Dragon Boat Information and FAQs

A standard Dragon boat has 10 bench seats with a capacity of 20 paddlers, one sweep and a drummer (normally only present during competitions). 

A small dragon boat has 5 bench seats for ten paddlers, plus a sweep and drummer, but these are less common.  

At BRD we have six standard boats and two small boats. 

All dragon boats are stored under boat covers in the reserve and are launched from the boat ramp or beach depending on beach and tide conditions. 

During competition dragon boats are 'dressed' with a head and tail, and have a drum and drummer's seat attached. 

Paddling is great exercise, and you can be as serious or social as you wish but be warned, once you have a boat alongside you it’s all about winning! 

Paddling FAQ’s

  • How do I know when training is? 

We use the ‘Teamreach’ mobile App to organise attendance at our training sessions and other events such as Regattas. Coaches post regular training sessions and other events, and club members then indicate their availability and any comments.  

Prior to the session coaches will post a list of paddlers and their position in the boat as the boat needs to be balanced according to weight and strength. 

  • What happens at training? 

On water training sessions of around 60-75 minutes are held on Saturday mornings and Tuesday early evening with a Thursday evening session added druing competition season.

Paddlers usually arrive 30 minutes prior to training to prepare the boats and have a stretch and warm up session (and a gossip). The coaches will outline what the training objectives for each session will be (strength, stamina, technique) and off we go to launch the boat. 

After our training session all paddlers ensure the boats are washed off if needed, then parked and covered. 

  • What should I wear for paddling? 

It’s a water sport so there’s a good chance you will get a bit wet. You don’t need any special gear but quick dry shorts, shirt or any active wear is appropriate. Wear shoes that you can get wet, even thongs or Crocs are fine. Be sunsafe and wear a hat and take a water bottle. 

  • Do I need to buy a paddle? 

No, we have paddles for new paddlers to use. Paddles can be collected from the Dragon Boat container at the clubhouse prior to training and are to be returned after training. Paddlers usually tend to buy their own paddles once they decide to join. Life Jackets are also available for anyone who wishes to wear one.    


  • What are the various roles in the boat?

Coach - The coach will set and deliver the program for the session in accordance with the season training plan. Our coaches take turns delivering sessions according to an agreed roster. Our coaches are Mark Slater, Martin Pavelka and Di Clohessy. All are fully accredited as coaches through the national body AusDBF.

Sweep - The Sweep or Steerer stands at the back of the boat and steers the boat using a large sweep oar. The sweep is ultimately responsible for the safety of the boat and paddlers. Directions from the sweep are to be acted upon. A sweep may call for a boat to stop or to move within a session to ensure the boat is in a safe position.   

Paddlers -  Up to 20 paddlers can sit within a standard boat, and 10 within a small boat. They provide the 'engine' for the dragon boat. An experienced crew can achieve speeds greater than 15km per hour!

Strokes - Strokes are the two paddlers who sit in the front seat of the dragon boat. The strokes set the stroke rate and timing for the boat. 

Counter - During a training session a paddler will often be nominated as the 'counter'. This is for when training drills are based on a 'number of strokes'. While paddling, the counter will keep track of the number of strokes and advise the coach/sweep. 

Drummer - The drummer sits on the seat at the very front of the boat and works with the crew to keep timing during racing as well as work with the sweep to direct the race, calling for lifts, motivating the crew etc.  A drummer is necessarily as light as possible.

  • What is numbering off? 

Once the boat is loaded the Sweep (who steers the boat) will ask paddlers to ‘number off’. Paddlers will call out their number starting from left to right, front to back. The front left paddler (#1) , front right (#2) etc all the way to the Rear right (#20). The count will start at the drummer if one is on board. The count continues from left to right after that. This is a safety measure to aid the sweep to account for every member of the crew in the event of an incident. 

  • What is drawing? 

No, we don’t give everyone a pencil and a sheet of paper.  

Drawing is a paddling technique which is used to straighten the boat when stationary (usually encountered at a race start). It's most common at start situations in windy conditions. A few rows on one side at either the front or rear of the boat will be instructed to draw. This involves paddling sideways and drawing the paddle DEEP under the boat. 

  • Paddling backwards? 

On occasion we will have to paddle backwards to manoeuvre the boat, usually when leaving the jetty in training, and when reversing into start pontoons during competition. When you paddle backwards paddlers will be asked by the sweep to look BEHIND them and take their timing from the paddler BEHIND them.  

  • How fast do I paddle? 

The speed of stroke you paddle at is called the stroke rate. This is set by the front two paddlers so get your timing from them. Paddling at a fast rate doesn’t necessarily make the boat go faster. 

  • Do dragon boats have a drummer? 

Yes, they do at competitions, but not at usually training. The drummer will sit at the front of the boat facing the paddlers and beats the rate on the drum