Boat Safety

Safety is of primary importance to our club. While rare, accidents can happen in dragon boats. If you are new to the sport, please familiarise yourself with our safety guidelines.

  • The sweep is in charge of the safety of the boat. All paddlers must listen carefully for instructions issued by the sweep and respond immediately.
  • Listen carefully for instructions issued by the coach. If you don’t understand any of the instructions, ask them to repeat and/or explain.
  • Only the sweep or coach should be calling instructions in the boat.
  • Paddlers load and unload from the front of the dragon boat. You will be allocated a seating position in the boat by either the coach or the sweep. When loading and unloading, paddlers should avoid erratic movements, and should keep their weight low when moving through the dragon boat. Once seated, a paddler must sit on the middle of their seat, and only when your paddling partner is about to sit down should you move to your paddling side. When paddlers are seated, they should have their paddles in the “Paddles Flat” position.
  • All paddlers who are unable to swim at least 50m or who are not water competent must wear a lifejacket (PFD) when training and competing.
  • Be aware that you are responsible for the person you are paired with (seated next to in the dragon boat) and that, in the event of capsize; your first responsibility is to ensure that your partner (buddy) is accounted for and safe. This is called the “buddy system” and it gives each person in the dragon boat a specific responsibility for another.
  • To be able to control the boat and avoid collisions, all paddlers should be familiar with the paddling commands. Coaches will also demonstrate these commands to all new paddlers.
  • Although rare, dragon boats can capsize. In the event of a capsize, paddlers should locate their buddy and ensure he/she is safe. Unless otherwise instructed, paddlers should stay with the boat, hold onto it, do not try to swim to shore, and wait until help arrives. Listen carefully for instructions from your sweep or coach.
  • There may be times when it is necessary to stop the dragon boat suddenly. It is the paddlers responsibility to react quickly to any calls from the sweep to “stop the boat”.
  • The key to safety in the dragon boat is the application of common sense. Playing around in a dragon boat and deliberately capsizing it can be dangerous. Behaviour that is considered dangerous to other paddlers and other water users will not be tolerated. Please be safety conscious.
Head count (number off)

At the beginning of each training session, before leaving the bank, the sweep will call for a head count. All crew members are to call their position number in turn starting with the drummer or front left paddler.

Paddles flat

Paddlers press the blade of their paddle flat on the water to stabilise the boat.

Paddles up

Move paddle to start position.


Paddlers start paddling.

Let it run

Paddles come out of the water and allow the boat to glide. Paddles should be resting on the gunwale of the boat.

Stop the boat

Paddlers quickly stop the dragon boat by holding the blade of their paddle vertically in the water.

Hold water

Paddlers hold the blade of their paddle vertically in the water to prevent the boat from moving forward or backward.

Paddles behind

Paddles are placed in a backward position ready to paddle backwards.

Are you ready

This is the first call from the race starter. Move paddle to the start position.


Take deep breath ready for race start.

Back 2 rows… Front 3 rows… Right hand side…

Only paddlers in the designated seats paddle under instruction from the sweep or coach. Usually used to position the boat for departure or race starting position.

At all times while you are in the dragon boat you are under instruction from either the sweep or the coach. Please listen carefully for any instructions that they issue to ensure the safety of all paddlers in the boat. Below are details of the standard commands that you will hear from the sweep or coach. New paddlers will be provided with demonstrations of these commands as part of their initial training and safety routine.

Some Basic Commands Used In The Dragon Boat: