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
    April 22 2018 03:35am
    European Dragon Boat Federation added 5 new photos.
    Dear All I would like to take the opportunity of the SportAccord Convention 2018, to thank you all for the time and effort you put into submitting a new design proposal for the EDBF logo. Due to the quality of the submissions of which we received 14, it has taken the EDBF Council much longer to make a final decision. There was a number of really good ideas, but they were not always suitable for all mediums of print. From the initial 14, three were finally short listed with the preferred logo finally selected from Capture Design. The handover of ownership and intellectual property of the new EDBF Logo has been signed by the Capture Design Chairman Mr Li Dong and myself in a bi-languages version. The EDBF will release an Honor Certificate to Capture Design as the original designer/creator of the new EDBF Logo and will publish it on the EDBF web site, on the EDBF FB page and on the EDBF Instagram page. Thank you once again to all designers/creators submitting the 14 new logo proposals for the time invested into our sport. Claudio Schermi EDBF President
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    April 20 2018 05:09am
    European Dragon Boat Federation added 10 new photos.
    Today the GAISF General Assembly and I wish to give an overview of what it is this sport organization, the Global Association of International Sport Federation (GAISF). Precious informations for the Dragon Boat Community of Europe. Claudio Schermi EDBF President
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    April 19 2018 05:37pm
    “Unity”! It is the final message of Patrick Baumann, SportAccord and GAISF President at the closing event of SporAccord Convention 2018 in Bangkok. Tomorrow morning the Annual General Assembly of the GAISF (Global Association of International Sport Federations).
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    April 19 2018 01:39pm
    European Dragon Boat Federation added 7 new photos.
    An intense day at the SportAccord 2018 in Bangkok...time for a pit stop at the recharging zone...
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    April 18 2018 01:38pm
    World Beach Games, a new multisport events in the landscape of the sport. The World Beach Games will be held every two years following the edition being organised by ANOC in San Diego in 2019. The Sport Programme will be determined in agreement with the IOC and in principle no Olympic events will be included in future Beach Games. https://gaisf.org/gaisf-and-anoc-sign-landmark-partnership-agreement-on-the-future-of-world-beach-games/
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  • European Dragon Boat Federation European Dragon Boat Federation
    April 17 2018 06:27pm
    The value of the Asian ancient traditions of dragon boat.
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