Different Strokes – The universal appeal of dragon boating

Posted 15 Mar 2018

Story by CBR Canberra

Patriotism, striving for unity and the ultimate sacrifice. Not the first words that cross your mind when you see dragon crested boats pushing through the waters of Lake Burley Griffin. But these are the values at the heart of the sport of dragon boating that began with the legendary death of Qu Yuan.

In ancient China, Qu Yuan was the number one advisor to his king and foreshadowed an attack upon his kingdom. Exiled for his belief, his premonition later came to fruition. Devastated, he drowned himself in the River Milou. Beloved for his patriotic poetry, fisherman would paddle out onto the river, beating drums and slapping the water with their oars to scare away the fish in an attempt to preserve his body. And so began the tradition of dragon boats.

Whilst today’s dragon boating doesn’t require you to make the ultimate sacrifice or even be patriotic, it is still very much about unity with Canberrans aged as young as 13 through to 70+ years involved in this ultimate team sports. And whilst the emphasis is on having fun, the aim of most clubs is to develop world-class paddlers.

ACT dragon boats recently competed in the National Championships held in the Sunshine Coast on 3 March, bringing back two golds, three silvers and two bronze. Following their success, we spoke to Australian representative and Ice Dragons captain Katrina Pawley about what the sport means to her.

Australian Dragon Boat Representative and Ice Dragons Captain, Katrina Pawley.

“I’m in my 11th season and it’s the friendship, it’s getting out and forcing you to be active, but it’s also very social at the same time. It’s taken me to almost every single state in Australia and I’ve done three or four trips to Asia now, so it’s meant I’ve been able to do a lot more travelling and see the sides of things that you normally wouldn’t do just travelling either.”

While Katrina is very modest about her own achievements, admitting it warmed her heart to see her name placed on her hometowns wall of fame, the success that Canberrans have achieved in dragon boats goes much further and she says the sport is always on the lookout for the next great paddler.

“All the seasons are about to come to an end, but there’s heaps of clubs to choose from, so you can just do a couple of trial sessions with any club and see which one suits you, like some are more social, some are more competitive, some are single gender, some do masters, it depends on the individual to what club would suit you. I mean, there’s a giant lake right here, we should all use it, right?

“Next year, the ACT is hosting the National Dragon Boat Championships, with crews coming from all over Australia to compete. So if you’re thinking about getting involved, now is a great time. Even if you’re not competing, it’s going to be a great spectacle on the Lake for people wanting to come down and see all the action.”

For more details on dragon boating, contact Dragon Boat ACT.

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