Home Technique Efficient Dragon Boat Paddling Technique (Part 2)

Efficient Dragon Boat Paddling Technique (Part 2)


So, you have read Part 1 of Efficient Dragon Boat Paddling?

What more can we add?

You will discover from my blogs that I am a big fan of visualisations. This post will be my first foray into this area.

I am going to assume you have had at least some experience in paddling in a dragon boat. Which technique you have been taught is not important in this exercise.

Here we go …..

Imagine the paddling technique required to move a boat on sandImagine your dragon boat has wheels and that your paddle will be catching in sand, not water.

You have a full crew and your task is to paddle the boat forward.

Obviously you will ensure the paddle is buried in the sand before you pull.


Now the pull back required to get the boat to move is going to be hard so you will engage your legs, with your body forming a stable frame. You will drive with your legs and pull with your core through to your shoulders.


As the boat moves towards your buried paddle, you will apply a downward force with your top hand to ensure the paddle doesn’t move sand instead or pop out.

Once the paddle reaches mid-thigh or hip, you will find that it is very difficult to get enough leverage to put any power into the paddle. So you might as well exit, return quickly and plant the paddle in for the next stroke.


Interestingly, when I first tried this, I found that what I set my body up to do in the visualisation did not match what I did in a normal dragon boat.

Firstly, I didn’t catch as purposefully as I would in sand. Secondly, I didn’t drive as consciously with my legs as I would in sand. Next, I didn’t keep downward pressure on the top hand. And finally, I didn’t exit as early as I did in my sand visualisation.

Yet, if you look at it closely, the sand visualisation is pretty much on the money when it comes to a pretty useful dragon boat stroke:
1. Proper catch
2. Powerful drive through the legs with a stable body and using the bigger muscles.
3. Downward pressure on the top hand to ensure we stay in dense water. Remember from Part 1 – Try not to move the water.
4. Finish the stroke when all the levers (arms, legs, hips) in your body have passed their optimal angles.

Next time you are in a dragon boat, do the sand visualisation. Did you change your stroke in any way? Additionally, did you notice anything different in your body? Or more leg engagement? Did your hips move at all? Was your stroke deeper? Or quieter (no moving water)? A micro pause to get the catch right? Try it. Then come back and tell us how it went.


  1. Good article and we’ve used the ‘paddling in the sand’ example and drill on several occasions and it works well. Many coaches use the term ‘moving water’ but it isn’t that…it is actually moving the boat through the water and there’s a difference…… that’s why the model works. I would also say that you can also get further propulsion by effort at the back of the stroke but it requires efficient rotation and good timing by the crew to ensure timing

    • Thanks for your comments, Geoff.
      I am still seeking words and analogies to try and describe the “effort at the back of the stroke” that you speak of. Using the “padding in the sand” analogy, there would be a point where the effort changes from a “pull” force to a “push”. Would you agree that this could describe the effort we are looking for at the back of the stroke?

      • Hi Mark….I’m still working on this because it isn’t an easy one and frankly paddlers are seldom coached from the start to paddle properly, rather they get a miscellany or advice that often confuses…the syndrome of ‘ every paddler is a coach’. Makes me angry.
        OK. Rort over! Wil get back to you since I think the extra at that back of the stroke can be influenced by rotation.


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