On this page, we’ll describe some of the fundamentals of dragon boating that all participants should know going into practices and the festival.
Crew Roles and Responsibilities
- 18 – 20 paddling at any given time
- Responsible for keeping a quiet and focused boat
- Responsible for listening to and following instructions quickly
- Stands at the back of the boat with the steering oar
- Sets the path the boat is to take
- Responsible for the safe operation of the dragon boat
- Knows the correct boat crew commands to call out
- Ensures safety equipment is on the boat
- Is the person, ultimately, in control of the boat
- Once away from the dock, the steersperson will hand over the control of the boat to the drummer who will then lead the practice or call the race
- At any time the steersperson can take over the boat for safety reasons
- Sits at the front of the boat with the drum
- Controls the boat during practice or during a race
- Prior to docking, the drummer will hand control back to the steersperson
- Together the drummer and steersperson bring the boat back into the dock
- The only exception to this is the steersperson can take over the boat at any time for safety reasons
- Responsible for the safety of the crew from sides and back
- Coaches the crew through the practice
- Knows the correct boat crew commands to call out
- Sets the race tactics and calls the race
- The paddlers that sit in the front row of the boat
- Leads the paddlers in stroke rate and timing
- Drummer and lead stroke must be in time with each other
- Drummer and lead stroke are in constant communication as to what is happening in the boat and around the boat
- Drummer calls commands based on the entry of the strokes’ paddles
- Two more strokes may be used, in the middle of the boat, to help keep paddlers in time
- Essential that both sets of strokes coordinate timing
- Some sort of reflective tape on the inside wrist of the strokes may help paddlers see the strokes and to keep time
Paddling & Boat Commands
- Paddles Up: Ready to paddle. Paddles are poised above the water ready to take a stroke. Commonly used for starting the movement of the boat in a non-race situation. The paddles are paused in the catch position until the command to start paddling is given.
- Lean Out: Stabilizing position within the boat where the upper body is shifted so that 70% of the body weight is on the gunwale leg. The shaft of the paddle is resting on the gunwale.
- Take it away: Begin paddling. The command to begin paddling; usually follows the command Paddles Up. Commonly used for starting the movement of the boat in a non-race situation.
- Let it run (or ride): Stop paddling and let the boat coast. The blades are out of the water with the shaft resting on the gunwale.
- Brace the boat: To stabilize the boat. Paddle blades flat on the surface of the water with blades gently feathering back and forth. The shaft of the paddle pressed against the top of the gunwales.
- Hold the boat: Bring the boat to a full stop with the use of the paddles. Paddlers thrust blades vertically into the water to bring the boat to a halt.
- Check for drift: To prevent the boat from drifting from side to side. Paddles are in the water with the blade running parallel to the boat and the shaft is held against the gunwale.
- To back up the boat: Paddle backwards. The stroke used to bring the boat backward into or away from the dock or a race start.
START this one with “paddles up”…
then “paddles back”…
then ”take it away”
- Draw / Draw stroke: Stroke used to line a boat up straight at the start of a race or to turn a boat around. The paddle is placed perpendicular to the side of the boat and ‘drawn’ towards the boat, usually by designated paddlers. You must call WHOM you wish to paddle (ex. right side, back 3 right).
- Pry / Pry stroke: Stroke used to line a boat up straight at the start of a race or to turn a boat around. The paddle is placed perpendicular to the side of the boat and ‘pried’ or pushed away from the boat, usually by designated paddlers. You must call WHOM you wish to paddle (ex. right side, back 3 right).
- Paddles in the boat: Paddles completely in the boat.
- Time it up: To get the paddlers back into synchronization so the paddles enter the water at the same time.
- Listen up: Paddles in the relaxed position, parallel over the water. The crew should be ready to listen to the drummer or the coach.
- Focus in the Boat: Command to bring the focus back into the boat. Command can be used prior to a race start or during a practice to bring the paddler’s focus back into the boat.
- Stroke: Refers to one cycle of the paddling motion.
What to Bring to Practice
- Water bottle with a lid (the bottom of the boat is not clean so you might prefer a water bottle with a waist attachment)
- Change of clothes, especially if the weather is cool or it is raining
- Something to drink after the practice
- Nutritious snack for after practice
- Waterproof Sunscreen and insect repellant… lots of both… trust us.
- Lip balm
- Any required medication
- Note: If you must bring a cell phone or a pager on the boat, bring a zip lock bag to secure it in during the practice
What to Wear to Paddle
- Loose fitting clothing for ease of movement
- Clothing that dries quickly / wicks moisture away is ideal
- Do not wear denim or blue jeans… it’s the kind of mistake that people only make once
- No jewelry, especially rings or earrings as they could cause injuries or you could lose them
- Capris or shorts work well. Some paddlers prefer cycling shorts. Long pants may be preferred early in the season or for cooler weather conditions.
- Supportive footwear with good treads that will grip when you on the wet docks and get in and out of the boat are essential. These can be old running shoes or water shoes. Remember they will get wet. NO flip flops… another mistake that people only make once
- Hat – Avoid baseball caps as they may blow off your head or impede your paddling.
- Sunglasses – the kind you don’t mind losing in the water, or the kind with those rad strings to keep them on you
- Paddling gloves (optional)
- If it is raining, wear rain gear but remember it must fit under the lifejacket.
- If it is cold, be sure to bring a change of clothes. Layering clothes works best.