What is Dragon Boat Paddling?

There are many ancient legends that surround the origin of the sport.  Competitive races originated between villages in China over 2000 years ago.  Modern dragon boat racing began in Hong Kong in 1976.  In racing events, the boats are  rigged with decorative Chinese dragon heads and tails.  A “caller” or “drummer” at the front of the boat beats a drum to keep the paddlers in time. The decorative dragon head and tail are typically removed from the boat for practice purposes.

There are several roles on a dragon boat:

Paddlers:  Similar to canoeing (and unlike rowing), paddlers sit facing the front of the boat and propel the boat forward by driving and pulling their paddles through the water at the same time and in the same manner as every other paddler. There are typically 10 benches in a boat, with two paddlers per bench.  During paddling practice, after paddling on one side for a period of time, each paddler switches sides with their “bench mate”, and then paddles on the opposite side of the boat for a similar period of time.  Paddlers do not switch sides during a race.

The Caller/Coach: During a race, the caller (drummer) sits at the front of the boat and may issue commands to the crew through a combination of drum beats and voice calls, motivating the crew to peak athletic performance.  During practices, the coach sits at the front of the boat, demonstrating correct paddling technique through example and critique, and showing each paddler how to achieve their most effective stroke.

The Steersperson: Controls the dragon boat with an oar rigged at the rear of the boat. It is the steersperson’s job to keep the boat on course and ensure safety for all persons on the boat.

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Our Dragon Boat Teams

Our Dragon Boat Program is made up of 8 Dragon Boat teams. 

When you join Wasabi, you will be able to choose which team(s) you want to paddle with.  New paddlers may try 3 open practices before deciding to join the club.  After 3 sessions, new paddlers will need to pay annual membership to continue practicing.  Many members paddle on both dragon boat and Outrigger teams.  Different teams have different practice schedules and compete in different divisions.  Competition schedules depend upon your availability and desire to compete with that team.

Mixed Crews

The mixed crew teams are overseen by Jim Hinsvark the Mixed Program Coordinator


Premier, Mixed Program

Burn is a premier mixed gender team consisting of a vast array athletes who compete locally, nationally and internationally. Paddlers on the Burn team are over 18 years, up to about age 50; however, competitive paddlers of any age (over 18) can paddle with Burn. Year round on water practices are fairly intense focusing both on technique and endurance conditioning.

Head Coach:  Kathy Skinner

Assist Coach:  Sallye Bergland

Assist Coach:  Bryan Ho

Assist Coach:  Ashley Brottlund

Manager: Allie Gavette


Junior Team, Mixed Program

Kraken is the Wasabi Paddling Club's high school team, and is open to teens from all area high schools.  Paddlers are under the age of 19, and support their team mates in learning important life skills on and off the boat while having fun.  Team Kraken has proudly competed locally, nationally and internationally.

Team Head Coach:  Christine Nair

Assistant Coach:  Charlie Cowan

Assistant Coach:  Antonio Maldonado-Liu

Manager: Lynn Bonser

Special Dragons

All Age, Mixed Program

Special Dragons are a team of intellectually disabled athletes who want to compete with other athletes in the community. Founded in 1997, they started racing in the Portland Rose Festival dragon boat races over 20 years ago, and became an official Wasabi Paddling Club team in 2006.  Special Dragons work hard to build physical fitness and confidence through dragon boat paddling, and racing.

Team Head Coach:  Jenn Wilken

Assistant Coach:  Erin Bourdo

Manager:  Nancy Newell


All Age, Mixed Program (Visually Impaired Paddlers)

VIP is an acronym for Visually Impaired  Paddlers. The team was formed within Wasabi Paddling Club in 2013.  VIP is a mixed gender team including adults of any age.  Vision challenges with the VIP team range from low vision (legally blind) to completely blind.  A handful of fully sighted team members round out the crew to help safely navigate practices on the Willamette River and at race venues.  The team competes throughout our region, and has qualified to paddle internationally. 

Head Coach:  Jim Hinsvark

Assistant Coach:  Glenda Lesher

Manager:  Ella Browning


Age 50+ Mixed Program

Wasabi's Five-O is a mixed gender team of athletes aged 50+, who compete locally, nationally and internationally. They train to challenge themselves physically and mentally, and welcome both new and experienced 50+ paddlers to join in the camaraderie.

Head Coach:  Polly Luthro

Assistant Coach:  Lori Laws

Assistant Coach:  Jim Hinsvark

Team Manager:  Ingrid Olson

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Women's Crews


All Age, Women's Team (Cancer Survivors & Supporters)

Wasabi SOAR is a team of cancer survivors and supporters dedicated to promoting the fun, camaraderie, passion and health benefits of dragon boat racing. SOAR welcomes paddlers of all ages and fitness levels, and races in the Woman's division. Cancer survivors can participate in specialty cancer survivor races. SOAR members are active in the community, supporting various causes and outreach toward cancer research and prevention.

Head Coach:  Deana Caputo

Assistant Coach:  Kerri Robinson

Team Managers:  Jeanne Federovitch and Marie Hamper


All Age, Women's Program (Nehalem Bay)

TideRunners is a satellite division of Wasabi Paddling Club based in Nehalem Bay, Oregon.  They are a competitive all-age women's team who compete locally, regionally and internationally.  Due to weather and tidal conditions, TideRunners are typically practicing on the water in dragon boats from April through September.

Coach: Char von Ahlefeld

Assistant Coach:  TBA

Manager:  Mary Gallagher and Lynn Steinberg

Co-Captains:  Sandy Johnson and Pam Colby

Women's Program - WWP

All Age, Women's Program (Teams Force, Impact & Power)

The Wasabi Women's Program (WWP) consists of three competitive teams, Force, Impact and Power.  It is Wasabi Paddling Club's largest team.  This inclusive program races in the Woman's division, and provides a competitive paddling experience for all ages.  People who love to race, train, have a passion for paddling together, and want to raise their level of fitness, are encouraged to join WWP.  Team members primarily train and race in dragon boats, but also train and race in outrigger canoes.  Members of WWP regularly compete locally, nationally and internationally, and represent Wasabi Paddling Club at Club Crew World Championships and on Team USA for Nations Cup World competitions.

Head Coach: Carol Hoekstra

Assistant Coach: Connie Flesuras

Assistant Coach:  Cindy Hickman

Assistant Coach:  Jill Metz

Manager: Janet Lamson

Co-Captains:  Carolyn Stewart, Nicole Forsi and Connie Cavagnaro

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Dragon Boat Practice Schedule

Most teams paddle through the entire year, rain or shine, however, sometimes, the conditions are beyond our control.  Our Club has established specific guidelines for the weather and river conditions on our Club Safety Page

Burn 7:00-8:15 pm7:00-8:15 pm9:00-10:15 am
(April - June 5th)
5:30-7:00 pm5:30-7:00 pm9:00 - 10:30 am
(June 15 - November)
4:30-6:00 pm4:30-6:00 pm8:00-9:00 am
SOAR6:00-7:00 pm6:00-7:00 pm10:00-11:30 am
Special Dragons
(from March to June)
5:30-6:30 pm 5:30-6:30 pm11:00-12:00 am
(at Nehalem Bay)
6:00-7:00 pm6:00 -7:00 pm8:30-9:30 am
VIP 6:00-7:00 pm6:00-7:00 pm10:00-11:30 am
Wasabi Five-O7:00-8:00 pm7:00-8:00 pm9:00-10:00 am
Women's Program7:00-8:30 pm7:00-8:30 pm9:00-10:00 am