Places I Love – Opening Day at Fremantle Swan Dragon Boat Club

Words and pictures by Jean Hudson @jeansodyssey

The Fremantle Swan Dragon Boat Club at East Fremantle’s Swan Yacht Club is the oldest dragon boat club in Australia – established in 1981. This year commemorates their 40th year.

Yesterday, Saturday, 16 October, intermittently under clouds and in glorious sunshine, the Club had their open day. The public was invited to row in dragon boats with seasoned rowers on the Derbarl Yerrigan/Swan River.

The boats are rigged with decorative Chinese dragonheads and tails, along with a ceremonial drum. Boats are raced with 18-20 crew along with a drummer and a steersperson.

The drummer synchronizes their drumming with the leading pair of paddlers – this is considered the ‘heartbeat’ of the dragon boat. The steersperson, or helm, steers the boat from a standing position at the rear with a long oar. Paddlers sit in pairs facing the bow and the drummer (who faces them).

These human-powered watercraft originated from the Pearl River Delta region of China. Racing dragon boats dates back 2000 years. Boats were originally made from teak, but are lighter nowadays and made from carbon fibre or fiberglass.

The Fremantle Swan Dragon Boat Club has won multiple State, National and International medals. The club caters for all ages from 10-17 (juniors), 18-23, 24-39 (premier) and 40+ (masters).

Keep an eye out for them training on the river and listen for the drum beat!

They are quite a sight and make quite a sound!

* This article was written by Jean Hudson. The photographs are also Jean’s.