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Team FAQ/Tips

We’ll let you in on a few secrets…

Can my team’s drummer count as one of our eight women?
No — you must have at least eight women paddling, even if your drummer is a woman as well.

What is the purpose of this shindig?
In addition to their desire to put on a fantastic weekend of community camaraderie, the Harbortown Rotary Club, Superior Rotary Club 40 and Superior Sunrise Centennial Rotary Club host this annual fundraising event to donate money to support the kinds of organizations and activities (mainly involving youth) that Rotary has traditionally supported in the Twin Ports. In 2010, the festival raised more than $88,000 for the Essentia Health Foundation.

What does the drummer do?
As an essential part of the dragon boat team, the drummer serves as the ‘pulse’ or ‘drumbeat’ for the entire team. The drummer’s role is both strategic and practical. Not only does he or she help the steersperson communicate with the crew by relaying commands to the front of the boat, but the drummer also keeps the paddlers in rhythm by matching his or her drumbeats with the strokes of the front two paddlers.

How are team members distributed in the boats?
Because boats are paddled rather than rowed, all occupants face forward. The 20 paddlers are divided 10 on each side, and the drummer sits in the bow facing the paddlers, either rhythmically beating a drum or calling race commands. The steersperson serves as a rudder, standing or kneeling in the stern while maneuvering the boat with a long steering oar. Four boats race in each heat, so steering is vital!

How much does it cost?
It costs $900 to register a team — that’s just $36 per person! This fee includes one coached practice session and boat rental for both the practice sessions and races on Saturday. The fundraising extravaganza is intended to be an open family event and is free to spectators and those attending festival events.

What is a dragon boat?
A dragon boat is a human-powered water craft designed to hold 20 paddlers, one drummer, and one person to steer. Stemming from ancient Chinese tradition, these boats typically contain ornamental regalia, including decorative Chinese dragon heads and tails. The 40-foot fiberglass and wood boats used in the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival are provided by the Rotary Clubs. Though the boats weigh 600 pounds when empty, they can weigh more than two tons when filled with a standard team! Observing these awe-inspiring vessels is an experience not to be missed — come see for yourself!

How long / when is the race?
The 350-meter competitive and recreational races take place Saturday morning and afternoon. Festivities are held Friday and Saturday evening and include live music, drum groups and singers, food, hay rides, craft fair, awards ceremony and other special activities.

Who is sponsoring the event?
The Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival is organized by the Harbortown, Superior #40 and Superior Sunrise Centennial Rotary Clubs. In addition to these major partners, the festival also relies on the support of countless other sponsors who generously donate their time and talents to make not only make the event a reality, but also an annual success.

How many people will be at the festival?
We had 82 teams race at the 2015 festival — that’s more than 2,500 people in the race, not to mention the volunteers, race officials, news media and thousands of people who came to Barkers Island to watch the event! 

Where’s all this activity goin’ down?
All events take place at Barkers Island, in the historic port town of Superior, Wisconsin. See ya there!

Who can participate?
Teams consist of a maximum of 25 people, including a designated team captain: 20 paddlers, a drummer, a steersperson, and up to three alternates. Of the 20 paddlers, eight must be women, and all participants must be at least 14 years old. Other than that, everyone can take part! Dragon boating isn’t about how strong or athletic you are; it’s all about how well you can paddle in unison with your team members. With all 20 paddlers working together in perfect sync, the glide is incredible!

Will my team get to practice before the event?
Yes, each team is required to register for one free practice session that includes a coach and paddling lesson to help you prepare for the big day.

Do I need to bring any equipment to race?
Nope! Dragon boats, paddles and PFDs are all included in your race fee. All you need to bring is a smile! Oh, and maybe some sunscreen.

Can I reserve a tent site for my team?
Sure! Contact the Tent Mayor to reserve your site.

How can I help?
We thought you’d never ask! The Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival is always looking for sponsors, volunteers and donors. These people and groups are at the heart of the annual success of the festival and, most important, its fundraising efforts. Contact us to find out how you can get involved and be a part of this exciting tradition!

Do I need to know how to swim?
Each team member should be able to swim 50 meters while wearing a personal flotation device. PFDs are provided to all participants as part of the race fee and must be worn at all times during practices and races.Though PFDs are required, participants should note that water wings are optional equipment (but highly recommended for those wishing to reclaim their inner juvenile jubilance!).

How is the event timed?
Races at the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival are so fast and furious that we use an electronic time system. A professional timing company shoots a narrow band camera along the finish line with a time clock attached to each frame. At the end of heats, boats surge and finish within a fractional second of each other!

Does my team need to provide a steersperson?
The steersperson for both the practice session and races will be provided by the Festival unless the team has an experienced steersperson who has competed in a previous dragon boat race.

Does my team have to design and make a team uniform?
Well, no, we don’t require that teams wear uniforms; however, as the ancient Chinese dragon boaters once said, “A team in uniform paddles in unison.” (Okay, yes, we did make that up — pretty good though, huh?)

What’s with the ceremonial painting and opening of the dragon’s eyes?
Painting the eyes of the dragon is an ancient and sacred Chinese tradition that has been performed for centuries. Painting the eyes signifies the awakening of the dragon, so this ceremony brings the dragon boats to life. We open the dragon’s eyes to give the boats energy, spirit and, of course, fire — watch out!

How do I sign up?
Visit our registration page for detailed registration information.

Team tips

  1. Establish a captain as the “go to” person for the group. This person will be in charge of coordinating the team’s practice sessions and making sure registration forms, the team roster, waivers and any additional materials are completed and turned in on time.
  2. Weight distribution: For maximum speed, the lightest people should be seated in the front and very back of the boat. The heaviest people should be placed in the middle.
  3. Pick a small fry for your drummer — you want someone who is light weight and not afraid to sit high up on a raised seat. Better yet, pick someone who isn’t afraid to wear some crazy paddle pants to reflect your team’s spirit and make you stand out amid the rest of the dragon boaters!
  4. Bring a canopy to provide shelter from the sun and camp chairs to sit on. You can also reserve a tent site for your team. Sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat are helpful, too.
  5. Drink lots of water to keep hydrated both before and after the races.
  6. We provide the boats, paddles and PFDs, but you might want to bring some cushioning for your derriere. The wood dragon boat benches are downright hard, and a keister cushion can be your best friend on race day. We recommend a gardening knee pad wrapped in a non-slip drawer liner.
  7. Prior experience is not a substitute for attending practice sessions. It’s been nearly a year since most teams have paddled, and teams always have new members. Each team is therefore a new team, and it’s important for the boat to be “full” so that you know how it will paddle/feel on race day.