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Basic Coach/Steer Commands

The smooth operation of a dragon boat requires paddlers to understand and respond to the commands of the Coach and Steer. Here are a few to get you started:

Attention please:

Command given by race starter to prepare crews for departure, the start gun will follow within about 3 to 5 seconds.

Posture up:

Stop talking, sit in position in the boat with your paddle across your knees, and wait for the next command.

Back paddle:

Paddle backwards to reverse the boat. Commonly used to move the boat away from the dock.

Brace the boat:

Extend your paddle so that its blade is flat on the water’s surface. Used to stabilize the boat.

Paddles up:

Position your paddle so it’s ready to enter the water for the first stroke.

Take it away:

Begin paddling.

Let it run:

Stop paddling and let the boat coast.

Hold the boat:

Place your paddle vertical in the water with the blade perpendicular to the direction in which the boat is traveling. Used to stop the boat quickly.


The point at which the drummer/steers calls for a change from one stroke rate to another.


The point near the end of a race (in a 500 m race usually the last 100 m mark) when a team's drummer/steers calls for an increase in power and rate.

Ready, ready:

Command used by drummer/ steers to prepare crew for race start - paddles buried in the water at beginning of a stroke phase.



Refers to one cycle of the paddling motion.

Stroke Rate:

The paddling pace, the number of times the paddle goes through the water in a minute.  Rates can vary from 40 to over 80 depending on the intensity of effort.  The crew's optimum rate for racing is determined by the coach.

Ready Position: 

Sitting with your hip firmly against the side of the boat with your legs extended and feet firmly in front of you, paddle in the "A-frame" position.


The phase of the stroke in which the paddler maximizes the length of their stroke before hitting the catch.


The point when the paddle first comes into contact with the water.


The phase of the stroke in which the paddler maximizes the length of their stroke before hitting the catch.


The phase of the stroke when the paddle exits the water.

The Recovery:

Snapping the paddle back on exit into the ready "A-Frame" position., ready for the next stroke.


The stroke phase that involves trunk rotation in order to maximize reach.


Occurs when a paddler's timing is ahead of and out of sync with the rest of the crew.


The bad habit of dropping the top hand into the boat on the recovery phase, thus causing the blade to swing out of the water. This inefficient technique prevents the achievement of a higher stroke rate necessary for racing.

Top Arm Drive:

To maximize the catch, the top arm is driven down aggressively burying the paddle in the water. The top arm continues to push down until the end of the stroke.