There is a long tradition of Dragon Boat racing in China. The races were part of complex ceremonials often coinciding with the Summer Solstice. The boats ranged in size considerably and there are records of Dragon Boats with 80 or more paddlers.
In the last 30 years a whole industry has developed supplying dragon boats and paddles as well as other accessories such as drums, steering oars and ornate dragon heads and tails!
Modern Boats tend to be smaller. Most Dragon Boat races use the 20 paddler plus a Drummer and a Steerer. 10 paddler models are also available and sometimes raced.
The sport has become very popular in the last 30 years with Dragon Boat associations springing up all over the world and International Races regularly held. The ceremonial aspect of Dragon Boat racing is lost in the modern sport, BUT the excitement and dedication is definitely alive and well.
Why paddle in a dragon boat?
Because Dragon boat paddling and racing is uncommonly good at creating a sense of belonging and teamwork it is often encouraged and sponsored by large corporations and financial institutions. Many of the people you see mightily pulling on their paddle in the evening were slugging it in the corporate world during the day.
It is a good work out in a pleasant environment, in the company of like minded people.
There are many levels of competition to add to the excitement. ... or not. Some people paddle just for fun. If you like to race there are many events all over the world.
At my club the fittest folks are the Dragon Boaters!Calendar of Dragonboat events around the world.
Dragon boat events and races has been associated with charitable pursuits and are often fundraisers as well. Breast cancer survivors have many Dragon Boat teams.
Anatomy of a modern Dragon Boat
Dragon boats have been traditionally made in wood and solid wood plank boats are still being made, more for show and presentation than for racing though. More commonly plywood and fiberglass combinations are available. Many boats are fiberglass with sometimes very modern core technology and manufacturing process. Finishes usually includes wood.
Because the Traditional Dragon Boats were originally made from planks, the modern boats are still shaped with flat plank like sides.
Production and Hull shape is strictly controlled by the IDBF
Dragon boat dimensions and hull shape is strictly controlled by the International Dragon Boat Federation. Anyone wishing to manufacture these for sale must go through a detailed certification complete with inspection. Within these confines the manufacturing process can be very modern
Once they are certified true to form, they then have the right to apply the IDBF label.
Its interesting to note that the IDBF has deliberately refused to modify the hull shape of the dragon boat to make it more efficient. They feel that an improved hull shape will change the nature of the boat and that they would no longer be a traditional Dragon Boat. Tradition is strong and valued, and is upheld by the Federation.
Link to the IDBF file including dimensioned drawings The document describes the registration and checking process for would-be manufacturers. It describes boats and paddles.
Dragon Boat Suppliers
Great White North has been promoting Dragon Boat Paddling and Racing for years. They offer boats, accessories, corporate programs, and are generally a great resource. They also organize and help sponsor events.
Kahlua Dragon Boat in Toronto makes a plywood/fiberglass boat. They also supply paddles. Their products are IDBF licenced. Facebook page
Vincent Lo, Six-Sixten Dragon Boats Ltd. (Canada) has been a Dragon Boat Supplier for many years in Vancouver Canada. He particularly likes making heads and tails. He supplies 24 paddler boats as well as more conventional 20 paddler boats. Read about it on his website. Lots of photos as well.
Voyageur canoes produce fiberglass Dragon Boats Below is the dimention of the boat they offer. They have produced the mould based on a traditional Teak Dragon Boat.
40' 10" or 12.5 m long
42" or 106 cm wide at gunwale
42" or 106 cm wide at widest point
18" or 45.7 cm deep
Capacity =4000 lb or 1814 kg
Fibreglass version weighs 720 lb or 327 kg
Doublefifth is also a supplier of Dragon Boats, plus a wide range of accessories including paddles. Their dragon boat measurement:
Model 1222- 20 paddler dragon boat
Length: 12.4m (40.68 feet)
Width: 1.16m (3.81 feet, widest point)
Depth: 0.54m (1.77 feet)
Weight: 250 kg (550 pounds)
Material hulls: fiberglass/polyester sandwich, double- hull construction, Coremat
Gel Coat: Ashland MaxGuard Gel Coat
Seats: 10 benches, 5 degree angle, seats 20
Dragon Boats are substantial boats weighing in at 250 plus Kilos and over 40 feet long. They are often put to mooring rather than taken out and launched each time they are used.
Dragon Boat Paddles
As are the hulls, paddles dimensions are carefully controlled and approved or not depending on their compliance to the standard. There is a range of size permitted. In order to be certified, the paddle design has to be approved and a sample provided. Any deviation from the norm could result in loosing certification.
Many manufacturers supply paddles for dragon boats. (Boat suppliers usually have paddles and other Dragon boat accessories.) Wood and Carbon fiber the favourite materials.
Grey Owl Dragon Boat paddles offers IDBF approved paddles in wood and composites.
I posted a Youtube Video of one of the races. Lots of excitement Shows how fast the boat can go.