A Short History of Dragon Boat in Canada

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We have no doubt that you know the legend of Qu Yuan (if you don’t be sure to read our next blog post). The poet politician who sacrificed himself for his country. When he drowned in the river, Dragon Boat Festival would live on to commemorate him.

The legacy of Qu Yuan is over 2,000 years old, so when and why did Dragon Boat come to Canada?

World War II

Today, Dragon Boat is a beautiful sport that brings all people together. It can be hard to imagine that its origins stem from something as brutal as war.

As with the legend of Qu Yuan, Dragon Boat came to Canada after a war. In 1945, after World War II, China gifted the British Colombian government with a dragon adorned silver plaque. A gesture of camaraderie between the close trading neighbours, which would blossom into much more.

Chinese Dragons

It was then proposed that the first Canadian Dragon Boat Festival be held in Vancouver in 1946 for their Diamond Jubilee (60th anniversary). It was not meant to be. The Festival was postponed another 40 years until the 1986 Expo.

Canada Fell in Love 

When those first paddlers raced down False Creek, Canadians saw for the first time what an amazing water sport Dragon Boat was. Colourful boats adorned with the head and tail of a dragon, hearts pounding, crowds cheering. We were hooked. Now, over 30 years later, there are millions of Dragon Boat lovers across the globe.

In 1993, Dragon Boat Canada was formed, but we didn’t stop there. In 1996, Vancouver hosted the IDBF Club Crew World Championships, the first ever held in Canada. 

Canada 2019

Canadians took it a step further by winning the Gold in 1996. The first time a team outside of Asia ever claimed Gold. In 2015, Canada hosted the 12th World Nations Championship for the first time. 

Don’t Stop Now

This year marks the first time in 34 years that we Canadians have not been able to show our prowess in this ancient sport. It does not mean that we have lost our spirits though.

Our love for the water and for Dragon Boat is what drives us. It has built a strong community which we can rally around, find support in, and weather the storm together. 

Dragon Boat is not just a sport. For Canadians, it links cultures together over continents and through time. It brings people from all walks of life together into one unified team.

Like Qu Yuan’s community, we will paddle together again, enjoy zongzi as a team and show the world what kind of paddlers Canada has.

Happy Canada Day Dragon Boaters. Paddles Up!

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