It has been said modern Dragon Boat racing started in Hong Kong in 1976. The Hong Kong Tourist Association staged an International Dragon Boat Festival to promote Hong Kong. This first Hong Kong International Races is recognized today as the start of the ‘Modern Era’ of Dragon Boating as a sport. This developed into an annual festival of enormous success and the impressive press pictures of the Hong Kong Races went around the world.

Today three Federations now govern most Dragon Boating. The EDBF (European), the IDBF and the ADBF (Asian) Federations’ now govern Dragon Boating as practiced in over 60 countries. The sport of Dragon Boating, under its governing bodies, is a vibrant, effective and independent paddle sport.

Dragon Boat Racing is divided into Sport Racing & Festival Racing.

Sport Racing

Dragon Boat Competitions have developed into a serious, high-performance, competitive sport, with many Dragon Boat Associations producing National Teams of elite dragon boat paddlers.

In IDBF Sport Racing, there are generally 18-20 paddlers per Standard size Dragon Boat and 8-10 paddlers in the Small Boat, plus a drummer and a helm (steerer).   Most races are between 200m and 500m in length.

They start with regional competitions, then move on to national and international.

Festival Racing

In addition to sport racing the sport has developed into a festival side.  In festival races the boats may contain 50 or more paddlers.

Most races in the Pacific Northwest are festival races using standard 10 or 20 paddler boats.  The participants in these races are mostly local clubs with some traveling several states to join.  There is also a community side to festivals.  Local businesses or other organizations may also form what are sometimes called community teams.  These teams are restricted to no more than 2 practices prior to the race. 


Over the years there were not enough paddlers interested in racing to form a team.  In 2021 Oly Sea Otters was a team formed by The Olympia Dragon Boat Club for racing.   In 2021 the team was able to put together a 10 person mixed(5 women, 5 men) team and participated in “Paddle For Life” in Ridgefield WA. Then in 2022 the team took a 10 person women’s team back to “Paddle For Life”.  In the future the team hopes to be able to enter 20 person women and mixed team events.