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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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Facebook posts

  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    October 19 2017 05:11pm
    Results from Day 2 - 1000m at the 13th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships 2017
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    October 18 2017 06:21pm
    The results from the first day of the IDBF World Dragon Boat Championships 2017 can be found below. Day 1 - 2000m.
    thumb up13 people like this.
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    October 11 2017 07:23pm
    Good luck to all the European Nations who will very shortly be heading out to Kunming in China to compete at the 13th IDBF World Nations Championships which run from 18th - 22nd October 2017.
    thumb up25 people like this.
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    • Schweizer Drachenboot-Nationalteam
      Schweizer Drachenboot-Nationalteam The Swiss Dragon Boat National Team is heading to Kunming on Friday! #cantwait #bornready #加油 ⛽️💪🇨🇭
      October 11 2017 07:23pm
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    October 11 2017 07:04pm
    European Dragon Boat Federation shared Kayak Sans Frontières's event.
    After three already successful international festivals Club Nautique de M'Bao in Senegal and Kayak Sans Frontières, France are once again collaborating on M'Bao 2018! The festival which is held in the seaside town of M'Bao, Senegal (Africa) uses the sport of dragon boating to unite the European and African cultures. The festival focuses on the importance of cultural enrichment and the environment; getting across the message that we must all respect and nurture our environment as it is a valuable resource. More information can be found here: https://drive.google.com/open… If you are up for a bit of cultural change and would like to do your bit for the environment then I cannot recommend this trip more.
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    October 2 2017 05:10pm
    EDBF Convention - 25th/26th November 2017 Reminder: Those Nations intending to attend the EDBF Convention in Belgrade, Serbia must advise the secretariat by Sunday, 8th October 2017 in order that the hotel accommodation can be booked for you.
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    September 26 2017 02:03pm
    European Dragon Boat Federation shared Liz Jeffries Bradley's post.
    Dragon Boat Training Camp in Spain. Are you interested?
    thumb up10 people like this.
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    • Caron Tierney
      Caron Tierney Deborah BonnerLisa Power 😎
      September 26 2017 02:03pm
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    September 24 2017 07:01am
    European Dragon Boat Federation shared British Dragon Boat Racing Association's post.
    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1892020060813402&id=703603862988367
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    • Kyriakos Xristofi
      Kyriakos Xristofi And many more to come !:) THANK YOU!!!!
      September 24 2017 07:01am
  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    September 18 2017 01:30pm
    This is a photo of the regatta course in Brandenburg an der Havel where the EDBF European Nations Championships will be held in August 2018. Our current President and new incoming President are visiting the venue today and running through the final details with the German Dragon Boat Federation in preparation for next year.
    thumb up25 people like this.
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    • Pascal Waller
      Pascal Waller Sympa les tribunes hein Elsa Julie?
      September 18 2017 01:30pm
    • Phil Durham
      Phil Durham Sheila Laing x
      September 18 2017 01:30pm
    • Vicki Easton
      Vicki Easton What's the exact dates please?
      September 18 2017 01:30pm