gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


“Check the boat!” (and other things your steersman might say)

May 26, 2009 @ 14:05 By: gordon Category: Dragonboats

I originally wrote this for my dragonboat team, the Algonquin College Singapore Slings, and I thought it might be of interest to a wider audience.

If you’ve been dragonboating for a couple of years, you’ve probably heard your steersman or caller issue instructions such as “check the boat”, “all up”, “right side draw” or “let it run”. And you (hopefully) know what the person wants you to do. But, if you’re new to dragonboating, it might be Greek to you.

So, to help demystify things, here’s a list of the most common things your steersman is likely to say and what they want you to do.

When they say… They really mean…
All up! Get ready to start paddling and listen for the next instruction, which is usually…
Take it away. Start paddling.
Let it run. Stop paddling and let the boat coast. Be sure not to drag your paddle in the water.
Hold the boat Stick your paddle in the water, but don’t take a stroke. This may not seem like it does a lot, but it has the effect of holding the boat in place. Usually heard on the start line when the boat is barely moving.
Left side draw
Right side draw
Paddlers on the specified side of the boat should turn the blades of the paddles 90 degrees and pull the water towards them. This is usually done at the start line to help position the boat for the start of the race. You’ll sometimes hear it when pulling up to the dock and the boat’s a little too far from it. Everyone drawing should do it at the same rate so that the boat doesn’t rock too much.
Ready! Ready! Given on the start line, paddlers should bury the blades of their paddles and be ready to start in a few seconds.
Check the boat! This is probably the only command that can be given at any point, usually without warning. Similar to hold the boat, the goal is to stop the boat moving as quickly as possible. Stick the blade in the water and hold it in place. (Note: It does not mean to make sure there aren’t any holes in the boat or that you’re in the right boat!)
Check hard! Almost identical to check the boat, you add a little more resistance so that you’re almost (but not quite) paddling backwards.
Beer me! One of the most important commands a steersman will issue. The nearest paddler should immediately provide the steersman with a properly chilled beer.
Back it up
Back it off
Start paddling in reverse. This should be done in time so that the boat doesn’t rock too much.

In general, when you’re paddling, whether it’s paddling easy during a practice, drawing at the start line or during the race, all the paddlers should be hitting at the same time. If even one person is out a bit, the paddlers around them will tend to get off beat.

Happy paddling!

2 Responses to ““Check the boat!” (and other things your steersman might say)”

  1. Paul Tomblin says:

    Funny about the “Ready! Ready!” command – in kayak racing you definitely want to start the race with your paddle in the air, as the act of stabbing it into the water is an important part of starting the power cycle.

    • gordon says:

      Because a dragonboat sits so low in the water, the paddlers reach forward and bury their paddles on the “ready ready”. When the race starts they take 4-6 strokes (depending on the start plan) of increasing length that basically get the boat on the “step” (to borrow a float plane term) and then another 12-16 strokes at a higher rate to get the boat really moving before lowering the rate to the race pace. I guess a kayaker stabbing the water with the paddle accomplishes the same thing as the initial 4-6 strokes.

Leave a Reply