Paddles up: Dragon boat events in Ontario

Dragon boat race in China Photo by leshiy985/Shutterstock.com

Itching to spend more time outdoors and try a new sport? Well, dragon boating might be for you. Whether you want to participate or just watch, dragon boat events (often referred to as regalias) are happening across Ontario all summer. 

And, good news—you don’t always have to have prior paddling experience to hop in a boat and participate. Many teams and festivals hold beginner clinics and workshops. You’ll learn technique, power, and teamwork to set yourself up for fun on race day.  

Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival 

Don’t miss out on Ottawa’s Dragon Boat Festival at Mooney’s Bay Park and Beach from July 24 -26. There’s something for everyone: from a dragon boating competition to family-friendly activities and a concert lineup featuring Serena Ryder, the Strumbellas, Steve Neville, Stoby, Rebelle, and Frown Line at Mooney’s Bay Park. Friday kicks off with opening ceremonies, followed by races on Saturday and Sunday. Individual and team registrations are closed, but you can still watch the races and enjoy the full festival line-up, like the silent auction and beach bar. For more information, visit dragonboat.net.

Paddle with South Niagara Canoe Club 

Are you a beginner to dragon boating? The South Niagara Canoe’s Learn to Paddle event is on July 28 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Welland International Flatwater Centre. Anyone aged 18 to 65 is welcome, and no experience is required. Bring a refillable water bottle, sunscreen, comfortable clothing, and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, along with proof of vaccination. Expect a mild-to-moderate workout. Register now because spots are limited.

Saturday Sunrise Paddle in Port Perry

Paddle from Port Perry to Seagrave and back at sunrise on July 30 with the Scugog Dragon Boat Club from 6 to 9 a.m. The trip is 20 kilometres in total, but don’t worry because you’ll be able to take a break, grab a snack, snap a photo of the beautiful waterway, and switch the side of the boat you’re on mid-way. Participants must be at least eight-years-old and over 88 pounds. No experience is necessary. This event is free, but a $10 donation is appreciated. Book your tickets on Eventbrite before they sell out.

Guelph Dragon Boat Festival 

Head to Grand River Conservation for the Guelph Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, August 13, at Guelph Lake for friendly competition and a chance to win a medal. Each team must pay a registration fee of $850, which includes 25 parking passes and all necessary boating equipment. Teams compete in a 200-metre “knock-out” style race. Winning groups can race up to six times! You’ll want to push hard to win, but try to conserve some energy because there’s a 2000-metre sprint final. An exciting line-up of food, drink, and merchandise vendors will also be available. For more information, click here

Barrie Dragon Boat Festival 

You’ll want to grab a paddle for Barrie’s 18th Annual Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, August 20, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Heritage Park. This year it’s all about community spirit, vitality, and unity—funds raised will support the Barrie Public Library’s ‘Future Branches’ campaign. Groups can register by paying a $1000 fee and $500 charity donation. All paddlers must be 16 or older, and each team must have at least eight females, with a minimum of 16 paddlers and one drummer. Have a few paddlers who want to practice before the big day? You can book a one-hour session for $120, typically between 5 to 9 p.m. on weekdays, which includes a steersperson. Coaches are also available for hire. For solo paddlers, join a team! Questions? Contact Jeff Aldridge at Corporate Recess at barrie@corporaterecess.ca or visit the main event website

Toronto GWN Dragon Boat Challenge

Whether you’re a new or experienced paddler, you can participate in this exciting sport at the 27th Annual Tim Hortons GWN Dragon Boat Challenge at Toronto’s Marilyn Bell Park on September 10 and 11. Participants can choose between two packages: Train & Race or Race Ready. The first package includes five practice sessions for $175 at the Balmy Beach Canoe Club on Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. starting August 10, with Sunnyside Paddling Club on Mondays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. starting August 8, or with the Mississauga Canoe Club on Tuesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. starting August 9. No need to practice? Sign up for the Race Ready package, which includes one training session and entry to the challenge. The event will offer a variety of activities such as an interactive Kids Zone and entertainment on the main stage. For questions, contact info@gwnevents.com or visit this website

Stratford Rotary 25th Dragon Boat Festival 

The dragon is making its way to Stratford’s 25th Annual Dragon Boat Festival. Book September 17 off on your calendar because you’re headed to Lake Victoria for a day of racing, fun, food, and entertainment. Watch the 500-metre recreational Hong Kong-style dragon boat races, with eight boats racing. And whether you’re watching or competing, you’ll want to fuel up at the licenced food and drink area. You can find more information at the Stratford Rotary dragon boat festival.

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