25 Things Only Dragon Boaters Understand

In the sport of Dragon Boat, there are several factors that teams consider when the training season begins: form, reach, synchronicity, endurance, and a whole lot more besides. It depends on the Coach’s approach or what the training managers have designed for the crew.

Dragon boat is a very tough sport, let alone the training hours. There’s water training (actual paddling), land or circuit training, and some do have pool paddle training. Oftentimes, a dragon boater’s week can be quite full (especially in prepping for races).

If you are weak, inactive, faint-hearted, or sluggish, then it may not be the right sport for you; or, on the contrary, it may be the sport that will alter your lethargy. In short, it’s a sport for everybody. It’s a sport where you will be trained to be physically and mentally tough and then become as tough like everyone in the team.

Dragon boat Festival

Furthermore to being tough (in both mind and body), and an even tougher preparation to win races, there are things that only we dragon boaters can relate to and understand. 

1. “Is dragon boat really that hard?”; “Is the boat stable?”; “Is there an alotted time to rest?” These are a few of the most common questions asked by people whom you’ve told you’re a dragon boater. We’d usually explain: “With the right amount of training and perseverance, it can’t be that hard.Their reaction:I might die in the middle of it!

Speed Boat gif

2. You become very competitive that you tend to be as quiet and focused as you can in the marshalling area. (This is where teams are being checked before being despatched to the boats.) Unknowingly, you may have employed this competitiveness in everything that you do now. Good for you!

Shut Up gif

3. You’ve imagined doing cross country paddling with your team using the dragon boat. Sure, why not?

Speed boat fast

4. Calluses and blisters on your palm, and, yes, in your asses, too. Ouch! You may want to grab a roll of athletic tape to cover the blister or to protect yourself from getting one. As for the other target of dragon boater’s blister (if we may neologise), you may need a team mate’s help to put on an adhesive film on that blister back there.

Wound palm gif

5. Some training days are just too early for you.

Getting Up Early gif

6. Your other arm is much stronger than the other. Not necessarily bigger, but definitely stronger. You’ll notice it when you lift something heavy. Things are so much lighter when you use your paddling arm.


7. You execute that first explosive stroke during starts with an imaginary paddle; at any time of the day and anywhere you may be. Sometimes you do that quick twist of your shoulder on the train, in the bus, in bed, in the grocery store, or on your way to the office. Then you do it again on your way out of the office or school.

Arm Sway

8. You are haunted by the sound of the AIR HORN. If it’s any consolation, it keeps you alert.

Air Horn

9. Why dragon boaters carry this loaf-like or sponge-like rubber-y thing with them? (While in a sitting position, there’s repeated friction and pressure as they paddle; these seat pads protect the paddler’s backside from getting a blister or scrape.)

Twerk Spongebob

10. Others may wonder: “Is that a bullet proof vest?” Be proud in sporting your personal floatation device (PFD). It will save your life.

Bullet Proof Vest

11. Most often, you have bigger and toner arms than your friends, colleagues or classmates. Only you know that in dragon boat, it’s not just about having massive arms; it’s about the perfection of form and proper breathing technique. In this sport discipline, it’s essential to have power and muscle endurance of the legs, core, arms and shoulders.

Muscles Woman

12. Synchronicity is beauty.

Synchonicity gif

13. Your favourite training shorts have scratches on the fabric at the rear. It’s the rubbing and the “twerking” movement you do in the boat. Also, you think that it doesn’t hurt to have a bright, colourful and creatively designed jersey. Think Synchronised Swimming at the Olympics.

Synchronised 2

14. Paddling offbeat. It happens when one’s timing is offbeat from the “chords” being played during the race or training. If somebody is desynchronizing in front of you, it tends to break the chain of timing up to the last pair. Be alert! Timing is key.

Off timing gif

15. When you see photos of you taken during the race and there’s only the two of you who’s not in synchrony. Well, we all get those. Do better. Perform like it’s being filmed all the time.


16. You know that sometimes, the dragon boat can either be “left heavy” or “right heavy.” The dragon boat is not a seesaw so this occurrence may slow down the glide of the boat. The solution: A skillful steersperson/helmsman must lean against the heavier side to retain the boat’s balance.

Leaning Tower

17. You have nightmares about doing the “STARTS!” You wanna give your first three to ten strokes, your most solid ever.


18. When your boat capsizes, do not panic. Stop struggling; you’ll float. Dragon boats are designed to float for a time, so keep your focus and look for your buddy (boat partner) and wait for the safety boat to come to you.

