The sun has finally returned to Hong Kong, giving us the perfect excuse to hit the water and start training for the Dragon Boat Festival in June. What could be more exciting that joining 5,000 paddlers in the Stanley sea and hurtling furiously towards the finish line? According to Stormy Dragon Vicki Easton – nothing! We ask her why.
1. It’s the ULTIMATE Team Sport
No other sport in the world requires 20 people to paddle at the same time across the same distance of water in perfect unison. Also, the social scene after the races is great fun!
2. You Get a FULL Body Workout
An average one hour training session can burn anywhere between 500-800 calories. Many people automatically think this is an arm sport – it really isn’t because you work everything – back, shoulders, lats, legs and core. The boat weighs the equivalent of a polar bear and with 20 paddlers inside the boat, close to 2 tonnes. It’s unlike any sport you will have ever done, but you shouldn’t be put off after your first go – it will feel strange and your muscles that you didn’t even know you had will ache!
3. It’s an Ancient Chinese Sport with Deep Traditions
In ancient China the dragon boat was used for religious purposes as a way of appeasing the rain gods. Later, Qu Yuan, the great warrior poet, committed suicide in the river Mi Lo, as a protest against the political corruption of the day. To commemorate this sacrifice the people began to organise dragon boat races in his memory. Since that time (over 2000 years ago), dragon boat racing has become a major part of Chinese culture, representing patriotism and group integrity. The modern day sport of dragon boat racing began right here in Hong Kong in 1976.
4. It’s a Great Way to Make Friends
My husband and I joined a local team when we arrived in Hong Kong in 2011. We wanted to tick off a bucket list item which was uniquely Hong Kong and we needed to get out there and meet people. Clubs generally have anywhere between 25-80 members so it’s an easy way to mix quickly with many nationalities and professions. Many of our best friends in Hong Kong paddle or have held a paddle in their time living here.
5. The Sport is HUGE!
There are many ways to get involved in this sport, globally there are plenty of corporate team and charity races. There is even a race at the World Club Crew Championships dedicated to breast cancer survivors. There is a very competitive and international scene with many clubs in Hong Kong battling it out across a series of races starting from April to September. With over 50 million participants globally (yep, you read that right!) the sport of dragon boat racing is loved around the world by many!
Vicki Easton paddles for BGC Stormy Dragons and was recently selected to represent Great Britain. She also paddled in the World Championships in Welland, Canada in August last year, as well as the largest dragon boat festival in the world in Hong Kong.