Racing Conduct, Technique, and Rules

Don’t worry! We will show you all you need to know on practice day. But in the meantime, here are some helpful points to consider.

Racing Conduct

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

Buddy System: Make certain that each of your team members knows their partner sitting next to them.  In the unlikely event that a boat should tip over, teammates will be responsible for each other's saftey until rescue arrives.  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. 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 (3-6inches 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.”

Racing Rules

  • Please select 16-20 paddlers.  A minimum of 6 female paddlers is required. A total of 20 paddlers is preferred, but teams may qualify with a minimum of 16 paddlers. The minimum age is 15 years old (with parental consent.)
  • Please select a team race captain.
  • Please select a drummer and/or tailgating/spririt captain. Drummers who participate in the race must not exceed 150 pounds in order to assure the safety as per the professional steerers. The drummer must actively beat the drum during the race.
  • Every paddler must sign a waiver.
  • Each paddler must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. Life jackets are provided. However, you may bring your own.
  • Races are 250 meters – about two and a half football fields. The race will last from 1 minute to one and a half minutes at full speed.
  • Each team will race in at least three heats. The 12 teams with the fastest average times will advance to a third and final round.
  • Practices and racing will NOT be canceled or postponed due to rain.
  • If you have a race day protest, you should communicate it to the Chief Marshaler.

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