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Dragon boating

Try out an ancient Chinese paddle sport with a modern twist.

What to expect

Modern dragon boating involves teams up of to 20 paddlers sat in two lines. The paddlers face forwards, and use a paddle with one blade to move their craft. They make sure they’re paddling in time by following a drummer sitting on the front of the craft. There’s also a someone who steers the craft from the back, they might be called a ‘helm’ or a ‘steersperson’.

Dragon boating relies on everyone working together to stay in time so they can zoom across the finish line as soon as possible. It’s great fun to enter a competition, but dragon boating’s also a chance to stay active and develop your fitness.

Fun facts

Dragon boating in China dates back more than 2,500 years – it has a rich background in ceremonial and religious traditions. Boats are often decorated to look like Chinese dragons with beautiful heads and tails.

Handy hints

  • Take a change of clothes. With up to 20 people paddling at once, you’ll almost definitely get splashed. Don’t forget your towel – and a spare pair of shoes is especially handy.
  • Grab some sunscreen. There’s not a lot of shade when you’re out on the water, and the sunlight will reflect off the water and bounce back at you. You’ll probably still need sunscreen on some cloudier days.


You must always:
Be safe outdoors:
  • Check the weather forecast
Be safe in water:

Everyone should be able to swim 50m wearing the clothing or equipment for the activity. Non-swimmers will need additional support.

Water can be dangerous - be aware of the risks.

The category of water depends on how safe the water is. Use our waterways directory to check.

Be sure to manage the group when near water, keeping everyone safe. 


Make sure that all equipment is fit for purpose and in good condition:

Everyone must wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid

The instructor must make sure boats are seaworthy

There are regulations you must follow if you are hiring a boat


Joint activities with other organisations:
This activity can be led by you or someone else in Scouts:
  • The activity leader must have an adventurous activities permit with the right level and permissions for your group

    • You don't need a permit for activities on Class C waters (safe, inland water less than 100m wide).

    • Where the group is entirely members over the age of 18 the permit scheme does not apply, please follow the rule 9.8 adult groups.

You can go to a centre or use an activity leader who is not part of Scouting:
You must find a suitable provider who meets the following requirements :

Activity Permit Scheme

Dragon Boating

Class C Waters

Canal and River Licences

Safety Boat Guidance


Dragon boating’s an adventure that needs everyone to work as a team. Everyone had to listen to the drummer and work together to stay in time and keep the craft moving forwards. Was it important to have someone guiding the team? Was it easy to listen to the drummer? What roles did different people play in the team? It can be as difficult to be a team player as it is to lead a team well. What other situations need great leaders and great team players? People should try to think about examples of adventures as well as less active examples, such as businesses.

Dragon boating was also a fun way to be active. Did anyone find dragon boating hard work? What sort of actions did dragon boating need? Which body parts did people work really hard to keep the craft moving? How did they feel afterwards?