Dragon boat racing is one of the most popular water sports in the world, and although still a minority sport in the UK at the moment is another growing paddle sport. The brightly painted boats sporting Dragons heads being paddled by up to 20 paddlers always turn heads.
I have bumped into the Bristol Empire Dragons a few times in the past and have always been interested in finding our more about the sport. So when I found out they had moved their club to my local stretch of water it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
I had arranged to join the Dragon-boaters on one of their Thursday evening sessions and took along a group of friends, most had paddled kayaks and SUPs, so were really keen to find out more.
We arrived at the Avon County Rowing Club, the dragons new home, on a nice warm summers evening, not really knowing what to expect. The club members gave us a warm welcome, and after a briefing about the paddle, we were paired up roughly by weight and into the boat we climbed. At first it felt a little wobbly with twenty of us in it, but as soon as we got paddling the boat became more stable.
They talked us through our paddle strokes with step by step guidance and small stints of paddling. I was amazed just how similar the stroke was to the stroke you would use on a stand up paddleboard. Keeping in the same rhythm as everyone else was the tough part, but when we got it right the boat really started to shift! The rhythm was quite hypnotising.
We covered quite a distance in the lesson, and on the way back to the club we really went for it. “We’re not gonna stop on the way back” came the command from the back of the boat. My arms and shoulders were on fire as well as most others in the boat, but it was hugely satisfying to get back to the club without stopping.
Races average between 200-500m which at full tilt and in rhythm is trickier than you think and I can really appreciate the training that goes into making a great team.
It’s a hugely fun team sport and a great way to keep fit.
For more information on Dragon Boat Racing and the Bristol Empire Dragons, check out the links below.