Team Registration Call: (256) 543-1898

Tips for teams
Team Information


Practices are vital to the Dragon Boat experience. Practice time will help your team become familiar with the boat and learn the technique, as well as master timing. The more team members showing for practice, the better your team performs on race day.

Each team gets to practice at the Gadsden Boat Docks with trained coaches the week up to race day. Forms will need to be submitted before the deadline of Friday, July 31, 2016. Keep in mind - practice time requests will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

What to Wear:

  • You WILL get wet. Wear clothing you do not mind getting wet.
  • Comfortable, quick drying shorts and dri-fit shirts are most convenient (cotton tends to stick to your skin).
  • Sport sandals, or water shoes are recommended such as Tevas, Crocs, etc. (Tennis shoes are too heavy).
  • You may wear your own U.S. coast Guard approved life vest (or they are provided at practices and on race day).
  • Hat or visor to keep the sun out of your eyes.
  • Sunscreen/ sunglasses
  • In case of rain, bring rain gear
  • Consider bringing a towel and extra change of clothes

Race Format


  • Each team races twice.
  • Round 1 is pre-arranged on the schedule.
  • After the first race, teams are seeded by time and into their race division of Competitive (top 16 teams by time) or Recreational and will race fastest to slowest in Round 2.
  • After Round 2, times from both races are averaged to determine the final round.
  • The Final round in the Recreational Division is comprised of the top 8 fastest teams.
  • The Final round in the Competitive Division is comprised of the top 8 fastest teams
  • In the Final round of the Recreational Division, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners are determined based on fastest times in the final round only (2 heats = 3rd and final round).
  • In the Final round of the Competitive Division, the Gold, Silver, Bronze winners are determined based on fastest times of the final round only (2 heats = 3rd and final round).

What to Bring

  • Each team will have tent space in the Athlete's Village labeled with your company/team name.
  • Chairs, tables, decorations, snacks, footballs, sunscreen, hat, garbage bag for your tent area, towels, comfortable shoes, change of clothes if you do not want to be wet all day.

What NOT to bring

Alcohol. It would severely dehydrate you and make paddling dangerous. Please learn more in the rules and regulations. Hydration is very important. Read more about it on or check out our hydration information.

Sound Devices including radios, electronic signaling devices, bullhorns, air horns, whistles, generators with a decibel rating over 65dBA and other noisemaking devices are prohibited.

Tips For Teams

Basic Guidelines

Conduct in the Boat: There should be no/minimal talking once your team is in the boat. The drummer and steersperson must be able to communicate with the team and each other at all times, and all team members need to be able to hear the commands. Paddles straight up in the air if you need to draw attention to yourself in case of emergency.

Buddy System: Make certain that each of your team members knows who is sitting beside them in case the boat swamps/capsizes, which is highly unlikely. Teammates will be responsible for each other's safety until rescue arrives. STAY WITH THE BOAT!

Life Jackets: Everyone must wear a life jacket during practice and on Race Day.

Drummer: The drummer should attend practice, if possible. He or she will assist in setting the timing for the team and can be an excellent source of motivation and inspiration during practices and on Race Day.

How To Sit In The Boat: Outside hip forward. Inside hip back. Outside leg extended along the gunwale (inside top rail of the boat). Inside foot under the seat or braced effectively and comfortably

Seven Steps of the Dragon Boat Paddling Technique

  • Rotation
  • Reach Extension
  • Top Arm Drive (stab the water)
  • Catch-powerfully drive the paddle into the water at approx. a 45 degree angle, burying the entire blade into the water-your hand should get wet.
  • Pull water with the entire blade until you get to just behind your knee
  • Exit -get that paddle straight up and out of the water quickly, no further back than your hip
  • Recovery -snap the paddle back into the paddles up position for the next catch

Dragon Boat Paddling Commands

  • Paddles Up: Be ready to paddle. All paddlers with paddles above the water (3-6 inches from the surface) ready to enter the water.
  • Take it Away: Begin paddling.
  • Let it Run: Stop paddling and let the boat glide.
  • Hold the Boat or Stop the Boat: Place paddles in the water, with paddle pointed straight down, blade submerged. It will bring the boat to a stop. If you hear the command, "Hold hard," quickly put your paddle straight down and then back it up one stroke.
  • Back it Down: Paddle backwards.
  • Draw (left or right side): Initiates a turn using draw strokes by the designated paddlers. Can also be used to get the boat closer to something, a dock, for example.
  • Stabilize the boat: Place your paddle blade on top of the water and hold it there. This stabilizes the boat. It is needed when anyone stands up in the boat to change position, etc.
  • Note: Your coach/steerer will brief you about these commands before your practice. In the boat, when the coach is talking, please continue to paddle and listen. Never stop paddling unless your coach says "Let it run."


    Gadsden Riverwalk Park & Boardwalk - Habitat Dragon Boat Festival
    300 Block of Rainbow Drive, Gadsden, AL 35901

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