Tara and I took her friend to the Dragon Boat Festival today. They wanted to go and cheer on another friend who would be on one of the Dragon Boat teams racing, the youth team of the Bridge City Paddling Club. Dragon boating is a team paddling sport that originated in China over 2000 years ago and transformed into an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976.
The Dragon Boat Festival is held in September, and presented by Dragon Sports USA. The boat races are the main event, in which typically 4 dragon boats race side by side for 500 meters in a straight line. Teams include 18 or 20 paddlers, 1 caller and 1 tiller. The teams make it a very fun event, by getting totally fired up in team spirit with temporary tattoos and haircolor to match their team colors, team mottos, and team banners. There was a man walking around selling dragon-boat themed socks.
The spectators gather at the finish line, since the boats are small and sit close to the water, making them hard to see at a distance. We can see the black specks on the water when they first line up, but can’t hear the starting horn. Soon enough, the specks grow larger as the boats get closer, paddlers going so fast that water flies everywhere. The caller is allowed to use their own voice or a drum to keep the paddling time, and the tiller keeps them on course.
These boats were different than the others I’ve seen, and have dragon heads about the size of a human head. Still, I love the dragon theme of the boats, with carved heads and tails, and scales painted along the sides.
After the race in which the Bridge City team with their friend took second place (Yay!), the kids played around a little, we hung out at the fabulous Saturday Market, and then they went off to a birthday party. Ah the life of a teenager.
Seeing the different style of boats used in these races reminded me that I began a post last year and never finished it. Those were the Dragon Boat races held during the Portland Rose Festival. I decided to include some of that information to show you the other boats. That time we had gone in support of a friend on a Wilson High School team.
Portland has been racing dragon boats in the Rose Festival for 25 years. We partner with our sister city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan in this endeavor, and the race is hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA). PKSCA owns eight Taiwan-style dragon boats; each boat accommodates 16 paddlers, 1 tiller, 1 caller, and 1 flag catcher required for each race heat.
These are photos from 2013: