The History of Dragon Boating
The sport of dragon boating originated in China over 2,000 years ago with the story of Qu Yuan, a highly respected poet and philosopher, who committed suicide by jumping into the Mei Lo River to protest the corrupt regime of a Chou emperor. According to legend, local fishermen, upon seeing their beloved poet’s act of courage, raced out with their boats in an attempt to save him.
In commemoration of Qu Yuan, people in China hold boat races annually on the day of his death, the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar - that's June by our calendar!
Dragon Boating Today
Dragon boat racing today is seen across the globe in 40 different countries, becoming one of the fastest growing sports in Canada. Its broad appeal across age ranges (10–80), gender, and physical condition have made it accessible to a wide range of groups.
Team members paddle together in unison on a race course that is 200 meters, 500 meters or 2,000 meters in length. A modern dragon boat is about 40 feet long with a dragon head at the bow and a tail at the stern. The boat has 10 rows of seats for 20 paddlers to sit in pairs, with a drummer in front and a steersperson/helmsman in the back.
Dragon boat racing is governed by International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) and its country members, including Dragon Boat Canada and our local organization, the Calgary Dragon Boat Society. Dragon boat racing is a flat-water paddling sport. The challenge in dragon boating lies more in synchronization with your fellow paddlers through the entire race than in the paddling technique, although both are important!
Dragon Boating in Calgary
Dragon boat races have been held in Calgary on the Glenmore Reservoir since 1991, hosted and organized by the Calgary Dragon Boat Society.
Today, the Calgary Dragon Boat Race and Festival is one of Calgary's premier sport festivals, drawing thousands of competitors and spectators annually.
There are both mixed and women's teams that compete in Calgary. Some are club teams, like the Waverunners, who practice all summer and often travel to other competitions, and others are novice or corporate teams looking for a team building activity. Some of the women's teams include breast cancer survivor teams, and one of the highlights of the festival is the breast cancer remembrance ceremony.