A dragon boat is a long boat consisting of around 10 benches. The 20 paddlers sit in pairs, all facing forward and paddling on one side of the boat.

One end of the boat is decorated with a dragon’s head and a drum, the other with a dragon’s tail and the steering arm.

The drummer keeps the crew in time with each other when paddling and the helm at the other end of the boat is in charge of steering the boat and keeping the paddlers motivated.

For training purposes, the head, tail and drum are usually removed. National and international races can vary in length from 200 to 500 metres and even up to 1, 2 or 10 kilometres.

The World Nations Championships are held every two years in countries all around the world. 

Photo by Samuel Wong on Unsplash

Dragon boating is a sport which was created in China more than 2500 years ago. It was originally a complex culture full of traditions evolving around ceremonies and rituals. The racing aspect is just a small part of that culture.


Annual dragon boat festivals were important to honour the Chinese dragon water deity and bless the summer rice planting.

To renew the blessings every year, a ceremonial painting of the eye of the dragon, known as the “Awakening of the Dragon” takes place. During this ritual, rice is being thrown over the dragon’s head to keep the malevolent water spirits away.

The dragon boat festival has been a national holiday in China since 2007 and takes place every 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese calendar.

People traditionally eat rice dumplings, called Zongzi, during the festival.

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash