What is Dragon Boat Racing?

It’s been called the ‘ultimate team sport’. Dragon boat racing is the fastest-growing water sport in the world – truly a global phenomenon.

Dragon boat racing is visually spectacular, tremendously fun and widely accessible to almost any age or level of ability. No experience necessary! It is easy to learn and men and women can train and compete together.

Twenty paddlers, a drummer and a steersperson move in unison, combining strength with teamwork, in a boat whose elaborate design originates in ancient China. There are no stars or bench warmers – teamwork is everything in dragon boat racing!

Dragon boat races and festivals are held in 80 countries, but never before in Israel – until DBI!

Drummer's view of dragon boat

Modern Dragon Boat Racing

Modern dragon boat racing began to gain popularity beyond China in the 1990s. In 1991, the International Dragon Boat Federation was created. There are currently 70 member countries and territories.

Part of dragon boating’s growing popularity can be tied to the sport’s appeal to all spectrum of skill levels and athletic ability. A team of 20 paddlers can have a variety of skill levels and, as long as its members learn to work as a synchronized team, they can achieve success and have a great deal of fun at the same time. Fun plus teamwork makes dragon boat racing appealing to many, from friends looking for something new and interesting to do together, to corporations looking for a great team-building experience.

Visit our Teams page to learn more about forming a team.

Breast Cancer survivor ceremony DBILink to Breast Cancer

In 1996 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Dr. Donald McKenzie put together a dragon boat team to help him study the impact of upper body exercise on women who had been treated for breast cancer. The team members had such a great time that, instead of disbanding once the study was over, they continued to paddle.

Eighteen years later that original team, Abreast in a Boat, still paddles! Their enthusiasm has spread throughout the breast cancer community, and there are now hundreds of teams of breast cancer survivors paddling all over the world in a celebration of life. Competing in friendly rivalry, these teams demonstrated that there can be an active, productive and fun-filled life after breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Ceremony during Dragon Boat Israel:

Link to Charity Fundraising:

At the heart of dragon boat paddling is the ability to not only have a great time, but to give back to the community. The 2012, DBI Festival raised over $50,000 for its chosen charities in Israel. To date, we’ve raised over $140,000 for Israeli charities.

Go here to learn more about our charitable partner, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Ancient History

About 2300 years ago, during the Warring States period, a well-respected poet and statesmen named Qu Yuan lived in the Chinese Kingdom of Chu. He was disturbed by the corruption and by the court intrigues of many courtiers who resented his talent, popularity and sense of righteousness. The story goes that other officials convinced the Emperor that Qu Yuan was corrupt, that his plea for reforms be ignored and that he be banished from the Kingdom.

For years, he wandered the countryside composing poems expressing his patriotism and love for the people. Either as an act of despair or as an ultimate protest against the corrupt government, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mei Lo river (in today’s Hunan province) on the fifth day of the fifth month in the year 278 B.C.

He composed two famous poems – ‘Ai Ying’ and ‘Huai Sha’ – before jumping into the river tied to a large stone. Grief-stricken local fishermen who witnessed Qu Yuan’s desperate act tried to save the patriotic poet. They sailed up and down the river to look for him and desperately thrashed the water with their oars and paddles to scare off the hungry fishes that might eat his body. To commemorate the patriotic man, the fishermen and rural town folks threw cooked rice dumplings wrapped in silk or banana leaves into the water in order to appease the spirits of the river on his death anniversary. These rice dumplings are called ‘Tsung Tze’ or ‘Ma Chang’.

The first Dragon Boat Races were recorded in the Tsin period. It became popular in the Tang Dynasty ( 618-907 BCE), spreading throughout the Yangtze River Valley and to most of South China. One paddler traditionally stands in the boat searching for Qu Yuan’s body while a drummer on board and the ferocious-looking dragon designs were added to frighten away evil water spirits. This is because Chinese people traditionally regard the dragons as presiding over the water and having dominion over rainfall. It is also the supreme symbol of power and benevolence in the Far East. In the present day, the Dragon Boat Festival is held annually in different nations world-wide. In China alone, 20 million people are active in this sport.