At first glance it would appear everybody gets an opportunity to perform in a dragon boat.
The 20-person crew ensures there is power to propel the boat. Then there’s the sweep who steers the craft and the drummer who ensures there is rhythm in the crew.
With 22 people on a 12-metre long boat it’s pretty much essential that there is harmony, which is why dragon boating is utilised by companies for team bonding or team building.
Crews race over 200 and 500 metres and two kilometres. The shorter distances can be deceiving. Having tried it a couple of times I can tell you it lifts the heart rate considerably.
What I didn’t realise about dragon boat racing is the sheer number of paddlers in Canberra. There are nine sports teams and two school teams. The number of paddlers involved in the sport prior to COVID-19 was beyond 650.
There was a drop-off during COVID-19 but there is optimism that the numbers will rise as more people become aware of the sport.
That awareness program extends to a ‘Come and Try Day’ on Saturday 21 January at the dragon boat base at Grevillea Park, just along from The Boat House restaurant on Lake Burley Griffin.
A prerequisite for paddlers is that they need to be 12 or older.
The future is looking bright for dragon boating. There are plans for a government-built permanent facility. The sport relocated from the Yacht Club to the East Basin a couple of years ago.
The benefits of paddling are physical and mental fitness.
Dragon Boat ACT (DBACT) president Donald Jenkin is living proof of the benefits of the sport.
“I just got a bit older,” he said. “I needed to get fitter. I’ve been doing it for seven years now. The benefits of the sport are great.”
There are plenty of participation options, with teams catering for female-only crews, to school-based competition, to paddlers looking for basic exercise, to those seeking to become elite.
And there are many people within all of these categories to paddle alongside.
On the weekend 300 paddlers took part in a regatta on the lake coupled with the launching of the Deaf Paddling program in collaboration with Deaf ACT.
The free DBACT Come and Try Day is open to the whole community and will be held on Saturday 21 January. If you wish to participate, arrive at 10:15 am for a 10:30 am start. Boats will leave and arrive back at Grevillea Park, Menindee Drive, Barton.
Paddles and life jackets will be provided. Bring a water bottle, hat, sun cream, and shoes that can get wet.