Dragon boat racing is Australia’s fastest growing water sport – and it takes care of it in Ballarat. for a sensation
Ballarat’s dragon boat racing regatta kicked off with a drum beat on Sunday morning as teams from across the state took turns to cruise down Lake Wendouree.
- Ballarats Lake Wendouree hosted a dragon boat racing regatta on Sunday
- The sport has its roots in ancient China going back more than 2,000 years
- It is the fastest growing water sport in Australia
At the event, sponsored by Ballarat City Council, groups rode in boats with golden dragon heads and tails, sometimes scales and a bass drum.
It’s the first major sporting event to be held in Ballarat in months due to the pandemic, and guests are enjoying their first weekend under the state’s eased restrictions.
It is also the first time in a long time for the racing teams that they can get into the water and take part in competitions.
Dragon boat races are an ancient practice. (ABC Ballarat: Rosanne Maloney)
Ballarat Golden Dragons trainer and founder Magie Guy said it’s a relief to be back on the water, despite all the glitch over the past two years.
“COVID has put a little bit of a halt to many [racing] because the clubs couldn’t train, “she said.
“Well, this regatta is really exciting because we haven’t been together for so long.”
An ancient practice
Dragon boat racing is one of the fastest growing water sports in Australia, but its origins go back more than 2,000 years.
It is an important part of Chinese culture, with the races traditionally taking place on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese lunar month.
The dragon itself – or the “loong” – has a special place in Chinese culture, riding on the clouds in the sky and mastering wind, fog and rain.
Legend has it that the sport originated in China after the poet and statesman Qu Yuan plunged into the Mi Lo River to protest corrupt political power.
Dragon boat races date back more than 2,000 years to the days of Qu Yuan. (Supplied: Dragons Abreast Club website)
It is said that when the news of his death became known, local fishermen freaked out in their boats to be the first to retrieve Qu Yuan’s body – so began the dragon boat race.
The boats themselves symbolize the dragon, with the paddles representing the claws and the drum representing the beating heart.
Craig Ryan, CEO of Dragon Boat Victoria, said dragon boat races draw a diverse audience these days, with about 60 percent female participation and an average age of 49 years.
“You can be as young as 10 or as old as 83 … and that is certainly our oldest paddler,” said Mr Ryan.
Race to raise awareness
There are now three dragon boat racing teams in Ballarat, one of which is bringing breast cancer awareness to the game.
Dragons Abreast has teams across the state and is made up of survivors and their friends and families who want to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Helen Dorning, a paddler at the club, says the sport is about more than just competitions.
Due to a lack of participants, the Dragons Abreast and Golden Dragons Ballarat teams split team members.ABC Ballarat: Rosanne Maloney)
“I’m a breast cancer survivor. I’ve been diagnosed for 20 years so it’s pretty great that I’m still upright and smiling and it’s a beautiful day,” said Ms. Dorning.
“[Dragon boating] is a fabulous thing to do to relax [find] Comrades, [improve] To be fit and just enjoy life, because being diagnosed with breast cancer is quite traumatic. “
After the 350 paddlers completed the 36 races in Ballarat, the day ended with awards presented by Ballarat Mayor Daniel Maloney.
“We want to make this an annual event that everyone can see, but also dragon boaters across Victoria,” said Ryan.
“It’s a great event, great location and we’ll be back next year.”
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