History of the Dragon Boat Race

The Asian Festival Dragon Boat Race is open and free to the public!

Since its inception in 2010, Central Ohio’s only dragon boat race has attracted phenomenal interest. What started out as a four-team competition has grown to eighteen as of 2016. Crews drawn from local businesses and community organizations vie for the championship in a day-long event held at the downtown bend of Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio.

Dragon boat racing is no different from outrigger canoe racing. A dragon boat is a twenty foot vessel with ample space for a drummer, ten paddlers on each flank and a steersperson. A race stretches along three hundred meters of waterway and usually last two to three minutes. The key to moving fast is synchronization and not necessarily strength. The excitement during a meet is palpable and the burst of energy each team puts into play is phenomenal. Dragon boat races are fun. The competition fosters teamwork and camaraderie.

As a sport, dragon boat racing is believed to have originated in south-central China along the banks of the Yangtze River more than two thousand five hundred years ago. In 1976, an international event held in Hong Kong brought dragon boating to worldwide attention. Since then the sport has spread rapidly throughout Asia. In the Americas, dragon boat racing is a one of the fastest growing water sport. In the U.S. alone there are approximately a hundred cities hosting these races.

The event opens with the Dragon Head Eye Dotting ceremony, a rite intended to protect the boat and the participants. This ceremony traces its roots to the Awakening the Dragon, an ancient ritual that has been celebrated in China and other Asian countries since ancient times. Rich in tradition and symbolism, it is believed to protect people from evil spirits and disease for the rest of the year.