Dragon boat racing takes place on a flatwater course where competitors start together and race forward toward the finish line. There are two types of boats: 10-seater and 20-seater, which refers to the number of paddlers in the boat. Paddlers sit in twos side-by-side, and each athlete has a single-bladed paddle. All boats have a drummer and a steerer, and athletes paddle to the rhythm of the drum.
The official race distances recognized by the ICF are 200m or 250m, 500m, and 2000m. The 2000m is raced in a lap format with two laps of a 500m course (three total turns). There are three types of events: men’s, women’s, and mixed events. Mixed events have a minimum number of women that must be in each boat: four for a 10-seater and eight for a 20-seater.
Dragon boats have ancient Chinese origins to the Pearl River Delta region of the GuongDong Province, dating back more than 2,000 years, and even further back to Olympia in ancient Greece. Modern dragon boat racing became an international event in Hong Kong in 1976. Modern boats are made of fiberglass and carbon, unlike their ancestors that were made with teak and other types of wood native to the Chinese region. Boats are often decorated with Chinese dragon heads and tails.