Skip to content

Paddlers gear up for 18th Annual Shuswap Dragon Boat Festival

Shuswap Association for Rowing and Paddling celebrating its 20th anniversary

The upcoming Father’s Day weekend will be a busy one in Salmon Arm and on Shuswap Lake.

In addition to marking the start of the two-day Demo Derby and Swap Meet at the fairgrounds, Saturday, June 15, is also the day of the 18th Annual Shuswap Dragon Boat Festival, with races from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and public spectator viewing available at the Salmon Arm Marine Park Wharf. Team check-in will begin at 8 a.m., with an opening ceremony at 8:30. This event will be hosted by the Shuswap Rowing and Paddling Club (SRPC), which operates under the Shuswap Association for Rowing and Paddling (SARP), celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The June 15 event will include up to 16 teams competing in women’s and mixed divisions, a 500-metre race course. There will also be a survivor carnation ceremony.

The sport involves 20 paddlers paddling in unison to the rhythm of a drum on 46-foot dragon boat, explained SARP Dragon Boat director Ted Crouch, providing some background.

“A Dragon Boat is a formidable human-powered craft and with a full crew the weight can be more than 4,000 pounds,” said Crouch in a media release, adding the boats are built for sprints or races of 500 meters.

The sport of Dragon Boating appeared in China over 2,000 years ago, becoming a recognized modern international sport in 1976 expanding around the world, including international festivals, said Crouch.

“The first great exposure of the sport to Canada was in British Columbia during the 1986 World Exposition (Expo! 86),” said Crouch. “Teak Dragon Boats were featured in races along False Creek and thus the inspiration and start of Dragon Boating in B.C. This auspicious history brings us to current day and the continuation of this sport from antiquity on the Shuswap.”

Crouch explained how for many, the Dragon Boat has become a vessel for raising awareness around breast cancer and connecting survivors. He said this international movement was inspired in 1996 by the research of Canadian sports medicine specialist Don McKenzie, who recognized the technical paddle/stroke of Dragon Boating as beneficial to the physical recovery from treatment.

“Added to this are the benefits of emotional support a team offers to survivors,” said Crouch. “This camaraderie and connection with others is not exclusive to survivor teams, and is an experience available to all. Competitive men’s teams, women’s teams, mixed teams, youth teams and survivor teams make up the complexion of many Dragon Boat Clubs and Festivals.

The SRPC officially has two Dragon Boat teams, the Pink Piston Paddlers, an internationally competitive Breast Cancer Survivor team and Dragon Tao, a mixed recreational/competitive team.

SARP invites individuals interested “in trying out dragon boating and seeing Shuswap Lake from a new perspective” to contact For more information, visit

In addition to the ongoing action at the fairgrounds, the Marine Park wharf will be busy again on Father’s Day, June 16, with the Annual Salmon Arm Kids’ Fishing Derby from 7 to 11 a.m. Also on the Sunday is a day dedicated to Dads, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum. Admission includes tours and scheduled activities.

Read more: Sleeping dragons will rise again in Salmon Arm

Read more: New life for old dragon boats

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
Read more