A dragon boat is a long and slender human-powered watercraft, usually decorated with a head and a tail that resemble the mystical dragon from Chinese culture. The crew of a dragon boat is typically comprised of 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, 1 drummer at the bow facing toward the paddlers, and 1 steerer at the stern of the boat. Dragon boats however vary in length and the crew size will change accordingly, from small dragon boats with 10 paddlers up to the traditional boats which have upwards of 50 paddlers.
Dragon boat racing originated in ancient China during the Warring States era. The legend concerns the tragic story of Qu Yuan, a court official and poet of the State of Chu. Qu Yuan was a champion of political loyalty and integrity, but was wrongfully banished because the king fell under the influence of corrupt politicians. In the year 278 B.C., upon learning of the upcoming devastation of his state from invasion, Qu Yuan waded into the Miluo river to commit ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era. The common people rushed out on the water in their fishing boats to the middle of the river and tried desperately to save Qu Yuan. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles in order to keep the fish and evil spirits from his body. Since then, in commemoration of Qu Yuan, people held dragon boat races annually on the day of his death.
Today, dragon boat racing has grown to be an internationally recognized sport. Dragon boat festivals of all sizes and levels are held all over the world each year, including major competitions such as the World Championships. As one of the fastest growing team sports in Canada, dragon boating provides an unique opportunity for fitness enthusiasts to exercise as a unit and compete as a team, while taking advantage of the great Canadian outdoors.
International Dragon Boat Federation: www.idbf.org
Dragon Boat Canada: www.dragonboat.ca