Dragon boating today is the fastest growing international team water sport!!

Q: What is Dragon boat racing?

A: For those unfamiliar with the sport, dragon boating simply put, is a boat of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steers person paddling to cross the finish faster than their competition. It’s a team sport in its purest form that encompasses the elements of power, speed, synchronization and endurance.

Q: How did Dragon boating begin?

A: Dragon boat racing is one of the earliest known forms of boat racing and is celebrated at festivals and races throughout the world. This mythical celebration is a symbol of Chinese culture and spirit and is one of the three largest festivals in China. The roots of dragon boat racing go back over 2,000 years to the southern provinces of China.

Legend has it that Qu Yuan, a scholar and advisor to the emperor of the Chu Kingdom, jumped into the Mei Lo (Mi Luo) River in despair and protest against government corruption. Local fishermen raced out in their boats to save him. They beat drums and pounded their paddles on the river’s waters and threw rice dumplings wrapped in silk into the river to distract the water dragons and keep them from eating from Qu Yuan’s body. Dragon boating evolved from the re-enactment of this legend at annual festivals.

Q: Can anyone join?

A: YES! Only the desire to learn is needed.

Q: I have never been on a dragon boat, will that be a problem?

A: No, we provide the paddle, boat, life jacket and instruction. The appeal to dragon boating is mainly contributed to the sport’s ability to accommodate a wide spectrum of skill levels ranging from novice to competitive.

Q: Where do you compete?

A: We’ve competed in race events in Charlotte, Charleston, Chattanooga, Richmond, Atlanta, Lake Lure and Orlando. Race festivals are held around the world in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States, one of the largest festivals in the North America is held in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Q: I hear dragon boating is great for cancer survivors, why?

A: Paddling increases strength, improves range of motion, reduces pain, and provides relief from chronic symptoms of lymphedema. The practice sessions also keep team members exercising regularly, a practice shown to improve cancer survival rates. Survivors are cautioned to check with their doctor before they begin paddling or other exercise programs. (If you’re OK’d to participate, remember to ask your health care provider if you need to restrict your paddling to a specific side of the boat. This may be a necessary precaution for some individuals.)

If you’d like to read about other ways to improve your health after cancer, you can check out Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment from the American Cancer Society.

Q: What is the history behind Dragon boat racing and breast cancer survivors?

A: Dragon boat racing for breast cancer survivors started in 1996 by Don McKenzie, M.D., a specialist in sports medicine and exercise physiology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. McKenzie questioned the validity of accepted wisdom that discouraged breast cancer patients from participating in strenuous upper body exercise.

He conducted studies and reported the results in the Canada Medical Association Journal, showing that “upper-body exercise has a role in recovery from breast cancer because it can improve range of motion and reverse muscle atrophy, activate skeletal muscle (which may help pump lymph), stimulate the immune system and reset the sympathetic tone of the lymphatic vessels.”

The Abreast In A Boat website has much helpful information about the origins of the ancient Chinese sport, the evolution of dragon boating for breast cancer survivors, and its activities and locations today. The Web site also has links to numerous other sites and a list of all the teams in the world.