With Dragon Boat Festival (also known as Tuen Ng) just around the corner – 23 June to be exact – the spotlight starts to shine on an underground community of paddlers aching to bring home the trophy at Stanley. While it’s slightly more normal to spot those with a paddle strapped to their back ready for practice this time of year, the world of dragon boating is still a mystery to most in Hong Kong. To give you a sneak peak, I put together my top five reasons to join a dragon boat team… so what are you waiting for, girls!
1. Discovering that a toned upper body IS possible!
No more clipping those magazine articles on how to rid of arm flab, a few weeks with a paddle in your hand and I promise you’ll see an improvement. Training season lines up perfectly with bikini season, and your newly sculpted back and arms will thank you.
2. A healthy dose of culture shock!
Sure you’ve lived in Hong Kong for a while, you eat dim sum occasionally, but how often do you really get out of your expat bubble? Paddling alongside local teams and being part of ancient festivals and traditions allows you to see an incredibly unique side of Hong Kong’s history. Sharing a few beers with the fisherman teams after a long day on the water has easily been one of my favorite memories here in HK.
3. A break from the skyscrapers
Busting out of work, grabbing my gym bag and paddle and hustling over to practice may seem chaotic at times, but there is nothing more rewarding then jumping into that boat and paddling away from that skyline at night. Even if it’s just one short hour, giving yourself a mental break from the craziness of the city lights can give you the sanity to make it through the rest of your working week.
4. Meeting new people
Who doesn’t love the camaraderie of team sports? Paddling has been the perfect way to increase my circle of active, adventurous and like-minded people. Aside from dragon boating, there’s always a pick-up game, a hike or beach volleyball match to jump in on with your new teammates too.
5. The social calendar
This one is a given, but for a good reason! You’ve seen the toga-clad mobs in LKF drinking from hard-earned trophies on race day, and the team takeovers of Stanley bars. There’s nothing like celebrating a win, paddle in tow, in a noisy brewery full teammates. It’s how I met my beloved Buzz teammates, and that’s what will always keep me coming back for more!
…And I haven’t even mentioned the awesome zong zi dumplings (the traditional and delicious Dragon Boat festival food of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves) yet!
How to get involved
There are countless teams always looking for new recruits. Ask around to see if your workplace or corporation has organised a team, check with a local boat club, your home country’s local organisation, or even your favourite bar. A full list of teams can be found on the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Associations Website, or come join us at Buzz – we don’t bite, promise!
Just want to watch?
If you fancy being more of an observer (let’s call it the start of training for next year!), the most popular dragon boat races are at Stanley on 23rd June 2012, from 8am-6pm; be prepared for big crowds on the beach and even bigger queues to catch the bus there from Exchange Square in Central (6, 6X or 260). Think about eating beforehand, bringing some snacks or having a very late lunch, as the restaurants on the waterfront get very busy!
Other races on 23 June are at Sai Kung, Aberdeen, Sha Tin, Tuen Mun, Tai Po, Cheung Chau, Tai O and Discovery Bay; see the full list, schedules and transport information here.
Courtney is a Seattle born and Hong Kong planted coffee consultant with a passion for action sports and adventure travel.