If you had no idea what dragon boating was until you saw these pictures, don’t worry – you’re not alone! I had never heard of it when I first saw an advert for a trial session in 2003. Since then, I’ve spent many many hours training, racing and spending time with my fantastic club, Notts Anaconda.
Dragon boating is a team sport with a full crew consisting of 20 paddlers, a helm (who stands at the back and controls the boat) and a drummer (who sits at the front and bangs a drum).
At national league level in the UK men and women compete together on an even footing, with most crews comprising a mix of genders.
Dragon boating is a fantastic leveller. It’s not like any other sport (kayaking is the most similar), so everyone who joins comes in at a similar level – marathon runners and couch potatoes alike. And in dragon boating, racing for your country is within many people’s reach if they put the work in. It is perfectly possible to take up dragon boating one year and qualify as part of the GB squad the very next year, representing club and country at overseas events.
Growing up, I was never thought of as a ‘sporty’ person; I took part willingly but I was always rubbish at everything – until I discovered dragon boating.
Since joining Notts Anaconda I have spent ten years as Secretary on the club’s governing committee, picked up trophies on behalf of the club, shared in the highs – and the lows – of over 100 race events, trained with the GB squad, spent hours in the gym, recorded a ‘fastest female’ time trial, learned to helm and am now part of the club’s coaching team. Not bad for someone who was never ‘sporty’.
The dragon boating world is also an incredibly friendly and welcoming one. When I first went to Cape Town in 2012 one of the reasons I chose the city was because of its dragon boat teams – I knew that even if I spoke to no-one else the whole time I was there I would be welcomed into the local team. Mujaji Cape Town has now welcomed me back every year since and has become my much-loved ‘second home’ club.
There are plenty of sites about dragon boating around the web. Links to the main UK sites are all available on the Notts Anaconda website, and YouTube has plenty of dragon boating videos including footage of us competing and entertaining viewing of Notts Anaconda’s extreme dragon boating in the snow!