Hong Kong is the birthplace of dragon boating as a modern sport, and The Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships are held annually during the Tuen Ng Festival.
Seasoned Dragon Boat coach Stephen Lee has been rowing for more than 26 years and shares his insight on the sport.
What is the history of dragon boating?
More than 2,000 years ago, China had a warlord dynasty and government minister Qu Yuan tried to persuade the leaders to be good to the people. The kingdom did not follow so he threw himself into the Mi Lo River. The citizens were afraid the fish would eat his body so they threw rice dumplings in the river, beat loud drums and decorated their boats with scary dragon faces to keep them away. This started the tradition of annual boat races in South China to commemorate the event.
What is the history of the races in Hong Kong?
The modern sport started in Hong Kong in 1976 with the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races. The Sun Life Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships are the largest in the world with 12 lanes, 280 teams. It is the true sport for teamwork: not a single hero on the boat, no superior, no rubbish, no star.
What are your top rowing tips?
- Team work: There are 18 people on the boat, and synchronization and communication are key. If the team rows together, regardless of strength, you have power. If even one person is off, they hold back the entire boat. There is one heartbeat.
- Paddling: In addition to paddling at the same time, form is important. The paddles need to hit the water vertically next to the boat to get the most power when pushing the water. If you enter at 45 degrees, you lose power. If your paddle is not beside the boat, the boat does not go straight.
- Physical fitness: Dragon boating is a very physical sport. You must have good cardio and stamina.
- Luck: Other factors come into play that you can’t control. Sometimes the boat might have a lot of water in it which makes you slower. Also lane placement is important because you go faster in deeper water because the current drags you in shallow waters.