Must-Know Commands for Dragon Boating in Barrie

Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned paddler, it can seem like dragon boaters have their own language. There are a handful of commands used in the boat for the purpose of keeping the team unified as well as safe when out on the water. Some clubs and some countries have different commands, and can change depending on geography- it’s almost as if certain clubs almost have their own dialect! Here’s a list of common phrases you can expect if you’re dragon boating in Barrie or with Corporate Recess.

Paddles up!
Probably the first thing you’ll hear in the boat- and for good measure. This is the command that literally tells you to well- get your paddles up. When your coach or steersperson calls this out, get your paddles up and into the A-Frame so you’re ready to start paddlin’. 

Take it Away
Usually heard after Paddles Up, this is where the fun begins- this is the signal to actually start paddling!

Back it down/ Back paddle
Simply put: paddling backwards! This is used to get your dragon boat in position, often used when docking or at the beginning or sometimes end of a race. If dragon boating in Barrie, our boats are ‘parked’ facing the shore, so to start a practice your steersperson will almost always tell you to back paddle.

Let it Run/ Let it Ride
A favourite command by those that do their dragonboating in Barrie- “Let it Run” means to stop paddling and let the boat “run” out the momentum of a hard paddle.

Hold the Boat
“Hold” as in stop. The quickest and best way to stop a dragon boat is to have every paddler sink their blades in the water at a 90 degree angle. This stops any forward momentum of the boat. Note: if attempting to position the boat at the start line, your steersperson may call for only one side of the boat to hold: e.g.“left side hold” while getting the right side to paddle forwards.

A favourite command by those that do their dragonboating in Barrie- “Let it Run” means to stop paddling and let the boat “run” out the momentum of a hard paddle.

Hips to the Gunnel
To better stabilize the boat, a steersperson or coach might tell you to put your hips to the gunwale (gunnel) which is the outside frame of the boat. Use this command is to remind paddlers  to sit as close as possible to the gunnel of the boat for the purpose of stabilizing. The “wider” the boat’s weight is distributed, the better.

Positions names in Barrie Dragon Boats

Your valiant leader – Coaches can sit at the front of the boat during practices but are not permitted to sit in this space during a race (as this is where the drummer sits). They will lead your practice, teaching technique and using drills to help harness your skills. Depending on your club structure your coach may be a participant on your team as a paddler/steer/drummer.

Steersperson/ Steer/ Steerman
The steersperson is the eyes of the boat and responsible to steer the boat and keep the boat and team safe during a race or a practice session. It’s often the only person standing in a dragon boat and they’re situated at the back of the boat.

Usually the loudest and one of your lightest persons on your squad. It’s the drummers responsibility to keep the team paddling TOGETHER and on pace to win. On race day they’ll be seated up high at the front of the boat, with a big ol’ mallet and a drum. As a paddler it’s your responsibility to paddle in beat with their drum.


Now that you know the lingo you have what it takes to be safe and knowledgeable when out on the water in Barrie. Want to learn more about dragon boating in Barrie? Check out our Blog for more info.