What is Dragon Boat?
"Dragon Boat" is a water sport involving a long Viking boat with 12-14 members and each person plays a crucial role as part of a larger team. The front of the boat has a lovely dragon head adorned to it and the back of the boat has a dragon tail adhered to it (see pic below for reference).
What are the roles on the team?
Each paddler on the boat only paddles one side (not like kayaking in which the person paddles both sides) and twists the torso to capture the full reach in an "A-frame".
The composition of the boat is as follows:
- Drummer - One person who drums and keeps the team in check while echoing the Steer person's commands. Responsible for calling out team syncs, encouraging the team, relaying communications from the steer, and coordinating team strokes etc.
- Pacers - First row of the boat and sets the pace for the team to follow. Extremely important to ensure sync of both sides of the boat
- Core - Middle of the boat and pivotal to keeping pace with the pacers to ensure the "Engine" follows
- Engine - last three rows of the boat and crucial in catching the water from both the Pacers and Core of the boat
- Steer - One person to control the direction of the boat. The steer person calls for water holds, powers, stroke lengthens, and "let it run" commands. Essential for every team since the boat will not turn by itself without one! Usually, captains of the team will rotate as the Steer but there are times in which one person on the team is a designated steer for several boats as well.
- Captains - extreme dedication to the team through many years of an active role and has played almost every single role on the team. Usually, these are also members of the corporation that sponsors the team but not a requirement. Captains coordinate seating on the boats, roles & responsibilities of team members, race schedules, and much more! These are just a few examples of what a Captain's role entails.
- Team Manager - rallies teams for marshaling, line-up, registration and check-ins for race day, "owner" of all team State IDs/Passports/official documents, motivates the team, coordinating boat loading to correct boats, etc.
- Other non-active roles - We have grill-masters, land-side supporters, family & friend photographers, etc.
What team are you on?
I have been on the Electric Dragons NYC (sponsored by Con Edison for home races in NYC - thank you!) since 2010. My most active time on the team was during 2011-2015 before the onset of my health ailments. From 2015 on, I have taken a more passive role on the team (such a drummer and team manager etc.). Each boat is usually "sponsored" by a corporation such as DCH, Morgan Stanley Chase, HSBC, etc. - that is why you see their branding all over the boats, banners, and dragon boat events. Races occur all over the world globally and our team participates in various races away from our NYC home. We travel to Montreal, Boston, Rhode Island, and NJ once a year for races. We do not travel internationally due to being one of the largest dragon boat teams in the NY area (60+ members annually!) but there are other teams that do.
Why Dragon Boat?
For most of my life, I've hated the outdoors and was not a very active person up until 2011. In the beginning, my high school friends joined the team and I idly watched by on dry land. In 2011, I decided to try it out and join the team to see what Dragon Boat was all about. At first, I was intimidated and did not feel like I could contribute to the team because I am petite and lack muscle strength. However, I quickly realized how wrong I was and that you do not necessarily need strength & muscles to be part of the team. It's a great sport to partake in and gives you a full body workout & great for cardio!
The most important part of Dragon Boat is teamwork. We're here to have a good time and make friends while doing so. Every person in any shape, size, or form can be useful to the team in their own way. I've played as every role on the team except for steer and captain (sorry, these are just not for me!) and found that it's all about contributing as much as you feel comfortable with. In the beginning, I was disappointed that my body frame did not assist with max load as a paddler but being a female paddler assists the team in other ways! For every major competition, there is usually a required number of females for specific races and my petite frame allowed me to stretch further with my paddle to maintain a full reach. I also use my petite body as a selling point when recruiting new female team members:
If my skinny arms and petite body frame can paddle, so can you! It's not about your size or strength - practice, endurance, and determination are what's really important to our team!"
If my skinny arms and petite body frame can paddle, so can you!
It's not about your size or strength - practice, endurance, and determination are what's really important to our team!"
Although I am no longer as active as I was back then, I still enjoy assisting and supporting our team. Dragon Boat is so fulfilling and gave me a sense of purpose outside of my day job or daily activities. In the words of Fast and Furious:
I don't have friends, I have family"
If you live in NYC and interested in joining our team as an active member (drummer, paddler, steer etc.) - send me an email and I'll talk to one of our captains. Our captains will place you in a role that will suit you best. We're always recruiting new members every year and welcome everyone!
Stay tuned for my next post on Dragon Boat and how you can stay "glam" in the heat!