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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 21 2018 09:04am
    Shining Eyes n.1: Armenian Dragon Boat Federation with Arutyun Balasanyein, Director of the Xalbert Spashl Orthopenig. "in the Orthopenig children have cold eyes... after Dragon Boat I saw shining eyes". In this video the comment of the director and the feeling about dragon boat.
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 21 2018 08:57am
    Shining Eyes n.2: Armenian Dragon Boat Federation with Arutyun Balasanyein, Director of the Xalbert Spashl Orthopenig. He said: “In the Orthopenig, children have cold eyes... after Dragon Boat I saw shining eyes". In this video you can see the dragon boat experience of these children. https://drive.google.com/file/d/18-z3NlPqmhaqwd-wtoq8tKVQamTNkP9e/view?usp=drive_web
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 20 2018 05:03pm
    European Dragon Boat Federation added 9 new photos.
    Dear friends of the Dragon Boat Community of Europe, to be a “community” means to be a team, to be friends, to know each other and to support each other. In my visit in Armenia I met people that love our sport, that want to grow, that want to develop also the social part with a specific adaptive dragon boat project. Last week end some Armenian Athlets were in Spain and next Monday ArmDBF will enter the EDBF EC 2018 in Brandenburg. Happy birthday to the President of the Armenian Dragon Boat Federation, Makar Sargsyan, today 32 year old and my best wishes to continue in his commitment for our sport. #newgenerations Claudio Schermi EDBF President
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 20 2018 12:09pm
    European Dragon Boat Federation added 10 new photos.
    The EDBF President Claudio Schermi in Armenia after Spain and Berlin. ArmDBF is developing an adaptive dragon boat project with the ArmDBF President Makar Sargsyan
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 20 2018 06:21am
    European Dragon Boat Federation shared a post.
    Good job!!! Never give up... https://instagram.com/p/BfWQE1uBVfv/
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 18 2018 04:10pm
    European Dragon Boat Federation shared Semplicemente Milano's video.
    Milano... Navigli!
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 16 2018 07:08pm
    European Dragon Boat Federation added 4 new photos.
    Berlino - meeting with the Organizing Committee of the next European Nations Championships in Brandenburg from 23 to 26th August. With me Slawek Borucki, in his key role within our sport. He is responsible for registration, race program and EDBF web site. Ute Becker and Gitta Weber are doing a great job and all details and criticism are under control. A lot of provisional Entries and other are expected very soon. Looking forward to see in Brandenburg all the top Paddlers of the dragon boat community of Europe. Following the request received we will reconsider the possibility to add the class open in Senior C standard boat. Claudio Schermi EDBF President
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 16 2018 03:10pm
    European Dragon Boat Federation added 2 new photos.
    Happy Chinese New Year. This is the year of the dog, symbol of honesty and loyalty. Share your photos of your faithful dog companions with us to celebrate this week!
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    February 14 2018 09:46am
    European Dragon Boat Federation shared Dragon Boat Innovate (DBI)'s post.
    Loving this a lego dragon boat transformer.
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