Our Paddle Technique

The Beaches Stroke

Dragon Boating is all about a crew paddling in harmony, applying the combined power of all people in the boat in the most efficient way, pushing the boat forward forcefully in rhythm and synchronicity.

On this page, you can find the basic information about the style of paddling used at NBDBC.

Seating position

Our seating position is relaxed, stretching the inner leg and bending the outer leg back so you can get the best forward reach, as well as locking yourself in to the side of the boat. It is customary that the foot of the person behind has “rights” over the space under the seat in front of them.

Setup position

On the command of 'Paddles up!', all paddlers move into the setup position, ready to get the boat going:

  • The upper body leans forward with a straight back in an angle of about 30 degrees.
  • The outer arm is fully extended parallel to the water outside of the boat, adding that extra inch by pushing the outer shoulder forward as well (but not twisting the back). A good idea is to aim it at the shoulder of the person sitting directly in front.
  • The inner arm reaches forward high up, slightly bend (30 degrees), with the elbow pointing up. The hand is in one line with the forearm, keeping the wrist straight.
  • Hold the paddle with a relaxed grip. The hand of the outer arm holds the paddle one hand width above the blade, with the paddle a few inches above the water.
  • When holding the paddle, both hands are outside the boat, perpendicular to the boat edge. Like spearing the water, the paddle should have a slight angle (30 degrees).
  • Take a deep breath in and you are ready to go!


Dragon boat paddling is a continuous series of short intervals of high intensity effort and recovery. Each interval is called a stroke. The stroke starts at the setup position and generally is divided into 4 distinct phases: catch, drive, exit, return. The pace is set by the 'strokes', the pair of paddlers who sit in the first row of the dragonboat.


  • The phase is about catching the water in the most efficient way so the full power of the paddler can be applied during the stroke. The idea is to get the paddle in the water and fully submerged quickly in a smooth and powerful manner, not creating any bubbles or splashes. The top hand drives the paddle down and back at the speed of the boat, fluidly transitioning into the next phase of the stroke, the drive.
  • At the catch the paddler breathes out until the end of the stroke, supporting the effort and motion.
  • If the back movement on the catch is too slow, the paddler will slow the boat. If the back movement starts before the blade is fully submerged or is to fast, bubbles and swirls are created, the touch to the water is lost and energy is lost.


  • The drive is the continuation of the catch, starting at boat speed but then continuing to accelerate until the exit, releasing the air in the lungs while applying downward pressure on the paddle. The drive is the power phase of the stroke, propelling the boat forward.
  • As during the catch, the power of the drive comes from driving the top hand down with your body weight on your blade, there is no pulling of the outer arm at any time. The top hand transmits the power created by the bodyweight and the downward pressure through shoulder and core to the paddle.
  • The force of the drive naturally raises the upper body. The legs are generally relaxed but can support the drive in particular on longer distances.
  • The outer arm stays straight until the exit and just guides the paddle. The grip of the outer hand is relaxed, allowing an angle between the hand and forearm and the shaft of the paddle.
  • Do not pull with the outer arm! Never pull! Ever!!!


  • The exit is fast and sidewards when the outer arm has reached the seat of the paddler and the drive and boat are at the highest speed. Only then the outside arm will slightly bend, relaxes and takes the paddle smoothly out of the water to the outer side, without splashing or scooping. The inside arm stays mostly straight, using a slight twist in the wrist to help release the blade from the water. At this stage the air has all breath has been released.


  • The return is the relaxation phase of the stroke also allowing the paddler to inhale and fill the lungs with air.
  • While the inner arm comes up to the setup position, the outer hand punches forward fast and smooth, bringing the paddle with it, until it is stretched out completely and the blade is just over the water line. At the same time the upper body relaxes and naturally falls forward in a straight line until the paddler has reached the setup position again and is ready for the next stroke.