Dragon Boat

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Since this amazing sport, Dragon Boat became a really important part of my life in the last two months, which I spend my weekends with, I thought it’s high time to introduce it a little bit! I could only write about the impressions and expereinces this sport has already given me, and I will, but at first, some information about the history and techniques.

Resource: Dragonglobe.com

History of Dragonboat Racing

Around two thousand years ago in China there lived a man named Qua Yuan, a patriotic poet. Qua was one of the king’s advisors however his ideas were believed to be radical. He was often criticised by his fellow jealous advisors and the king was finally convinced by these jealous men to exile Qua out of the kingdom.

After many years Qua Yuan learned about a planned invasion of his kingdom and his love for his country and his distress in knowing that it would be destroyed led him to commit suicide. Once his followers heard that he planned to drown himself in the local river, they raced down to it in an attempt to save him. His followers formed groups and jumped into boats. Banging loudly on drums and splashing their paddles around in order to deter the fish from eating his corpse, they searched up and down the river but never found him.

Thus, a sport emerged where a boat full of men raced to the sounds of drums in order to keep the beat. Every year on the date of his death, a race is held in this same river to commemorate Qua Yuan’s death.

Dragon boating is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. It’s easy to participate in, requiring minimal resources and skills. It is truly a team sport and includes teams at all levels of competition. On the water, dragon boating is a widely colourful and loud sport.

Sections of a Dragonboat and paddling

Timing Box
This is the first 3 rows, which includes your lead stroker. They all should be locked in to a desired pace and set the overall pace of the boat.

Engine Room
This is the middle of the boat. The paddlers here must have the determination and endurance to continue to apply the pressure up front.

Terminators
These are the last 3 rows of the DB, these rows must have strong front end grips to keep the pressure on the fast water passing by. (Water towards the back of the boat is very fast from all of the paddlers in front of you. It is very easy to paddle back here so it is very important that you push yourself to apply the pressure at all times.

Front end grip
This is when you’re over the head hand pushes forward. This applies pressure to the water against the paddle.

4-keys to your stroke

      1. The Catch: When your paddle enters the water. (exhale breathing begins)
      2. Compression: when your legs, abs, back pull you in a sitting up position
      causing the paddle to be pulled toward your hip. (exhale finishes)
      3. Exit: This is when you exit the paddle out of the water. (inhale begins)
      4. Recovery: When you turn the waist bringing your paddle forward to begina new stroke finishing with the catch of new water. (exhale ends)
Though it might seems easy if you just watch a video about a dragon boat training or race, it actually isn’t. It’s not only about having strong arms and shoulders as most people think at first – your whole body works hard if you paddle with a proper, correct form. I was also really surprised when I started feeling my abs, sides, back, legs and even my butt after the training, even some muscles I didn’t even know exsisted. And this means training for dragon boat is not only paddling on the water once in a while, but having regular cardiao and strenght trainings as well. I found a pretty good article about it on the site of the Canadian McMaster Dragon Boat Team

Dragon boat paddling is fundamentally a sport – an activity requiring a certain threshold of athletic fitness and strength. As with any other competitive sport, it is not simply enough to go through the required motions. In order to optimize their performance, paddlers must not only be adept in their technique, but also improve their overall physical conditioning.

As with most sports, a typical conditioning routine consists of two primary components:

  1. Cardiovascular training. Cardio fitness is critical for general health, and an essential element for every sport. Physical exertion requires a large supply of oxygen to the body in order to facilitate energy pathways in muscles. Cardio training helps to maximize your body’s aerobic potential during intense activities.
  2. Strength training. Strength training is for muscle conditioning – to improve the potential amount of work that the muscle can exert, endurance, and flexibility. A weight and/or resistance training program can greatly improve athletic results.

Paddlers who are familiar with the typical Mac team land practice will know that these components are incorporated into every practice. We alternate between cardio-intensive intervals with sets of exercises to target important muscle groups that are used while paddling. Muscles that are primarily used in dragon boat paddling are as follows:

  • Back – for sitting up to pull water at the beginning of a stroke
  • Shoulders – for maximal reach and to catch water at the beginning of the stroke, and to keep the paddle in a correct position throughout the stroke
  • Abdominals – upper abs are used for the reach and catch; obliques allow for the rapid rotation/de-rotation motion to generate power at the beginning of a stroke, and for leaning outside the boat
  • Hip region – for the repeated leaning forward and pulling back motion for each stroke; flexibility here is critical
  • Thighs – to push against the foot hold during a stroke
  • Chest – to rapidly return the paddle to the A-frame reach position
  • Biceps, triceps, neck and trapezius – while not part of the essential group of paddling muscles, these muscles play minor stabilizing roles while paddling

While land practices are designed to improve both cardio endurance and to improve the strength of key muscles, we have also implemented supplementary practices (weights, yoga, cardio, and swimming) to take a paddler’s performance to the next level. They are an opportunity for any members who are serious about the sport to improve their performance under the guidance of our coaches and captains.

Remember, the amount of work and effort that a team exerts on land translates into a faster time in a race.

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And what can I say about it? Only that I hopelessly fell in love with it right at the first training. I don’t know if it was the feeling of gliding on the shining water in such an amazing environment, the power of teamwork, power and never giving up or all these wonderful people in the team who make everytime the best – but it was inevitable and now I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Without the team, without the boat. I really have to be dedicated, we have trainings in the mornings, on weekends, which are three hours long, and really hard. But I never regret getting up really early and crossing the whole city with my paddle on my back. Because it’s worth it. For the feeling of being proud of myself and the team at the end, for never giving up, no matter how burning the sun is or how hard it rains. For being so damn tired afterwards that I fall immadiately asleep after arriving home. For the excitement for the upcoming competition. Because that’s right, we have a competition in Kaohsiung next weekend, and I just can’t wait! The team’s going together by a rented bus, we’re gonna live at the Athlete’s Village and gonna get our jerseys, made exclusively for this race! The race is gonna be extremely tough, but I expect that weekend to be the greatest experience of my stay in Taiwan so far. Go Team Max! ❤
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