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The Dragon Boat - history and culture

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The Dragon Boat Race - A Very Special Chinese Tradition

The Dragon has a very symbolic meaning for the Chinese. A classic dragon has the head of an ox; a deer's antlers; the mane of a horse; the body and scales of a snake; the claws of an eagle and the tail of a fish. With its strength and power the Dragon rides the clouds in the sky and commands the wind, mist and rain.

The Dragon Boat is deeply embedded in China's 'Dragon' culture, with each Boat having an ornately carved dragon's head at the Bow and a tail in the Stern. The Hull is painted with the Dragon's scales. The paddles symbolically represent the claws. In IDBF Sport Racing there are generally 18-20 paddlers per Standard size Dragon Boat and 8-10 paddlers in the Small Boat, plus a drummer and a helm (Steerer). In Traditional Festivals the boat designs and crew numbers can vary from 10 up to 50 or more paddlers, plus of course the Drummer and Helm.

The races are a colourful spectacle, with at least two boats competing against each other over distances from 200 to 2000 metres and above. Not only are strength, endurance and skill important but teamwork and harmony of purpose. In ancient China the Dragon Boat was used for religious purposes as a way of appeasing the rain gods. Later Qu Yuan, the great warrior poet, committed suicide in the river Mi Lo, as a protest against the political corruption of the day. To commemorate this sacrifice the people began to organize Dragon Boat Races in his memory. Since that time over 2000 years ago, Dragon Boat Racing has become a major part of Chinese culture, representing patriotism and group integrity.

Dragon Boating today - A Modern Sport and Recreation too - the IDBF way

In the 1970s the Hong Kong Tourist Association (now Tourist Board) decided to stage an International Dragon Boat Festival to promote Hong Kong. In 1976 the first Hong Kong International Races took place, an event recognised today, by dragon boaters world wide, as the start of the 'Modern Era' of Sport Dragon Boat Racing. The HKIR developed into an annual festival of enormous success and impressive press pictures of the Hong Kong Races went around the world. Until the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) was formed in 1991, the HKIR were the 'unofficial club crew world championships' of the sport. Crews who competed in the HKIR then went home and started their own Dragon Boat Associations, then the EDBF (European), the IDBF and the ADBF (Asian) Federations'. Three Federations who now govern Dragon Boating as practised in over 60 countries.

Since the formation of the IDBF, the sport has spread rapidly throughout the world. Today, 30 years after the first HKIR the numbers show the truly impressive development of modern Dragon Boat Sport. With nearly 50 million participants in China; over 300,000 in the UK and Europe, including Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Russia; 90,000 in Canada and the USA and many thousands in Australia and New Zealand and with the sport now spreading through the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific Basin; Dragon Boat Sport, under its governing bodies is a vibrant, effective and independent paddle sport.

Dragon Boat Sport - People Packed and Exciting!

Dragon Boat Competitions, under the IDBF and its Continental Federations (the ADBF and EDBF) have developed into a serious, high-performance, competitive sport, with many Dragon Boat Associations producing National Teams of elite dragon boat paddlers. IDBF World Championships, EDBF European Championships and ADBF Asian Championships are well established, as are Regional Championships in North America. Championship Medals are hard to come by and well deserved. A whole new ethos and different set of racing values has developed from the Hong Kong International Festival Races. There is no other paddle sport in which 22 people work together to create a Team result rewarded through the efforts of the whole crew, rather than a few individual performances. This harmony of purpose can only be achieved through many hours of training in the boat, learning to be a complete crew and developing the team spirit and understanding necessary to work together, as one unit, for the common good.

More than 25 years later the numbers show the impressive development of Dragon Boat Sport. 50 million Dragon boaters in China and the sport, through the IDBF, has now spread to all continents.

Dragon Boating - the mass participation paddle sport for all ages and abilities.

As well as Sport Racing, Dragon Boat Associations have helped to develop the Festival Racing side of Dragon Boating too. Many Festival Races are successful due to the number of crews that enter just for the fun and excitement of the event. One of the advantages of Dragon Boating is that you can form a Festival Crew (or fun team, as they are sometimes known) and with little experience and knowledge, quickly become competitive in a Dragon Boat. A lot of Festival Crews come from the 'corporate market' and compete in Festival Dragon Boat Racing because it is also a social event and a team building activity in which the strengths and abilities of employees are soon apparent.

The growth in the Festival Racing scene is enormous. For example there are now event organising companies, world-wide whose sole purpose is to organize dragon boat festival races each year. This is particularly true in Canada and the USA, where Sport Racing Crews also race in the Festival Races. In Europe, the Malmo Festival in Sweden attracts many hundreds of crews from companies and the community and the races last for a week. Organised through the Swedish Dragon Boat Association and the Malmo Canoe Club, the Malmo Festival Races and other such races in Sweden and many more throughout the world, generate funds for the Sport too.

Dragon Boat Racing - the Modern Sport with Ancient Traditions. Serious Sport but Serious Fun Too !

