Dragon boats racing on the ocean

All About Dragon Boat Racing in Los Angeles

What is dragon boat racing? Is it like Fast and the Furious meets the ocean but more peaceful? Or is it boats zooming by with powerful engines? Canoes and paddleboards are common here in L.A.’s Marina. But what about dragon boats? Turns out dragon boat racing has been around quite a long time. It’s become a more popular recreational and competitive sport around the world. In fact, there’s a US Dragon Boat Federation and myriad organizations, clubs and people who all enjoy paddling in dragon boats  right here in Southern California. 

Save the date for the Third Annual Marina Del Rey Dragon Boat Festival presented by the Los Angeles County Dragon Boat Club on Saturday, March 2, 2024


  • The free family-friendly event is held at Burton Chace Park from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
  • Join the Welcome Ceremony at 10 a.m. with remarks from community dignitaries.
  • Live performances include traditional Chinese lion dancing and music along with arts and crafts, food trucks and more. 
  • You can watch the dragon boat races along the walkway facing the Marina del Rey channel.
  • Parking is available at Lots 4 and 77 for $8 per vehicle. 
  • The park is wheelchair and stroller accessible.



Read below for more info about dragon boat races from Nathan Salazar, Head Coach of the Los Angeles County Dragon Boat Club. 

Dragon boat head for dragon boat racing

What is dragon boat racing?

Dragon boat racing is a paddling sport. It is composed of 10 or 20 paddlers seated in pairs with a drummer in front to set the timing of the paddlers and a steersperson at the back to keep the boat straight. So in a race, there can be 12 to 22 people in the boat. 

It is called a dragon boat as it originated from China some 2000 years ago.  The boat is shaped as a canoe but decorated like a dragon, with a dragon head at the bow, scales on the canoe, and a tail at the back.  Boats were originally made using teak wood but thanks to new innovations, boats are now made using a combination of wood and fiberglass.  Paddles are made of carbon fiber to make them as lightweight as possible.  

Click button to watch a short video for more information.

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Dragon boat racing teams on the ocean

Is dragon boat racing similar to rowing?

Dragon boat racing, being a paddle sport, is actually called "paddling". The common difference would be rowing is backwards and paddling is moving forward. Dragon boat racing is for everyone. You will find yourself a couple of minutes into your first dragon boat practice and you are already paddling like an expert. Mainly, this is done for fun by the majority. My youngest paddler is 8 years old and I believe my oldest paddler is in his 80's. There are cancer survivor teams to visually impaired and deaf paddlers that are involved in the sport. They have their own division in the World Championships called the ParaDragons.

Dragon boat races at docks in Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey

Where is the best spot to watch the race?

The Marina del Rey Dragon Boat Festival, sponsored and supported by the Los Angeles County Office of Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors and Marina del Rey Tourism Board, is held at Burton Chace Park. The race course will be on the main channel--similar viewing area as the MdR Holiday Boat Parade. We will also have entertainment provided for everyone using local talents. There will be food trucks and informational booths from local businesses. This is truly a community event that will be enjoyed by all.

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FB_LA Dragon Boat Race Club team on the water

Where can someone learn how to paddle and join dragon boat races?

Marina del Rey is a perfect location for paddle sports. There is no dragon boat team in the Marina, however, the Marina Outrigger Canoe Club, is a competitive club that teaches paddling as well. Outrigger and Dragon Boat paddling are very similar in nature except that dragon boat races are mainly in short sprint distances and outrigger paddling is mostly racing in the ocean.

Dragon boat clubs are also available nearby. Long Beach is home to the largest dragon boat community on the west coast. Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale is where I run my program and we have 150-200 members from a diverse group. Visit Team DPW.org, for more information.

Person holding microphone at Dragon Boat race

How did you get started in dragon boat racing?

I started paddling in 1995 in the Philippines. I had the privilege of traveling in various Asian dragon boat races representing the Philippines. I moved to the US in 2000 and started coaching local club teams. Eventually, I was able to join Team USA as a paddler and also as one of the coaches of the US National Team. I run a dragon boat program at Santa Fe Recreational Park, LA County facility. We focus on paddlers of all ages but we also have a youth program focusing on youth athletes ages 8 to 24. We are preparing them to compete in world dragon boat championships. In fact, the proceeds of the Marina del Rey Dragon Boat Festival will help fund the expense associated with youth program as they prepare to compete in Sarasota, Florida for the World Club Crew Championships.

Photos courtesy of Facebook / Los Angeles Dragon Boat Race Club.