Dragon Boating Is Colorful Ceremony

Festive and commemorative races are held throughout the world traditionally to celebrate the death of Qu Yuan, in China over 2000 years ago. Legend has it that upon hearing of his death in a river, people rushed to water, beat on drums and splashed the water with paddles to keep fish from the area. The origins of dragon boating are credited to this action and in the 1980s have grown as a competitive sport in the United States.

In dragon boating, long slender boats are rowed with a crew of typically 20, with two more crewmembers on who beats a cadence with a drum and the other who steers the boat as it moves through the water. Although, there are smaller boats with a crew of 10 oarsmen along with one steering and a drummer as well as much larger boats with crews of up to 50. On the larger boats, the drummer is usually located in the center of the boat.

Dragon boating festivals are typically huge events with boats decorated as dragons with colorful paper or cloth and races are held among different teams. While the drummer pounds out a cadence, the people rowing the oars do not necessarily listen to the drum beat to establish a rowing rhythm due to the beat coming from adjacent boats. During dragon boating races, crews typically row in rhythm with the person immediately in front of them.

Synchronized Rowing Wins Races

Synchronized dragon boating must be achieved to have the oars moving through the water at the same time, otherwise the oars may hit the water a split second after the one in front, which creates the caterpillar affect that makes the movement of the boat resemble the movement of a multi-legged caterpillar. When all paddles enter and are pulled through the water in perfect harmony, the boat glides over the surface with seemingly little resistance.

Over the past 25 years, especially since the establishment of the International Dragon Boat Association, the sport of dragon boating has gained in popularity around the world with events held in numerous countries. With China having the longest history of dragon boating, participants there number over 50 million. Canada currently holds three of the biggest dragon boating races in the world outside of China.

Original dragon boating was accomplished by lashing three logs together, similar to a raft, and hollowing them out and raced using oars. Today's boats are usually made of mahogany or teak wood.