The History of Dragon Boat Racing

A Very Special Chinese Tradition

The History of The Dragon Boat

The Dragon has a very symbolic meaning for the Chinese. A classic dragon has the head of an ox; a deer’s antlers; the mane of a horse; the body and scales of a snake; the claws of an eagle and the tail of a fish. With its strength and power, the dragon rides the clouds in the sky and commands the wind, mist and rain.

The dragon boat is deeply embedded in China’s “Dragon” culture, with each boat having an ornately carved dragon’s head at the bow and a tail in the stern. The Hull is painted with the Dragon’s scales. The paddles symbolically reprfesent the claws. In IDBF Sport Racint there are generally 18 – 20 paddlers per standard size dragon boat and 8 – 10 paddlers in the small boat, plus a drummer and a helm (steer). In traditional festivals the boat designs and crew numbers can vary from 10 – 50 or more paddlers, plus of course the drummer and helm.

The races are a colorful spectacle with at least two boats competing against each other over distances from 250 – 500 meters. Not only are strength, endurance and skill important but teamwork and harmony of purpose.

Currently, dragon boating has evolved into a world-wide recreational and cultural activity and has developed alongside paddling sports. A dragon boating and paddle sport in Santa Barbara is about recreation and good clean competition. There are several international and national groups dedicated to the sport. With nearly 50 million participants in China; over 300,000 in the UK and Europe, including Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Russia; 90,000 in Canada and the USA and many thousands in Australia and New Zealand and with the sport now spreading through the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific Basin; Dragon Boat Sport, under its governing bodies is a vibrant, effective and independent paddle sport.