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Paddle the Boston Harbor on the Back of a Dragon

Boston 1 dragon boat team offers training for beginners

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Hot off this weekend’s annual Boston Dragon Boat Festival, which drew an estimated 20,000 to the Charles River and featured dozens of the elegant, long, narrow vessels decorated like dragons, Boston 1, an elite local dragon boat team, is offering a chance for people to try out the sport for themselves tonight during its water training. No prior experience is necessary: the Boston 1 folks will teach you everything you need to know. And it costs just $10.

Boston 1 gathers for practices three times a week in Boston Harbor (Monday and Wednesday from 5:45 to 7:45 pm and Saturday from 11:45 am to 1:45 pm). The group meets outside Smith & Wollensky at 294 Congress Street. Boats launch from the Atlantic Wharf dock.

Chinese villagers paddled dragon boats millennia ago. Following the first modern races, which were held in Hong Kong in 1976, the sport quickly spread across the globe. (Boston became the first North American city to host a dragon boat festival in 1979).

The eponymous boats are propelled by teams of up to 20 paddlers and directed by two teammates. A drummer sits at the front of the boat and paddlers synchronize their movements to the drum’s beat.

Boston 1 was founded in 2013 and boasts an impressive record: the team has competed in regional, national, and international trials and earned a second place medal in last year’s Boston Dragon Boat Festival’s Club Team Challenge. Next month, they’ll travel to Szeged, Hungary, to compete in the 2018 Club Crew World Championships. Head coach Andy Shih says he fell in love with the sport during his college days at McGill University in Toronto and says his goal is to elevate the sport of dragon boat racing and make it available to more people (hence the team’s water training sessions).

When not practicing or competing on the water, the crew often gathers for long bike rides, bowling nights, and other social events. They’ve been known to paddle at night, guided by the light of glowsticks, and dressed as zombies.

The dragon boat water training takes place rain or shine. Participants are urged to wear workout clothes that can withstand getting soaked. Flip flops and sandals are recommended for footwear. More details about what to wear can be found here. Online waivers need to be signed prior to participation and can be found here.

If you’ve ever seen a dragon boat race and wished you could be part of the crew, here’s your chance. It’s a great way to stay in shape, make new friends, and enjoy a summer evening.

The Boston 1 dragon boat team water training practice takes place tonight at 5:45 pm. The group meets on the grassy patch outside the Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse, 194 Congress St. If you miss them there, head down the Atlantic Wharf dock facing the Boston Tea Party Ship Museum. The first two training sessions are $10. A season membership can be purchased for $125 ($100 for those under 24). A locker is available in the parking lot at 290 Congress St., and parking is available at Channelside Parking at 284 A Street. Enter at 29-41 Necco St., off Melcher St. Via public transportation take an MBTA Red Line train to South Station.

Carina Imbornone can be reached at carinami@bu.edu.

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