Dragon Boat paddlers

The paddlers in a Dragon Boat racing team

Every team member is important to the performance of a dragon boat team. They must move as one machine and not as a boat of individuals.

In this article we explain the different paddlers in a Dragon Boat racing team and discuss what their roles are.

The Drummer

Some will describe the drummer as the person that keeps time using the drum as a beat. However, they are so much more than this. The drummer sits at the front of the boat facing the crew drawing in the paddlers attention, keeping their focus away from the surrounding chaos. Beating the drum helps to tell the race story, relaying instructions and encouraging the team to fight for victory!

The Strokes

The strokes are the paddlers that sit in the front bench and are often the calmest and bravest of paddlers. The water they hit is the hardest and they must be disciplined to create the timing and technique for the rest of the boat. They have to trust that their teammates will follow.

The Buffers

The buffers sit directly behind the strokes are there to protect the strokes. They must focus on the strokes and be the first paddlers to “translate” the timing or change to the rest of the boat. Sometimes as paddlers behind get excited or may try to push, the buffers must maintain the order to settle the crew.

The Engine Room

The middle of the boat is often referred to as the engine room. A great place for bigger paddlers and often men to generate significant power to push the boat forward.

The Sprinters

Sprinters sit towards the back of the boat and often have to deal with faster moving and messy water generated by the rest of the boat. They are often very cardio fit and have to generate more speed through the water to grip against the flow.

The Sweep or Helm

While predominantly the sweep is there to either keep the boat in a straight line or to steer around the loop of a 2km race, they are also the primary motivator and the only crew member that can see what other crews are doing. They can “read” the race and deliver strategic instructions to push the crew for victory.