Dragon Boating: An Excellent Cross Training Sport

by Anouk Booneman

Did you know that rowing, or kayaking is not the only watersport on the Mohawk River? Have you heard of dragon boats? You might have seen us paddling away on a beautiful summer night on the river. We are the dynamic team of DragonsAlive headquartered at Blain’s Marina, Cohoes, and we are looking for new members to join the fun, and the hard work. Three Tuesdays in June 2021 are Try-it-Tuesday events for both Veterans and Dragons Alive: June 13, 20 and 27th from 5:45 pm to 8 pm at the Dragons Alive home base at Blain’s Bay Marina.


Racing dragon boats began on the rivers of ancient China some 2000 years ago. It became an organized international sport in the 20th century. While it is very well established in Canada, it is still getting started in the US. The standard dragon boat is 40’ long, with ten seats for 20 paddlers, a standing steersperson in the stern with a long wooden paddle, and a seat for a drummer in the bow. The boat has a dragon head and tail that are detachable. There is now a 10-person version that is 30’ long.

Dragon boat racing is one of the fastest–growing water sports in the world. The paddling technique is very similar to that of outrigger canoe paddling, and involves the entire body in the stroke, emphasizing the larger muscle groups. Committed paddlers train all year round in gyms and in dedicated paddling tanks, regardless of the length of their outdoor season.

Our upstate New York season is roughly late May to late September, depending upon the weather. There are racing festivals throughout the region, some for community teams assembled just for the event, which is normally to raise funds for a cause, and some with community and sport divisions (the latter allows for the accumulation of points in order to progress to larger regional, national and international competitions). Venues include Poughkeepsie and Ithaca, NY; Burlington, VT; Springfield, and Boston MA; Hartford, CT; and Montreal and Ottawa just across the border.

The sport offers racing as women’s, men’s, mixed and BCS teams. The first three are also divided by age: under 24, Premier (usually 20’s and 30’s), Senior A (over 40), Senior B (over 50) and Senior C (over 60). One of the many great things about the sport is that you can do it for your whole life and NOONE will tell you are too old!

Dragon Boat training camps are becoming more and more popular. There are a number of them in Florida and the Carolinas during the spring months, and a new one in Cajun Country, Louisiana in March. In-season there is a racing camp in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia for all levels. These camps are not expensive, and they offer 6 days of intensive training, sometimes with a racing festival on the last day. The coaching is usually world-class, and they welcome all levels of paddlers. Steering and coaching clinics are offered in Montreal during the winter and spring, where there is a paddling tank for off-season training, and occasionally on Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT in the summer.

We hope to welcome you for the upcoming season.

Anouk Booneman, our chief columnist on food and recipes for runners and the founder of Spring Into Health with Anouk and Danielle, loves Dragon Boating as an altenate cross training sport. She has this to say about dragon boating:

I joined Dragons Alive several years ago, out of curiosity. I wanted to take advantage of the proximity of the river and be involved in a watersport. Crew didn’t really do it for me, and I ended up joining a friend, who invited me to participate in a Dragonboat session. Eight seasons later, I am still there. I just love being on the water, it calms and centers me. The Mohawk river is gorgeous, and we are very often alone on the water.

I have always favored individual over team sports, but I have really liked being part of this team. Dragonboaters, in general, are just really nice people and very supportive of each other. We are a team, and we are all equal. No stars here. I really doesn’t matter in which seat you are, we are all important. For me, that is definitely a major point. It’s also a very good workout as well. Being part of a Dragonboat team, and showing up for practices will improve your endurance, build your strength, and improve your health. It is a great sport to add to your running routine. The runners on our team can attest to that.

Check out more information below:


Full-body exercise. A great way to begin your fitness journey or build on what you already have going. We train you in the particulars of the sport (one of the fastest growing water sports in the world!), and provide all the equipment you need to get started.

Enjoy the camaraderie and support of your teammates as you learn to paddle in perfect synchrony. 20 paddlers in the full-size boat: two to a seat with a standing steersperson in the stern and a seat for a drummer or coach in the bow. There is no hierarchy in a dragon boat team: every paddler contributes equally.

Enjoy the mental and physical challenges of training and racing. Dragon Boat paddling is a racing sport that is organized at the regional, national and international level with divisions for all ages and skill levels.

Enjoy the beauty of nature and the particular joy of being on the water. We paddle on a wooded stretch of the Mohawk River, in company with bald eagles, ducks, herons, swimming deer and more.


We are friendly, we love beginners, and we are passionate about our sport.

We are the only team in the region with experienced, Canadian certified, Level II Racing coaches.

We are the only team in the region with both a full-size dragon boat AND a 10-person dragon boat. This gives us more flexibility in training, and racing festivals are beginning to offer 10-person boat races.

We are based at the conveniently located Mohawk Valley Marine, in Alplaus, NY, run by Bob and Lisa Esperti.


Mohawk Valley Marine is located at 47 Mohawk Ave., Alplaus, NY 12008. The dates of season depend on the water temperature and the level of the Mohawk River (determined by the Erie Canal Authority), but the season generally runs from late May until mid-September.

We provide the boats, paddles and pfds. We encourage you to bring a water bottle and wear wicking athletic clothing (and your own pfd if you have one).

Please let us know that you are coming (see contact information below). We practice every Monday and Thursday from 6-8 pm. We cancel for thunderstorms but not for rain! Dues for the season are $250, which gives up to 40 coached practices, not counting free TRY-IT TUESDAYS expressly designed for beginners and held during the month of June. For the 2023 season these are scheduled for June 13,20 and 27. You are welcome to paddle with us twice before deciding to join the team. Check out our website Dragonsalive.org and call Coach Louisa at 518 429 4908 to sign up. We will keep you posted on dates for first practice when you give us your email.


Find us on Facebook, Instagram (Dragons_Alive), and DragonsAlive.org

Call our coach: Louisa at 518-429-4908. Please do let us know if you are planning to attend a Try-Paddling Tuesday event.

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