Dragon boat racing is one of the most lively, competitive summer events in Hong Kong. This popular Chinese tradition recalls the death of ancient poet Chu Yuan and pays respect to the dragon, known to be the ruler of the water. It started more than 2,000 years ago in China, where dragon boat racing gained international recognition.
These boats are used to transport their warriors into battle and their name was inspired by the thumping sound that came from the boats as the men stroked through the water. Today, this water sport is now being enjoyed in more than 35 countries. This type of sport is extremely difficult to find a steady rhythm as a team. So if you have plans to be an aspiring paddler, here are some of the most important things you need to know.
HISTORY OF DRAGON BOAT RACING
Also, this traditional Chinese watersport is held during the Tuen Ng Festival, that happens yearly around May or June on the Western calendar. This festival is connected with the myth of Qu Yuan, which burst in written form as early as the 7th century. Qu Yuan was a known poet and high-ranking official of the Warring States Period (402-221BC) who was expelled from his state by a corrupt king. When Qu heard that his court had been knocked down by enemies, he drowned himself out of agony. It is believed that villagers who supported Qu went out in the river with boats and drums to try to save his body and tossed sticky rice dumpling (zongzi) into the water to prevent fish from eating his corpse, but they failed to find him.
However, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), dragon boat racing fell out of fashion. The practice was connected with the feudal superstition and considered as an outdated custom that arranged poorly with the revolutionary spirit of the time. This became the reason for Chinese dragon boat racing to be banned for a while and its popularity was extremely diminished.
But not until 1976 that dragon boat racing was reborn, beginning when the Hong Kong government under the British Rule started to promote the sport in order to increase and strengthen their tourism. Fortunately, in 1991, the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) was found along with a group of institutional rules and regulations governing the sport. And now, this sport is practised in over sixty countries around the world, including China, who boasts 50 million dragons boasters.
BASICS OF DRAGON BOAT RACING
- Variations of Paddles. Paddles that are used in boat racing come in different shapes and sizes. They vary in length for official races but cannot be shorter than 106 centimetres or exceed 130 centimetres. Competition paddles are carbon fibre and weigh anything from 250 grams upwards while training paddles and novice paddles are made of wood and weigh more than 600 grams. Also, there are many different handle types such as a T-piece, palm grip and palm with ripples. The shafts of a paddle can be round, matte, shiny or elliptical.
- Weight of Competition Boats. These type of boats can weigh almost two tonnes and are made of double-skinned fibreglass with inserted foam within the hull to increase buoyancy. There are two major styles of racing boats. The first type is a nine-metre, 170-kilogram boat that seats 10 paddlers, one sweep and one drummer. The other one is a bigger 12-metre, 250-kilogram boat that’s used for paddling teams of 20, with one sweep and one drummer. Famous crews are capable to paddle the boat at speeds of more than 20 kilometres per hour.
- Sprinters and Strokes. Those paddlers at the front of the boat are known as strokes. They are trained to master good timing and strength to set the rhythm for the entire crew on board. Meanwhile, the paddlers at the rear of the boat are called sprinters and they know how to deal with turbulent water. They are taught to paddle deeper and faster through the water to add value to the stroke.
MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE BOAT
Although all crew members who are wearing the same sublimated team wear play an integral role, the helm or sweep is legally responsible for the boat. The team won’t succeed unless they all work together, boat racing is really a team sport. Also, there is a public address system that’s wired through each boat and the drummer or sweep tell paddlers what to do throughout each race.
MASTER MENTAL AND PHYSICAL STRENGTH
Dragon boat racing is a unique experience that will help you learn the primary skills of paddling a dragon boat and familiarize yourself with synchronicity and teamwork. Perhaps this sport requires more mental and physical work.
But if you just want to find a new hobby then you may want to try dragon boating with your friends or family. It’s an experience filled with laughter, happiness, sweat and tears!
Ivandrea Ollero is a daytime writer for Team Elite, a well-known distributor and retailer who operates in the sports merchandise business since 1991 catering to state and private schools around the country, and several institutes. She is also a content crafter who researches and writes custom content about travel, fashion, finance, business, home improvements, health, and beauty in order to provide helpful information and tips for her readers.