One of the most exciting competitions in the Southeast Asian Games is traditional boat race. Also known as dragon boat racing in many parts of the world, this sport was first introduced in the biennial regional sports spectacle during the 1993 edition in Singapore. In the Asian Games, it was introduced in 2010 and was held for second time in 2018.

As this is a canoe type sport, traditional boat race, or tradboat for short, employs a crew of about 22 members (regulation) for standard dragon boat.


Of these 22, 20 are paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat and they are the ones who propel the boat using their muscle power. These paddlers use a specific type of paddle which, unlike equipment used in rowing, is not rigged to the boat in any way. Because the paddlers face the direction of boat-movement, dragon boaters "paddle," and do not "row." The remaining two are drummer or caller and the steerer.

The goal in any dragonboat events is cover the distance at fastest possible time, which determines the winner.


The drummer keeps on drum-beating to produce a pulsation which serves as the ‘heartbeat’ of the dragon boat. The drum beat therefore bolsters the paddlers’ spirit. Steerer The steerer controls the movement of the dragon boat, hence his position at the rear of the boat. The steerer manipulates a long (typically 9-feet) straight oar, called a steering oar. The steering oar is situated in the upside-down U-shaped oar lock. The oar lock is housed on top of the steering arm, which sticks out perpendicularly on the back-left of a dragon boat.

Like canoeing, tradboat has become so popular throughout the world for sport, and is still being used in some places for transportation.

Typical events for tradboat are 200m, 500m and 1000m for men and women.

For races, there are 18-20 people in a standard boat, and 8-10 in a small boat, not including the steersperson (helm) and the drummer.


Modern dragon boat racing is organized at the international level by the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF), the world governing body for the sport. The IDBF is a member of the Global Association of International Sports Federation (Sportaccord) and is a founding federation of the AIMS Group (Alliance of Independent Recognised Members of Sport) within Sportaccord. AIMS is an IOC-recognized Multi Sports Organisation.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) also has a dragon boat program for those of its Member Canoe Federations with an interest in dragon boat.

Races measuring 2000 meters are normally held on a 500-meter course, requiring teams to do two loops. Teams start and end at the same end of the course, and complete three 180-degree turns.

Other distances may also be used in local festivals, such as 100 or 250 meters, or another distance, depending on the size of the body of water.

Category 1
Compulsory Sports
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  • Swimming
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