Thinking of Dragon Boat racing? Here are answers to questions frequently asked by newcomers to the sport:

What is Dragon Boat Racing?

Dragon boating is a fast, adrenalin pumping, dynamic, non-contact team water sport which had its origins in Ancient China but now has a presence in countries all around the world.

It usually involves 20 paddlers, a sweep (who steers) and a drummer in a purpose built boat competing in races over various distances with 200m and 500m being the most common.

During training sessions we do not deploy a Drummer and there may be less than 20 people in the boat.

What is a Dragon Boat?

A Dragon Boat is a racing craft some 12.40 metres long and 1.16 metres wide. A Standard boat sits 20 paddlers in pairs side by side, a Sweep (Steerer), and when racing, a Drummer. The boat weighs some 250 kg.

What happens at Training?

Our training sessions normally last 1–1.5 hours. There is a warm up and warm-down with set paddling drills depending on the season and upcoming race demands. We also have some purely social paddles through the year.  We paddle on both sides of the boat, changing sides during the recovery break at the end of each drill.

Where and when do we train?

We train all year round out of Rowland Reserve/ Bayview Boat Ramp, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Click here for a location map and training times. 

What do I wear and bring to training?

What to Wear

You will get wet while training. Many paddlers wear a T-shirt or sun shirt or rash vest, wet-suit shorts or board shorts or padded shorts, and slip-on reef walking shoes. Thongs are not considered safe wear. A hat or cap that protects you from the sun is recommended.


A water bottle is essential, and a bottle carrier that goes around your waist is handy. 

Sunglasses are recommended as they also keep the salt water out of your eyes, as well as the glare off the water.

Sunscreen is a must, especially as the sun shines off the water as well as hitting you directly.


Many paddlers also bring one or two towels and possibly some dry clothes to change into after training which they leave in their car.

Car keys are put into a waterproof bag and secured in one of our lock ups.

Is parking available where you train?

Meter/paid parking is available within Rowland Reserve/Bayview Boat Ramp.

Many of our paddlers park outside the main Reserve parking area on the street, or in a smaller parking area, north of the main entrance to the metered car park.

Is training cancelled due to bad weather?

Our primary concern is safety. Training will be cancelled if there is lightening or unsafe wind/wave conditions. We use an app for training RSVP and to communicate cancellations.

Rain is not a reason to cancel training.

Do I need to join before I can Paddle?

No.  Come and Try before making a membership commitment. 

How fit must I be?

You certainly need to have a sound, base level fitness, and have no medical condition which is not compatible with the explosive, high intensity nature of Dragon Boat racing/training.

Do I need experience?

Experience is not required, as Coaches will explain the paddling technique and you will buddy-up with an experienced paddler whilst in the boat.

Are there different age groups?

Yes. Bei Loon caters for all adult age groups, and Regatta races are usually conducted for Premiers (under 40 years); Senior A (40-49); Senior B (50-59) and Senior C (60+).

How competitive is the Club?

Bei Loon has been very successful at both State and Australian levels.  The Club also encourages members who have a fitness and social objective rather than competitive.

How social is the Club?

Bei Loon prides itself on being very friendly and welcoming. We have a Social Committee which organises various activities plus many other social gatherings organised between smaller groups of members. Check out our Facebook and Instagram pages.

What fees/costs are involved?

When trying out

There is no cost until you have had a number of guest paddles.

As a member

There are two annual membership fees

  • Dragon Boat NSW Inc. fees being $100 per year, and includes insurance.
  • Bei Loon's club fees are $150

If you join after December (membership year is July to June) then your fees will be pro-rated. 

During the year if you participate in a regatta, there is a per person fee of $41.  A Club levy is also applied to those wishing to travel by Bus to/from a Regatta venue.

In addition there is a requirement for you to purchase your own paddle and Club racing top. Please enquire further about these purchases when you are making your decision to join.

Do I have to attend all training sessions?

No. However, attendance at training is one of the criteria used for Regatta team selection. The Coaches appreciate prior notice if an attendance difficulty is foreseen.

Do I have to compete in races?

Competition can be the celebration and reward for all our training efforts.  We courage all paddlers to experience the joy and addictive nature of competition. Non-competitors are very much still welcome to our club.

How are crews selected?

