The Dragon Boats return to Tampa

Got any plans for Saturday, April 29? If not, make time to get to downtown Tampa to watch the annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Races held at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park and the Marriott Waterside.

An international sport event, dragon boat racing boasts a long and storied history and has professional teams in multiple countries including China, Australia, and Canada as well as a healthy in-state popularity as well (competitions also take place in Miami and Orlando).

Why go to see dragon boat racing? Well, aside from the excuse to get outdoors and enjoy a spring day in Tampa, the event will host some of best athletes in the world as they compete in an event growing slowly but steadily in popularity in the U.S.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking dragon boat racing is the same thing as rowing, though. Unlike that other popular boating team sport that takes place in the waters surrounding Tampa, dragon boat racing teams consist of 20 members using short, canoe-like paddles that pull in unison to the drum beat and loud calls of the leader sitting at the bow of a boat, its masthead carved and decorated like a watery dragon. The leader calls, the teams beat the waters with their paddles, and the sweepers in back guide the boat through the course.

The event will start at 8:30 a.m. with opening ceremonies on the Marriott Waterside patio, and the first race will start a half-hour later at 9 a.m. The competition is expected to be fierce, so much so that training runs have been scheduled for the week before the race. Each team will attempt to run a 450-meter course in the Garrison Channel. The teams will get three chances to run the best time in an attempt to be named Division Champion.

In addition to the races, spectators will also get to enjoy the festivities in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park throughout the entire event with Asia Fest. Entertainment and vendors in the park will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with additional food vendors available until 7 p.m.

Presided over by the Pan American Dragon Boat Association, dragon boat races have become a fixture in Tampa. The April 29 event will be the ninth annual race held in the city, with competitors flying in from around the country to participate. And the April 29 competition won’t be the last one hosted in the state. The association still has registration open for other competitions later in the year. So if anyone likes what they see in Tampa, they can form a team and compete in Sarasota in October.

As to our readers, are you planning on going to this event? Do you compete in dragon boat racing or know anyone who does?

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