice the timing of the boat is normally set by the front two paddlers (the ‘strokes’) and all the other paddlers take their timing from them.

Regattas are often held on multi-lane courses, like Champion Lakes in Armadale, or in safe inlets or estuaries, such as Leschenault Inlet in Bunbury. In some parts of the world dragon boating is held in harbours, such as Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. Colourful, dynamic and exciting, dragon boat racing is full of spectacle and pageantry but above all else is fun!

Race distances vary, with the standard race distance being 500 m. Sprints of 200 m are common at regattas, as is the 2,000 m race. Longer races ranging from 12 km, 25 km or even 55 km are less common, but a great challenge.

 What is the history of Dragon Boating – The legend of Qu Yuan

The ancient sport of Dragon Boat racing has a intriguing and celebrated history, dating back to 332 BC.

Qu Yuan descended from the imperial family and is one of China’s foremost famous scholars. He is recognised as one of the greatest Chinese poets in history.

Qu Yuan was a statesman and diplomat for the Chu Emperor, and in the time of remorseless wars, he was repeatedly slandered and endured the ongoing jealousy and corruption of his fellow ministers. Qu Yuan’s external alliances and objection to the use of force led him to fall out of the emperor’s favour and was dismissed from office and banished, never to return to power.

Humiliated and living in exile, the ever patriotic Qu Yuan, deeply grieving over the eventual fall of the Chu capitol, tragically drowned himself in the Miluo river on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in that year.

When the news of his suicide reached the villagers, they immediately took to their boats, beating drums and their paddles on the water to frighten fish and water dragons away and prevent them from eating the body of their fallen poet. According to legend, rice dumplings were thrown into the river, both as a sacrifice to Qu Yuan, and in the hope that this would prevent the fish from eating his body, so giving him immortality.

Chinese tradition commemorates the death of Qu Yuan each year at the Dragon Boat festival, when respect is paid to the dragon, ruler of the water.

 How fit do I need to paddle in a dragon boat?

Dragon boating is a fun and accessible sport for people of all ages. If you are a team player who is reasonably fit (e.g. can get in and out of a boat with minimal assistance and can walk up a flight or two of stairs without difficulty) and you enjoy being on the water, then we urge you to give it a go! Dragon boat paddling offers the opportunity for people of all ages to take part in a team sport. There is also an opportunity to meet new people and enjoy a healthy social life. It is the ultimate sport for everyone to learn team work and have a great time.

 Dragon Boating today

Modern dragon boat racing on an international level began in 1976, when the Hong Kong Tourist Association staged the first international festival. Their lead was quickly followed by Penang, Singapore,Macau, Taipei and Bangkok. Now, more than 35 countries worldwide enjoy this sport.

Dragon Boat Racing in Western Australia began in early 1981.

Dragon Boating was officially recognised as a sport by the Australian Department of Sport & Recreation in 2003.

 Useful Links

Australian Dragon Boat Federation


Dragon Boating WA


International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF)



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