A number of factors are considered ranging from Ergometer tests and Water trials to qualitative criteria such as Technique, Teamwork, Attitude and Attendance.

What happens at Regattas?

There are usually 5 main DBNSW Regattas each season plus State and Australian Championships. These domestic Regattas are typically held 1 per month from October through to February followed by the Championship events.

Regattas can be full days or partial i.e. morning or afternoon. Complete race programs are between 45-50 events with Bei Loon competing in as many divisions as can be supported by the paddlers attending.

Bei Loon takes Gazebo shelters to Regattas for most Sydney based events. Paddlers usually take collapsible chairs and a backpack with extra water, snacks/fruit, a lunch or more meals, sunscreen and possibly a towel.  

Where Regattas are held at the Sydney International Regatta Centre (Penrith) a bus is arranged for our paddlers. The bus leaves from Rowland reserve. The Fee for each Regatta is currently $41 per paddler and the Club places a levy on paddlers wishing to take the bus.

Bei Loon crews have also competed in Overseas, Inter-State and regional NSW regattas.

Sweep Calls (the person who steers the boat)

While in the boat the sweep who steers the boat is the one who controls the boat, and it is important to listen and obey his calls.

Calls from the Sweep



Change Sides or Swap Over (from the front)

Starting from the front of the boat the paddlers change sides as instructed by the Sweep. The paddler sitting to the right of the each pair, stands up and starts to move to the left, while the left paddler slides to the right, each balancing the other out until the standng paddler is able to sit. The paddlers should avoid sudden movements and transfer their weight uniformly to maintain the boat balance. Starting from the front the swap should be executed one row at a time. The row behind shouldn’t start changing until the row in front has completely finished swapping.

Paddles Back

Paddles are placed in a backward position for paddling backwards, awaiting the sweeps call “GO” to initiate reversing by pushing the blade forward in time with the crew mate in front of you.

Paddles Up

Move paddle to the start position (paddles up). Paddles are placed forward with arms stretched out, but paddles are not placed in the water as yet, but are ready to take the first stroke.

Paddles Flat

Paddlers press the blade of the paddle flat on the water to stabilise the dragon boat (also known as “Bracing” the boat)

Hold Water

This is when paddlers hold their paddles still in the water to halt the dragon boat motion and to keep the boat stationary. Occasionally the Sweep may ask for the paddles to be perpendicular with the boat, depending on which way the boat is drifting.

Brake the boat / Stop the boat

Paddlers stop the dragon boat quickly by holding the paddle behind them with the blade in the water and the handle resting on the side of the boat, with downward pressure on the blade.

Get Set (Not commonly used as much now)

Crew members lean forward with arms straight, resting on the gunwales and with the paddle at a 90 degree angle, nearly touching the paddler in front of them.


Start paddling

Let it Run

Paddles come out of the water and allow the dragon boat to glides to a stop

Draw front left or right 

Is used by the nominated seats to pull the front of the dragon boat in line. The paddle is approximately perpendicular with the boat, and the paddle is pulled through the water towards the side of the boat, to move the front of the boat sideways. The opposite side should hold their paddles flat. Some seats may be directed to hold water to minimise drift.

Draw back left or right

similar to Draw front, but for the back of the boat. Is used by the nominated seats to pull the back of the dragon boat in line. The opposite side should hold their paddles flat. Some seats may be directed to hold water to minimise drift.

Starter Calls in a race

When racing it is important to know and understand the calls that you will hear from the Starter

Calls from the Starter



All Boats Hold

The crew moves their paddles to the start position with the paddle fully immersed. If the crew is not ready the drummer must immediately raise a hand above head height. The drummer is forbidden to take such action prior to this call. All movement of paddles to align the boat must stop.


The command to GO or the starting signal is imminent, and in any case shall not exceed 5 seconds. The crew should ready themselves to take the first stroke.



  • Gun shot
  • Electronic start signal
  • Other distinct sound as specified.

Commence Racing.

STOP STOP STOP Alternatives:

  • Repeating the start signal
  • Using the alternative start signal as specified.

There has been a false start. Boats are to return to the start line.

What happens if the dragon boat capsizes?

In the highly unlikely event of a boat capsize, there is a certain drill required to be undertaken by the crew.

Here's a capsize explanatory video: