What Is Dragon Boat Racing?
Dragon boat racing is a large team sport with teams composed of 10 to 50 members to power narrow, 30-feet long rowboats with paddles. Completely human-powered, dragon boats require the efforts of a large team rowing in a synchronized fashion for successful movement.
Originating in China, dragon boat racing was initially created as a ceremonial and religious ritual in ancient Chinese villages. Beginning in 1976 in Hong Kong, dragon boat racing transformed to a team paddling sport that is growing in popularity across the world. Dragon boat racing first became popular in the United Kingdom in 1980 when a competitive race was featured in the Hong Kong in London Chinese Festival on the River Thames. Since that time, the British Dragon Boat Racing Association (BDA) formed to organise competitive dragon boat racing throughout the entire UK, and most London dragon boat racing clubs regularly compete in BDA events.
Training for dragon boat racing involves improving physical strength and endurance, especially for the upper body. Dragon boat racing teams and clubs typically dedicate at least one training session per week to the gym for resistance training. However, the most important skill needed for a successful dragon boat racing team is paddle synchronisation. As a result, teams often dedicate at least two weekly sessions to practicing on the water, even in the off-season and winter.
Dragon boat racing offers physical, mental and social benefits. Dragon boat racing requires substantial mental stamina to maintain a synchronised paddling motion while also requiring the strength and endurance to paddle at top speeds.
How Do I Get Started?
With the River Thames and the popularity of watersports in London, dragon boat racing has recently increased in notoriety. An ideal way to get involved is identifying a dragon boat racing club or team close to home, which can easily be done by visiting Totally Sporty’s comprehensive club directory. With descriptions of each club, training regimens, competition schedules and locations, the Totally Sporty sport club directory is an important resource for getting started in the dragon boat racing scene.
Since most dragon boat racing clubs provide the dragon boat, paddles and related equipment, the most important equipment needed by a beginning dragon boat racer is comfortable clothes and shoes, including a sport shirt or t-shirt, waterproof jacket or windbreaker, shorts or knee-length trousers, and water-resistant trainers.
Best Dragon Boat Racing Clubs By Region
Southwest London: Kingston Royals
Kingston Royals Dragon Boat Racing Club is one of England’s oldest and most successful dragon boat teams. Kingston Royals is a competitive dragon boat racing club based on the River Thames in Teddington. Founded in 1988, Kingston Royals Dragon Boat Racing Club was one of the first clubs to race in the United Kingdom.
Club sessions take place every Tuesday and Saturday. During the summer season Kingston Royals meets at the River Thames for both sessions, and in the winter the Tuesday session takes place at a local gym.
A competitive dragon boat racing club, Kingston Royals race in the British Dragon Boat Association National League events and the Henley Winter Series. Some members are also involved in British Team Racing at the World Championships in Tampa.
East London: Thames Dragon Boat Club
Based in the East London Regatta Centre, Thames Dragon Boat Club is one of the leading clubs in the United Kingdom with competitive, mixed, ladies and open crews. New members and London visitors are always welcome and encouraged to get involved.
Thames Dragon Boat Club trains weekly on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and competes regularly throughout the summer.
East London: Typhoon Dragon Boat Club
Founded in 2003, Typhoon Dragon Boat Club has a strong presence on the national dragon boat competitive circuit as well as in community charity events in London. The club currently boasts more than 50 members.
Typhoon Dragon Boat Club trains year-around on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for two hours each day.
East London: Raging Dragons Dragon Boat Club
The Raging Dragons in East London train year-around on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The club also competes in dragon boat races March through October.
Raging Dragons offers fitness trainers and nutritionists who create programmes to improve performance and develop endurance.
London Dragon Boat Racing Events
BDA National Cup
The culminating event of the British Dragon Boat Racing season, the BDA National Cup is a two-day, 500M event held every September. Eligibility for the National Cup is determined by competition results during the BDA regular season events from April through September.
London Dragon Boat Festival
Co-hosted by London Chinatown Lions Club and United Kingdom Federation of Chinese Schools, the London Dragon Boat Festival takes place every July at Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre. The festival is open to individual rowers, dragon boat racing teams, families, and corporate entities.
The Great River Race
Held annually in May, the Great River Race is a race for all types of row boats, including dragon boat teams. The 21-mile course begins at the London Docklands and races down the River Thames past Tower Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Battersea Bridge, Putney Bridge, among others, to conclude in Richmond.