Capital Lakes DragonFest
History of Dragon Boating
Dragon Boating and Cancer
Survivors (pdf article)

TEAMSurvivor Madison, Inc.
Why Dragon Boating?
Why Madison?
Participating as a Team
     How to Form a Team
     Race Information
Sponsorship Opportunities
Volunteer Opportunities
Community Partners
Links of Interest
Contact Us
Frequently Asked Questions

What comprises a team?

Each team consists of 24 members, plus 1 steersperson to be provided by Capital Lakes DragonFest (A minimum of 8 female paddlers is required). A minimum of 16 paddlers is required to race.

  • 20 paddlers
  • 3 alternates
  • 1 drummer
  • 1 steersperson (Provided by Capital Lakes DragonFest)

Whatís my time commitment?

Be prepared for a fun-filled day and an experience of a lifetime! Plan to have a full day of participating and spectating on Saturday, June 17, 2017. All teams are required to complete a practice session on Friday, June 16th. Late afternoon and early evening practice sessions will be available to accommodate schedules.

What should I wear?

You will be in a boat and on the water. You will get wet. Plan for Madison’s fluctuating weather, dressing in layers. Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses with a strap and a hat. Shoes are required. A water shoe or sandal is great. No flip flops. Teams are encouraged to have team T-shirts or themed outfits.

Can my employer form a team?

Yes! Corporate teams are welcome. A dragon boat team provides the opportunity for colleagues of an organization to share a spirited team-oriented activity. Sponsorship opportunities including a registration discount are available. If your employer is interested, please have them contact us at:

Can I volunteer?

Yes. Capital Lakes DragonFest offers several volunteer opportunities. E- mail

Do I need a paddle?

No. Capital Lakes DragonFest will provide all paddles.

Do I need to be a cancer survivor or a woman to be on a team?

No. Anyone can participate. A team needs to have a minimum of 8 women on a team. All paddlers need to be at least 14 years of age before June 17, 2017.

Do I need a dragon boat?

No. Capital Lakes DragonFest will provide the boat, steersperson, paddles, and PFDs (life jackets). You supply the "muscle".

What type of dragon boat do you use?

Hong Kong style.

I want to paddle, but don't know 23 people; can I still participate?

Contact us if you’re interested and we can put you in contact with others who would like to paddle.

Is there a minimum number of paddlers you can have in a boat?

Yes. A boat needs a minimum of 16 paddlers.

Can I bring my own paddle?

The paddles for dragon boat racing are different from canoe or kayak paddles. We suggest you use our paddles. If you wish to use your own paddle, it will need approval from the Festival Director prior to the practice and/or race.

Do I need a life jacket?

While everyone is required to wear a life jacket, you do not need to bring one. Capital Lakes DragonFest will provide a proper PFD for each person involved.

Can I bring my own life jacket/vest?

You may bring your own vest, but it must be a type III or better Coast Guard approved PFD (noted on the PFD).

Can I bring a cushion to sit on in the boat?

You may wish to bring a small, dense foam pad (such as those used for gardening), or a piece of textured shelf liner to help keep you from sliding in the boat as you race.

Can I wear gloves?

Gloves are optional. Some paddlers wear a paddling glove. If youíre not a paddler, a cycling glove works fine.

Can I bring beverages in the boat?

Water is allowed in the boats. Many paddlers bring a reusable or plastic water bottle.

Iíve never been in a dragon boat. Will I know what to do?

  • TEAMSurvivor Madison, Inc. members begin their paddling season in early May. Stop by Rutabaga Paddlesports in Monona on Wednesday evenings between 6-8 p.m. and see them paddle!
  • Capital Lakes DragonFest will hold team practices on Friday, June 16, 2017. It is required that all teams participate in a practice session.
  • Check out a few regional festivals listed in the links page.

How long is a dragon boat race?

Based on the festival venue, the race distances can vary between 300-500 meters. Our course is 250 meters (shorter than previous years).

What does the drummer do in a dragon boat?

The drummerís role is to set the pace of the boat and provide the cadence for the paddlers to follow. The synchronicity of the paddlers in the boat is just as important—if not more important—as the power of the paddling.

Whatís the language of dragon boating?

Paddlers in a dragon boat quickly learn some universal voice commands. The Capital Lakes DragonFest Festival Director will review the commands with all teams prior to the event.

Some common commands:

  • ATTENTION: Used to get all paddlers’ undivided attention.
  • SIT UP: This command signals paddlers to sit upright, place their paddles across their laps and wait for the next command.
  • PADDLES UP: The signal for paddlers to instantly assume the paddling position (paddles raised above the water, bodies in position to paddle). They will hold this position until the next command is issued.
  • TAKE IT AWAY/GO/SOUND DEVICE: (air horn). This is the signal issued to commence paddling.
  • LET IT RUN OR LET IT RIDE: The command to stop paddling immediately.
  • LEFT SIDE PULL OR DRAW: Paddlers on the left side of the boat lean out and paddle sideways to move the boat to the left. The same command can be given to the right side of the boat to move it in the opposite direction. Other variations for boat maneuvering include calling on the left front, right front, left rear or right rear paddlers to side paddle.
  • BACK PADDLE: All paddlers stroke in reverse to move the boat backwards.
  • STOP OR HOLD THE BOAT: Paddlers thrust blades vertically into water and dig in to bringing boat to a halt.
  • HOLD WATER: Paddlers use variety of strokes (above) to maintain the position of the boat on the water despite wind, current etc. Typically used during pre-race positioning.
  • STEADY THE BOAT: Paddles horizontal with flat blades resting on top of the water to stabilize the boat.

I am wondering what to do with my personal belongings, glasses, etc., when I am out with my team for a race?

Your personal belongings are your responsibility. We recommend that you arrange for other team members, family or friends to watch your items while paddling.

What conditions will cause the race to be cancelled?

Lightning, high winds, large waves or limited visibility could cause the races to be delayed or cancelled.

What happens if it is raining on race day?

The event will take place in rain. Dress for the weather.

How do we know when my team will race?

The team manager will be provided with detailed information prior to the event. It will include practice schedule, race and line-up info., waivers, etc. It is the responsibility of the team manager to share the information with their entire team.

Can teams designate a "spot" near the race for my team, family and friends?

Vilas Park is a public park. Participants and spectators are able to use the space available.

Is there an age limit?

Paddlers must be 14 by June 17, 2017. There is no upper age limit.

What about parking for the Capital Lakes DragonFest?

Street parking is available in the Vilas neighborhood. We will also have a shuttle that will run all day from the St. Mary's Hospital overflow lot (Appleton Drive - by the Dean Clinic).

Click to download Dragon Boating 101