Info & Rules

Information for Teams

Conduct in the Boat: There should be no/minimal talking once your team is in the boat.  The drummer and steersperson must be able to communicate with the team and each other at all times, and all team members need to be able to hear the commands. Paddles straight up in the air if you need to draw attention to yourselves in case of emergency.

Buddy System: Make certain that each of your team members knows who is sitting beside them in case the boat swamps/capsizes, which is highly unlikely.  Teammates will be responsible for each other’s safety until rescue arrives.  STAY WITH THE BOAT!

Life Jackets: Everyone must wear a life jacket during practice and on Race Day.

Drummer: The drummer should attend practice, if possible. He or she will assist in setting the timing for the team and can be an excellent source of motivation and inspiration during practices and on Race Day.

How To Sit In The Boat

Outside hip forward

Inside hip back

Outside leg extended along the gunwale (inside top rail of the boat)

Inside foot under the seat or braced effectively and comfortably

Seven Steps of the Dragon Boat Paddling Technique

  1. Rotation
  2. Reach Extension
  3. Top Arm Drive (stab the water)
  4. Catch-powerfully drive the paddle into the water at approx. a 45 degree angle, burying the entire blade into the water-your hand should get wet.
  5. Pull water with the entire blade until you get to just behind your knee
  6. Exit -get that paddle straight up and out of the water quickly, no further back than your hip
  7. Recovery -snap the paddle back into the paddles up position for the next catch

Dragon Boat Paddling Commands

  • Paddles Up: Be ready to paddle. All paddlers with paddles above the water (3-6 inches from the surface) ready to enter the water.
  • Take it Away: Begin paddling.
  • Let it Run: Stop paddling and let the boat glide.
  • Hold the Boat or Stop the Boat: Place paddles in the water, with paddle pointed straight down, blade submerged. It will bring the boat to a stop. If you hear the command, “Hold hard,” quickly put your paddle straight down and then back it up one stroke.
  • Back it Down: Paddle backwards.
  • Draw (left or right side): Initiates a turn using draw strokes by the designated paddlers. Can also be used to get the boat closer to something, a dock, for example.
  • Stabilize the boat: Place your paddle blade on top of the water and hold it there. This stabilizes the boat. It is needed when anyone stands up in the boat to change position, etc.

Note: Your coach/steerer will brief you about these commands before your practice. In the boat, when the coach is talking, please continue to paddle and listen. Never stop paddling unless your coach says, “Let it run.”

Quick Look at Basic Race Rules

  • All dragon boats and equipment (including paddles) will be provided
  • Each paddler must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. One is provided. However, you may bring your own.
  • Every paddler must sign a waiver
  • Each team will have a trained dragon boat steerer/coach
  • Minimum age for adult team is 15 years old.
  • Your team will race with 20 paddlers and a drummer, but you may race with a minimum of 16 people
  • The drummer must actively beat the drum during the race
  • If you have a race day protest, you should communicate it to the Race Director or Festival Office
  • The race heats will be a straight course of 200 meters on Saturday and Sunday. Three or more boats race at a time in lanes marked by racing buoys.


  • Mixed – 8-12 of each gender, no minimums but no more than 12 men in a boat
  • Open – any gender/age combination
  • Women – all paddlers female; steersperson and drummer any gender
  • Breast Cancer Survivors – all paddlers would have been diagnosed with breast cancer, exceptions allowed for steerspersons and drummers

What to Expect

Prepare for Fun on the Water!

Before Practices and Race Day:

  • You WILL get wet. It is a water sport. If you paddle on the right side, the right side of your body will be wet. If you paddle left, the left side will be wet. Please dress and prepare accordingly.
  • Develop an individual pledge-raising plan.
  • Get prepared by hydrating and exercising in advance. Keep in mind this is an anaerobic sport. Hydration is very important. For more about hydration, read more about it on
  • Be prepared for rigorous exercise. Don’t have much time to workout in advance? Use quick exercise bursts. Learn more.
  • When it heats up outside, acclimate your body to the weather and use less air conditioning.
  • Practices and races will happen rain or shine. Lightning and other severe weather will delay practices or races.

What to wear:

  • Quick drying shorts
  • T-shirt or dri-fit shirt
  • Sandals w/straps, water shoes, (Tevas, Crocs, etc.)
  • Sunscreen/Sunglasses/hat with visor
  • In case of rain, bring rain gear
  • Consider bringing a towel and extra change of clothes

Race Day:

  • Report to your Team Tent an hour before the race.
  • Your team will report to the marshaling area 45 minutes before your first race.
  • Marshaling officials and volunteers will instruct your team to line up, and then alert you when it’s time to load the boat.
  • You will paddle once in the morning, once in the afternoon on Saturday, semi-qualifying race Sunday and championshp race if applicable.
  • Bring plenty of water and healthy snacks. Food will also be available for sale on-site.
  • You may consider also bringing games to play between racing. Some teams bring corn hole, footballs, frisbees, etc.

Each team captain receives a captain guide and team captain updates leading up to practices and race day.

Advice for Paddlers

Dragon Boat paddling is a great sport for beginners as well as seasoned athletes. While an easy sport to learn in your practice session, dragon boating is also strenuous and can impact your body if you aren’t used to anaerobic exercise. Participating in the sport engages nearly every muscle group, and particularly the core.

We highly recommended you eat and sufficiently hydrate your body prior to coming to paddle in the dragon boat for practice and race day.  Energy drinks are NOT good sources of hydration. Most of them contain sugar and caffeine, which ultimately drains your energy when combined with physical activity.  Reference WebMD and other legitimate sources for tips on how to properly eat and hydrate.

If you have asthma, please bring your inhaler on the boat and alert your seat mate about its location.

For any reason, if you must stop paddling, please do. Safety is most important in a dragon boat.

If you have a back injury, dragon boat paddling is not for you. It will only worsen your condition.  For shoulder injuries and other conditions that may affect your health, consult your doctor before participating.

Some paddlers in past events have given blood and then come for practice that day. It’s not a suggested combo.

In the boat, your hand will likely slip up and down the shaft of the paddle. You may consider bringing gloves to minimize this.

You’ll sit on wooden seats. You may bring a gardener’s pad.

Paddlers and drummers will learn the technique and cadence at practice.
Paddles Up!