Dragon Boat Practice and Race Preparation


  • Drink plenty of water leading up to and during practices and race day. You CAN bring water in the boat.
  • Experts recommend a half cup of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercise.
  • Weeks before Dragon Boat practice get plenty of time outside to help your body adjust to hotter temperatures and begin getting some cardio exercise leading up to the event.
  • Turn the AC down. Don’t get too accustomed to air-conditioning at least one week before practices.
  • During Dragon Boat practices, take a break if you need it. Don’t overdo it.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein as you prepare for Dragon Boat racing.
  • Watermelon is an excellent source of hydrating fruit.
  • Sports drinks can replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and energy drinks as they can dehydrate you.
  • Wear loose fitting, lightweight and light colored clothing.
  • If your urine is yellow, you are dehydrated.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating. But if heat stroke sets in, the body can no longer compensate and stops sweating.
  • Pale skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Altered mental status (confusion or disorientation)
  • Headache
  • Becoming semi-conscious, or passing out.
  • Nausea or vomiting


Conduct in the boat: There should be no/minimal talking once your team is in the boat. The drummer and steerperson must be able to communicate with the team and each other at all times, and all team members need to be able to hear the commands. Paddle straight up in the air if you need to draw attention to yourself in case of emergency.

Buddy System: Make certain that each of your team members knows who is sitting beside them in case the boat swamps/capsizes, which is highly unlikely. Teammates will be responsible for each other’s safety until rescue arrives. STAY WITH THE BOAT!

Life Jackets: everyone must wear a life jacket during practice and on Race Day.

Drummer: The drummer should attend all practices. He or she will assist in setting the timing for the team and can be an excellent source of motivation and inspiration during practices and on Race Day.

How To Sit In The Boat:

Outside hip forward

Inside hip back

Outside leg extended along the gunwale(inside top rail of the boat)

Inside foot under the seat or braced effectively and comfortably

Seven Steps of the Dragon Boat Paddling Technique: 


Reach Extension

Top Arm Drive (stab the water)

Catch –powerfully drive the paddle into the water at approximately a 45 degree angle, burying the entire blade into the water – your hand should get wet.

Pull water with the entire blade until you get to just behind your knee

Exit – get that paddle straight up and out of the water quickly, no further back than your hip

Recovery – snap the paddle back into the paddles up position for the next catch

Dragon Boat Paddling Commands

  • Paddles up: Be ready to paddle. All paddlers with paddles above the water (3-6 inches from the surface) ready to enter the water.
  • Take it Away: Begin paddling.
  • Let it Run: Stop paddling and let the boat glide.
  • Hold the Boat or Stop the Boat: Place paddles in the water, with paddle pointed straight down, blade submerged. It will stop the boat.
  • Back it Down: Paddle backwards.
  • Draw (left or right side): Initiates a turn using draw strokes by the designated paddlers. Can also be sued to get the boat closer to something, a dock, for example.
  • Stabilize the Boat: Place your paddle blade on top of the water and hold it there. This stabilizes the boat. It is needed when anyone stands up in the boat to change position, etc.

Focus up the middle of the boat, don’t look at the water or the paddle. Make sure to breathe, breathe, breathe….and have fun!!!!! Make sure to hydrate well – your body should be ready for competition.

*Note: When the coach is talking, please continue to paddle and listen. Never stop paddling unless your coach says “Let it run.”

**Race Day Note: The finish line buoys are merely a marker and not the actual finish line, which is determined by the chief official using a line of sight. Your steerperson will tell you to “Let it run” when the first half of the boat has crossed the finish line to ensure a proper finish.