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Paddles up! Ottawa’s Dragon Boat Festival is back

Summer is here and Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is back at Mooney’s Bay and promises not to miss a beat!

You can watch exciting races and enjoy top-notch concerts at the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival for free! The fundraising festival takes place just south of downtown Ottawa at beautiful Mooney’s Bay Park, with its sandy beach and large children’s playground. Cheer on teams of 20 paddlers, each guided by a drummer and a steersperson, as they power large, colourful boats!

200 teams from all over will gather at Mooney’s Bay to compete. The festival draws in 75,000 visitors and is recognized as North America’s largest dragon boating festival. The four-day celebration offers free admission to concerts, amusement attractions, sports demonstrations, a variety of artisans, exhibitors, delicious culinary treats, children’s area and non-stop racing.

Dragon boat racing is a time-honoured tradition that goes back 2,400 years. Its origins are linked to southern China, where racing was to summon essential rains for bountiful crops to avert misfortune and ensure prosperity. The first participants held their celebration on the fifth day of the lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The object of their worship was the dragon.

This day is also known as Poet’s Day and commemorates the death of poet and former Minister of State Qu Yuan, who after protesting against the corrupt government, was removed from his position. The story holds that he wandered the countryside and disappeared into the river. Local fishermen realized Qu’s fate and raced out in their boats to save him while beating their drums to keep the fish away. The scene of the fishermen racing out to save Qu Yuan is re-enacted every year in the form of dragon boat races.

Present-day Dragon Boat Racing

Today dragon boat racing has become a popular, competitive sport, with paddles and boats all over the globe. It is a challenging, fun, team-based activity and Ottawa will see 5000 paddlers competing in races every 10 minutes. Each dragon boat is a slim 44-foot racer with a dragon’s head at the bow and a tail at the stern. Each boat holds 22 athletes comprising 20 paddlers, 1 drummer and 1 steersperson.

Paddlers: Proper Warm-up and Cool Down

Fun aside, dragonboat racing is hard work! An all-out, coordinated effort, is exerted by paddlers in each 500m race. In most festivals, teams will compete in one race and then sit for a while before racing again. It is important to warm up properly prior to each race. Warm-ups should include whole-body stretching and range of motion exercises to ensure joints, the spine and muscles are ready for action. Stretches completed before the race should be moving or dynamic stretches rather than static or hold stretches. After each race, cool down and make sure to stretch out the muscles you just used to ensure they are ready for the next round.

Paddlers: Hydration

Hydration is key to lasting a hot day with multiple races paddling. This doesn’t make hydration any less important when the weather is cooler. Bring lots of water, and any electrolytes (like Nuun), to your event and be sure to take liquids throughout the day. Recommended daily water intake is 2-3L, however, expect to increase intake on race days.

Paddlers: Nutrition

Fuel for the body in the form of healthy snacks is key to ensuring energy levels stay high and allow paddlers to perform to the best of their abilities. Snacks like nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit are easy and great ways to fuel the body for the race ahead. Make sure to eat and give yourself time before the race starts. It will be hard to paddle at top speed on a full stomach.

Paddlers: Sunscreen

Summer weather on open water is a recipe for potential sunburn. Sunscreen, sun cover and sunglasses are all key in protecting your skin and eyes from UV exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equal. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Look for “water resistant” or “sport” on the sunscreen label. “Water resistant” or “sport” sunscreens are formulated to stay on better if you are in the water or sweating. These sunscreen products still need to be reapplied after you get out of the water or after sweating heavily.

Paddlers: Take Care of Your Body

Paddling requires coordination across the entire body and relies on the rotation of the spine. Paddlers can ensure they are in top shape for Dragon Boat season with regular visits to their chiropractor, physiotherapist, and/or massage therapist leading up to Dragon Boat racing season. If you sustain an injury, be sure to follow up with a member of your healthcare team. To book your appointment with one of our chiropractors, physiotherapists or massage therapists, call 613.860.8600 for our Byward location, and 613.237.9000 for our Glebe location. Online bookings can also be made at www.curavita.com.


If you are attending this weekend’s festivities solely as a spectator, be sure to prep accordingly and tips with respect to hydration and cover still apply. Watching the races seated in the shade is recommended. Be sure to get up and move and eat at regular intervals to keep up your cheering energy throughout the day. Last of all, have fun and enjoy the festival!

The Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival marks the arrival of summer in the city and is a great way to spend time with family, friends and colleagues. These past two years have been isolating and challenging for all of us. As restrictions continue to lift, seize the opportunity to safely connect with others again in social situations and make your plans for some fun at Mooney’s Bay this weekend!