How many people Does it take to dragon boat? 

For a race, there are 18 to 22 people in a boat. 

  • 1 drummer
  • 1 steersperson
  • 16 – 20 paddlers

Numbers may vary for practices and depend on the river conditions.  

boat roles


Paddlers should keep quiet and focused so they can hear and follow instructions quickly.

Paddler roles: 

  • Strokes: the paddlers that sit in the front row of the boat. They lead the paddlers in stroke rate and timing.

Pro tips:

  • some sort of bright tape or material around the strokes' inside wrist may help paddlers see the strokes and to keep time
  • Two more mid-boat strokes may be used, to help keep paddlers in time at the back. It's ess ential that both sets of strokes coordinate timing. 


  • Engine room: the paddlers in the mid-boat. Strongest, largest paddlers


  • Back: The paddlers in the last rows. Technique and timing is essential to deal with the fast-moving water pushed out of the engine room. 



The steersperson:

  • stands at the back of the boat with the steering oar
  • sets the path the boat is to take
  • is responsible for the safe operation of the dragon boat
  • knows the correct boat crew commands to call out
  • ensures safety equipment is on the boat

Once away from the dock, the steersperson will hand over the control of the boat to the coach or drummer who will then lead the practice or call the race. 

  • At any time the steersperson can take over the boat for safety reasons.


The drummer and lead stroke are in constant communication as to what is happening in and around the boat. 

Pro tip:

  • The drummer calls commands based on the entry of the strokes’ paddles

Want to learn more or get involved? Start a team or find a team