Despite being the fastest growing sport in Australia, Dragonboat racing remains relatively unknown to a vast percentage of the greater community. It’s often associated with ancient Chinese traditions and there is a lack of understanding when it comes to the nature of the sport in the modern sense.
The past week saw the Australian Dragonboat Championships down at the Sydney International Regatta Centre and a great example of the competitive and collaborative nature of the sport.
There is an overpowering sense of excitement as the drums beat away to the rhythm of the paddle strokes. Out on the waters there is so much adrenalin pumping that you can’t help feeling involved even from the stands.
There is an increasing number of Dragonboat clubs sprouting up across Australia and people are partaking for various different reasons.
There is Andrea from the Brisbane River Dragons, who I managed to catch briefly in her delight at taking home Silver for the 200m Mixed Masters. Andrea has been in the sport for 18 months and talks proudly of the BRD being one of the oldest clubs in Queensland and the largest team at the Games. Not surprisingly, the club picked up numerous trophies that day. Andrea was looking for a way to get fit and found out about the club through an advertisement. When asked what she liked most about the sport, she said it was fun and provided a good workout, but it was the comradeship that she particularly enjoyed.
Ray Curran of Northern Territory’s Arafura Dragons has been paddling for a lot longer. As an ex-Police Search and Rescue officer, Ray first took up the sport in November 2006 when knee injuries prevented him from participating in his usual sport of badmington. He started out with the Adelaide Blackdragons and competed in the World Police Fire Games before moving up to Darwin.
Ray describes dragonboating as exciting from a team level and a great way to meet people. It’s still a relatively small and tight community where you’ll easily bump into people you know at the next games. Besides having great fitness benefits, it’s also a fantastic sport for the older demographic. This has recently seen the introduction of the ‘Great Grand Masters’, a category for competitors of age 60+.
Cathy and Allan founded the Akuna Dragon Boat Club in Gold Coast 4 years ago. They describe the club as very community based and equate its member base (currently 35) to a large family. Initially established to encourage healthier ways of living, Cathy and Allan are passionate about changing lifestyles and equal participation for all, particularly those with disabilities or overweight.