Capsize gif

19. The rotator cuff injury. Not only tennis players have this, it is quite common among dragon boaters as well. It varies on how severe the tear on one or more of your rotator cuff tendons. Better see a sports doctor or go to an Osteopath quick! For starters, avoid the affected/painful side when you lie down in bed.

Massage Cat

20. When your team makes it to the Repechage Heat as you’ve been proclaimed, “The Fastest Loser.”

Repechage gif

21. When your team qualifies to the Semi-Finals Heat and it’s back-to-back races for you in several categories. It’s your eighth race of the day, but you’ve got to do it.

Back to back races

22. You’re in a state of shock after losing the heat for only a matter of milliseconds.

What the hell gif

23. That moment of fear (or intimidation) and there’s deafening silence at the starting line.


24. That feeling when, upon reaching the finish line, your abdominal muscles feel so tight, it’s so hard to breathe. Aaaaaaaaah! You’re catching your breath so hard that you can’t even respond to your team cheer.


25. That moment when you’re paddling ahead of the other boats and you feel like flying, and you scream to victory as you cross the finish line. You also scream in your head things like: “I’m awesome!”, “My team is awesome!”, “I love my LIFE!”

Being a Dragon Boater

Do you remember how it felt like when you got your first dragon boat medal?

dragon boatdragon boat

 GIFs:  Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Tumblr, Medals – Charlon de Leon Mataga


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On Chasing your Dragon Boat Dreams
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The Ultimate Guide to Dragon Boat Festivals and Races in Asia

29 thoughts on “25 Things Only Dragon Boaters Understand

  1. Yeah I remember my first medal…silver “D” division with Hope For the Warriors in Tampa 2013…I wasnt good enough to make the Puff traveling Team so I paddled for H4W… I hated second that day! Partly because Puff won the Grand Champion medal!


  2. Well done! Congrats to you and your team for that win. Continue on with your passion in #dragonboat paddling and let’s keep this big family of dragonboaters always fitspiring, united and happy.


  3. The first medal I ever won was on a parents kids team we won gold in the B division.We beat out teams that had practiced once twice a week all adults we had 8 kids under 16 on the team.


  4. Yay finally a list we can relate to..! Much appreciated. I’ve got a box of hardware (8th season paddling) but first one was from the university cup, F division & Toronto international dragon boat festival (longest running festival in Canada I think.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this!! Everything is so true!! After 7 years of dragon boating and still loving it!! It gets in your blood and never leaves!!


  6. Yes, I remember very clearly how it felt when I ‘got’ my first dragon boat medal. My team, Puff, had two women’s teams competing at a Synergy race, ‘A’ and ‘B’. I was drumming for the ‘B’ team, and the ‘A’ team blew us out of the water and we did not ‘medal.’ Some of our ‘B’ team members, including myself, were crushed. Alex, one of the nicest guys on our team, came up to me and gave me his ‘Elite Mixed First Place’ medal. This started a domino effect, and all of the women on the ‘B’ team ended up ‘getting’ medals from the men on the mixed team. I was extremely touched by Alex’s gift/gesture and I tried to return the medal to him, but he said “No! You Keep this, and one day, you will earn your own medal!” And he was right! I have won/earned medals since, but that medal I received that day from him is one of the most meaningful medals I have and one that I will treasure forever!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your response. Dragon boat racing came into my life when I was going through a major ordeal, and even though I was deadly afraid of the water, and did not know how to swim, I put the cart before the horse and took a risk. Now today I am so proud of how far I have come, I have gotten over my fear of the water, I am learning to swim and I am coming to practices 4 times per week. At first, winning a gold medal was predominant on my mind, and I would be extremely hurt when I was taken out of races or not invited to race with my team,, but now I have put dragon boat racing in perspective (I am 60 and I understand my limitations), so now for me it’s no longer about winning medals, but doing the best I can to be the best that I can be.. I am now on a mission to promote this wonderful, amazing sport and to let people know that if I can do it, anyone can because it has helped to make me physically and emotionally strong!

        Liked by 2 people

  7. I remember getting our first medal, in Belleville. It was my first festival and we qualified for the Division A finals….The team that took gold smoked everyone, but the team that that came in second beat us by only a foot or so..I think that we just emptied the tank a second or two before they did….Even though we finished 3rd out of 16 teams, I still remember thinking about how close we came to silver and that gave me the determination to always go harder in training so that I give everything I have and not think “if only we’d trained a bit harder in the pre-festival practices or in the gym.”
    I don’t mind losing; I do mind being out-worked.

    Liked by 2 people

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