Dragon Boating is the mass participation paddle sport of today, with an ancient past and a very bright future. Not yet an Olympic sport but heading that way fast, Dragon Boat Racing is a 'team sport'; a very social sport and great fun too! Attractive to the corporate market and as a 'community activity' it is also a high performance sport for elite standard athletes. This ability range in a team sport full of tradition, culture and social interaction is highly desirable in today´s world. Dragon Boating is a sport and recreational activity that can be pursued by everyone and anyone of all abilities and at every level of competition. That is the greatness of Dragon Boating.

Be Part of It. Contact the sport's enthusiasts through www.dragonboat.com or idbf.org

IDBF Chinese text
'The World Governing Body of Dragon Boat Sport'
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 16 2017 06:18pm
    On-line registration is now OPEN!!
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 13 2017 11:49am
    Thanks to Otto Duinham from the Dutch Dragon Boat Federation for sending us some photos from Dragon Trek, a tug-a-dragon event organized by Odysseus Dragons from Alkmaar, in The Netherlands over the weekend. 25 teams participated in the event with River Dragons from Gorinchem winning the open class and The Dutch Dragons from Zoetermeer winning in the mixed class.
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 12 2017 01:44pm
    The Opening Ceremony at the ECCC 2015 in Divonne les Bains
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 6 2017 02:06pm
    IMPORTANT NOTICE An official notice was sent out today informing the change of dates for the IDBF World Nations Championships for 2017. It is now scheduled between 18th - 23rd October 2017. Location remains the same in Dianchi Lake, Kunming, China. The Official Bulletin is to be sent out in the next couple of weeks.
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    • Helen Mackinnon
      Helen Mackinnon Valerie Gaston. Guylaine Perreault
      February 6 2017 02:06pm
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      Fairy Daines The under 18's are still competing in Aug!
      February 6 2017 02:06pm
    • European Dragon Boat Federation
      European Dragon Boat Federation The IDBF have said "Due to the many concerns received from Nations who have Junior crews participate but would not be able to due to the October dates, an alternative venue late July or August is being sought. This will be for the Junior and U24 Racing Classes only. The delay was due to seeking assurances of water quality and depth, which have now been received."
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 3 2017 06:22pm
    ECCC 2017 - PLEASE NOTE Please be advised that the EDBF online registration system for the ECCC 2017 is not currently working. Slawek has been improving the system to allow the Governing Federations to issue passwords to their club crews in order that you can validate their entries. Please be patient as our IT expert does this work for us on a voluntary basis which we are greatly appreciative of. It is expected that the system will be fully operational by 15th February 2017. This will allow two weeks for everyone to upload their entries before the first deadline date. I would be most grateful if you would ensure that your club crews know about this issue.
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    January 26 2017 05:05pm
    Happy Chinese New Year! The 28th January 2017 sees the start of the lunar new year which for the Chinese community means a two week period of festivities ending on 2nd February 2017. This year it is the year of the Rooster. For people born in a rooster year - 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 - it is set to be an unlucky time because tradition denotes that the year of your birth makes for an unlucky 12 months. Roosters are the tenth sign in the zodiac and are seen as confident, honest and hardworking. They also enjoy being around people but can be seen as attention seekers.
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    January 20 2017 04:25pm
    This is the very scenic view of the lake of Divonne les Bains where the European Club Crew Championships will be held this July.
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    January 17 2017 09:00pm
    The Hungarian Dragon Boat Federation invites all club teams in Europe and world wide to the following events. Further information can be obtained by emailing office@dragonboat.hu. 29/04/17 6th Long Distance Hungarian National Championship Baja, HUN 13/05/17 9th Dragon Boat Festival of Budapest Budapest, HUN 27/05/17 13th Dragon Boat Festival of Győr Győr, HUN 09-11/06/16 15th Hungarian National Championship and Qualifying Championship (U18, Premier, Senior "A” and "B”), Hungarian National Championship for fun teams Fadd-Dombori, HUN 24/06/17 3rd Hungarian National Championship and Qualifying Championship for 10 paddlers’ team, Hungarian National Championship for fun teams Fadd-Dombori, HUN 15/07/17 5th Dragon Boat Festival of Szombathely Szombathely, HUN 02/09/16 8th Dragon Boat Festival of Szeged Szeged, HUN
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    January 17 2017 09:48am
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    January 8 2017 02:48pm
    Thanks to Alex Horváth from Raba Dragon Boat Club. Check out this old video from the 2nd EDBF European Club Crew Championships in Duisburg, Germany in 1997. https://youtu.be/ZD2-k8oA388 How many of you were there along with me and Alex?
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    January 6 2017 10:41am
    Interesting article.
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    January 5 2017 12:34pm
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    January 2 2017 02:42pm
    As 2017 is now upon us we would like to try and share more news and articles about what is happening in out sport within Europe on both the facebook page and on our website. Please if you have any interesting information, news, articles, events etc send the details to secretary@edbf.org and we will share the information.
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    December 31 2016 03:01pm
    Wishing you all a very Happy New Year. May 2017 be filled with the race results you hoped for!
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