Dragon boats paddle into Victoria’s Harbour this weekend for annual festival


WATCH: The 24th Annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival paddles into the Inner Harbour this weekend. Ceilidh Millar reports. 

Soaring temperatures and summer sunshine draw people of all ages to the Gorge Waterway for a day of kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding.

Taking over the waters of Victoria this weekend will be boats of a much larger size.

Dozens of dragon boats, each one measuring 48 feet (15 metres) in length, will be racing along the inner harbour as part of the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival.

“There are drums at the front of each dragon boat,” said organizer Erik Ages of the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club. “The drummer traditionally in Chinese Dragon Boat racing actually has a mallet and they’re hitting the drum with every stroke.”

Over the next three days, 70 teams from across the Pacific Northwest will compete in the festival.

Each dragon boat has a crew of 20 people.

“What makes dragon boats go fast is perfect synchronicity,” said Ages. “If you have 20 paddlers that are all performing perfectly together it’s quite a sight to behold.”

The event celebrates an ancient Chinese tradition that’s been practiced for more than 2,000 years.

The sport first debuted in Victoria during Hong Kong Days at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

“It’s grown dramatically during that time because of how accessible it is,” Ages explained. “It’s a great sport that everyone can take part it.”

More than 1,600 athletes will compete in 260 races during the festival, with one occurring every eleven minutes.

Ages says the sport highlights the importance and power of working together.

“We have teams that are made up of cancer survivors, visually-impaired paddlers and participants with multiple sclerosis,” Ages said,

The festival kicks off with a traditional eye-dotting ceremony at 1 p.m. on Friday at Ship Point in Victoria.

For more information about the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, visit their website. 

Ceilidh MillarCeilidh Millar

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