There’s a dragon boater in all of us!
Each team consists of a maximum of 25 people: 20 paddlers (eight must be women), a drummer, a steersperson, a manager and two alternates. Registration is $900 per team — that’s just $36 per person! Paddlers must be at least 14 years of age, but there are plenty of other ways youngsters can get involved through volunteering and festival events!
Paddler Position Descriptions
When setting up crew positions, the 20 paddlers in the boat can be thought of as three sections. The sections are the FRONT (the first six paddlers,) the ENGINE ROOM (the middle eight paddlers) and the BACK (the last six paddlers.)
The weight of your team members must be taken into consideration when assigning seats. Failing to position your team by weight will negatively affect how the boat sits in the water and will make steering more difficult.
Place your biggest paddlers in the engine room, and your lighter paddlers in the front and back sections. This also makes your boat more safe.
Side to side and front to back weight distribution must also be considered when assigning seats in the boat. The Steersperson must move paddlers around within their section to improve the overall balance of the boat.
When racing, the steersperson must also be aware of wind and currents to keep the boat stable and moving straight ahead. Knowing how the boat reacts under certain conditions is key to speed and safety. For this reason, the LSDBF provides experienced steerspeople for any teams that need them.
The two paddlers at the front of the boat are called the STROKES. These are the pace setters whom the rest of the team follows. The water at the front of the boat is undisturbed, presenting strong resistance. Therefore, it is more difficult to pull the paddle through the water at the front of the boat. For this reason, the strokes need to be strong and steady.
Place your smaller, lighter paddlers in the strokes position, and insure that they have great form, good timing and are team oriented. The stroke on the right is considered to be the lead stroke. However, the two stroke paddlers must work in unison to set the pace and stay in time with each other.
Your paddlers in the strokes positions provide a visual example for the rest of your team to follow.
Technique of the strokes paddlers is crucial to setting the pace for the rest of the team. The paddling rate of the team is affected by the length of the paddling of the strokes. If the strokes have short and choppy paddle techniques, the row immediately behind the strokes cannot paddle at full range. The stroke technique of the two front paddlers can affect the strokes of the entire team.
The drummer is seated at the front of the boat with his/her back to the finish line, and watches the lead STROKE and then relays that pace to the rest of the boat via verbal commands and beating the drum. It is very important that your drummer keeps time with the stroke (if they can’t dance, they probably can’t drum!)
Any variation between the sound of the drum and the paddling of the lead stroke will cause confusion amongst the rest of your team. You may find that some paddlers watch those paddling in front of them, while other listen to the drum beat to set their pace. In any case, strokes and the drum must be in sync.
In most cases, it is best to use a smaller, lighter person who has a big voice in the drummer position. It is the not the drummers role to set the pace instead to echo it with the drum and verbal commands in time with the lead stroke. The ability of your drummer to do this is key to a fast boat.
The drummer can also rely on other methods to lead the team, such as visual cues and a booming voice! He/she should remind paddlers to reach forward and to keep looking to the front. Other boats racing alongside of yours will no doubt be making a lot of noise too. For these reasons, the drummer is best served by being vocal and assertive. A good drummer works together with the steersperson to keep the paddlers in sync and the boat tracking properly.
By following the stroke paddlers, the six paddlers in the front section of your boat will help set the pace for the rest of the team. You’ll want to have paddlers with good long paddling strokes in the front section.
Although the front paddlers will be smaller than their team mates in the engine room, they must be strong paddlers if they are to be seated in the front.
The “Engine Room”
The middle eight paddlers, or the engine room, is usually reserved for the heavier, stronger paddlers. The water will have already been disturbed by the front paddlers who are leading the charge, and since it is moving more quickly that allows those in the engine room to pull their paddles through the water more quickly and easily.
There may be a tendency for the engine room paddlers to rush the exit of their paddlers from the water compared to the front paddlers. For that reason, engine room paddlers must have the strength to dig deep into solid water which will yield a more effective and powerful stroke. This digging deep helps the engine room to maintain their stroke rate and provides much power to the boat.
The “Back of the Boat”
There’s no shame being in the back of the boat! The back is where your captain will place six paddlers who are smaller people but still capable of making strong strokes through the water.
Since they are fourteen people stroking in front of the back, the water is moving faster and as a result it is softer. This means that it takes a little more effort to add to the power of the boat when one is seated in the back.
Back of the boat paddlers need more skill to paddle well and to get a good catch. For that reason they need to paddle deeper and longer.
Water at the back usually moves out and away from the hull. To stay in contact with the water, back paddlers need to keep their paddles close to the hull and should avoid the tendency to be drawn out into a wide, circular return stroke.
Due to the speed of the water at that position, it is easy for the back of the boat to begin paddling faster. This may result in them chasing the engine room and front. Some teams find it helpful to use the paddlers in either row 7 (last row of the engine room) or row 8 (first row of the back) as strokes for the back of the boat. Their role is to keep the pace the same as the rest of the boat while ensuring the back doesn’t chase or push the front.
The back paddlers sometimes have a tendency to pause at the end of their strokes due to the speed of the water. To counteract that tendency, their strokes should be long in order to drive the paddle into the water harder, which will slow down the paddle and make for a more effective stroke.