The Dragon Boat Festival has just passed and this year, I have not had the chance to join my #DBFam to compete in the Stanley races in Hong Kong this time round.

How did I get into it?
Let’s go back a few years... I was spending time with my family and ate those delicious ‘Jung’ (a rice bundle steamed with various fillings wrapped in bamboo leaf) and I went to check out the Dragon boat races in Stanley. I was mesmorised by the sound of the drums, the team chanting in sync, the aggressive look on each paddlers’ face, the water splashing everywhere… I wanted to be part of that.

I had the opportunity to change jobs and soon found out that my company was recruiting for a Dragon Boat team for the upcoming season. I hit YES and entered my details straight away and because there are limited spaces (including backups) and the company being over 2,000 employees - names were picked at random. A few weeks later, I finally got the email. I got in!

Beginning of the season
Our training began in January and if you’ve been to Hong Kong in January, you will know that it can get chilly and being in water in this weather, the temperature is like Winter in the UK (but without the snow).

On my first session, I forgot to bring; a towel, and a nice warm jacket – to head home in. (How could you forget a towel?? Lesson learnt Nat. Lesson learnt). Rookie mistake. But I soon found out that a lot of the other team mates were not conveniently equipped as we didn’t think that we’d get DRENCHED on our first training.. Duh, you’re on the water!

To be honest, I took the first few training sessions as fun but when we began racing other boats at the end of each session, this was when I began getting hooked and began realising that I had a hidden competitive streak in me. I’ve always been active but I haven’t been part of a competitive team since my school days.

Warm up races
To prepare for race day, your team can take part in the warm up races. Just as competitive at the final race but it preps you for the day if you haven’t taken part before so that you know what to expect.

My first warm up race was an overwhelming experience. Stanley beach was packed, so packed that you can’t see the sand anymore because of the sheer amount of people. I’ve never seen such a sight.

2015 beach

There is a lot of waiting around as your team is given race numbers for each heat. So you could be racing at 8:30am and your next race will be at 11am. As this was in Hong Kong, we had 2 gazebo’s (1 for each boat, we had 2 company teams). This was a life saver as the temperature reached up to 35C (scorching!).

Dragon Boat Festival
The final race day arrives and Stanley beach is even more packed with people as there are more spectators as well as teams taking part.

There is such an atmosphere of ‘team spirit’ with teams warming up together, chanting, dancing, cheering and a lot of laughter, with the sound of the drums in the background. I loved it.

2015 db day2015 beach 2

A summary of our wins:
2014 - Silver bowl
2015 - Silver cup

2015 race day

Here are a few things I found important being in a Dragon Boat team:

1. Timing and technique – One person out of sync can cost the team the whole race
There are up to 22 people on a boat and all paddlers must paddle together using the same technique. This is more important than power and strength. A team can outperform a stronger boat with less strength but with impeccable timing and synchronisation.

When all paddles stroke at the same time, this makes the boat moves faster and breaking inertia, rather than using all your strength on a stroke which will most likely cause the stroke to be out of sync.

2. Don’t get distracted
During training and races it is very easy to be curious and look at other boats around you. You are not in their boat and you will have no control on what happens in their boat, only yours. Focus your attention on your boat and your team mates so that you make sure you are all working together.

3. The lead paddlers (usually at the front of the boat) sets the pace
In the boat, Paddling takes on a ‘knock on’ effect. The lead paddlers will set the pace, the paddlers behind them will be in sync with them and so forth to the rear paddlers.

4. Look at the your buddy and Look diagonal!
This was the phrase we heard at every training session. With the ‘knock on’ effect in motion, to keep up the synchronisation, you must ‘look at your buddy’ sitting next to you and ‘look diagonal’ at your buddy sitting diagonally in front of you. Doing this, your stroke will be in sync with the rest of the boat.

5. Everyone contributes
There are no individuals in a dragon boat team.

  • Your timing will affect performance
  • Speak up if you feel there is something that needs to be noticed
  • Communicate with your team mates. Correct their posture and technique if need be

6. Teams can win or lose, not individuals
At the finishing line the whole boat crosses the line, not individuals. No matter if you are the drummer, the steers person, the paddler at the front or back - you cross that finishing line as a team.

7. Don't forget to have FUN!

Boat 1                                                                                    #DBfam

Nat xo
(Originally posted on my


Published by Natalie W