Oak Ridge High School had four teams participate in Sunday’s Dragon Boat races, put on by the South Montgomery County YMCA at Northshore Park. Teams from the AFJROTC, Interact and the ORHS band competed against other area high school teams in racing the 40-ft Dragon Boats, problem solving and other athletic activities.
The Dragon Boat Races are the main event. Dragon boats are extremely colorful dragon headed canoes and weigh over 1800 pounds. This year’s event featured four boats racing in Lake Woodlands. Each dragon boat team consists of 18 paddlers, one drummer and one flag catcher. The key to success was synchronization, requiring all the paddles to combine as one big paddle and movesthe boat forward. An expert steersman was provided with each boat guiding the team to the finish line. Professional, trained crew, gave instructions to each of the teams as they loaded and unloaded the boats.
Dragon boating began in China over 2000 years ago with the legend of Chu Yuan, a poet, warrior and loyal aide to the Chinese emperor. Yuan fell victim to deception and found himself out of favor in the emperor’s court. When the old emperor died, Chu Yuan was unjustly banished and wandered the countryside composing poems he hoped would be heard by the new emperor. His desolation grew until one day he threw himself into the Mi Lo River. Upon learning of his death, Chu Yuan’s devoted followers rowed boats in the river and rushed to search for his body. Fearing the fish might devour the body, they beat their paddles on the water and banged drums and gongs to frighten the fish away. Today in Yuan’s honor, athletes around the world meet at dragon boat festivals to commemorate his sacrifice for honor and justice. In ancient China, dragon boat festivals also paid homage to the dragon who the Chinese believed controlled the water for the crops. It is difficult to trace the roots of dragon boat racing in the United States. A Philadelphia rowing team was given a dragon boat in 1983 by a Hong Kong group. A dragon boat festival in New York in 1991 sparked further interest. Most dragon boat hotspots are in the midwest. The South Montgomery County YMCA brought dragon boat racing to Texas and The Woodlands for the first time in 1999.
Here are some photos from Sunday’s activities: