Hundreds paddle down Schuylkill River for 15th annual Independence Dragon Boat Regatta

"It's actually a Chinese sport that was created over 2,500 years ago," explained Ken Wong, the co-chair of the event.

Sunday, June 5, 2022
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Nearly 90 teams raced down the Schuylkill River for the 15th annual Independence Dragon Boat Regatta in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Hundreds of athletes from across the country came to Philadelphia Saturday for the 15th annual Independence Dragon Boat Regatta, the biggest competition of its kind in the U.S.

Nearly 90 teams raced down the Schuylkill River for the event, which allowed both experienced and novice paddlers to compete.

"It's actually a Chinese sport that was created over 2,500 years ago," explained Ken Wong, the co-chair of the event.

The dragon boat is a 40-foot-long canoe with 20 paddlers in it.

"The first dragon boat in the United States, the first club was here in Philadelphia. It's our club. The Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association," added Wong.

Part of what makes dragon racing unique is there's a drummer in the back. Each bang alerts the paddler to row in time with each other.

"He's drumming to the beat of the paddlers," said dock master Kevin McFadden. "Its extremely precise. You're paddling, sometimes at 120 strokes a minute."

McFadden says he's glad the event is back to full strength for the first time since the pandemic.

"We had an event last year, but people were very tentative. We probably had half the teams we would normally have, and it had a feel to it," he said. "A lot of masks, you know. I don't think I've seen any masks so far today."

The paddlers are excited to be back on the water too.

"It's a sense of team building and a lot of fun, and you get to see Philadelphia from a different viewpoint," said Amy Virus of the Schuylkill Dragons.

Lori Mertz of the Gloucester County Vixens said, "It's a lot of fun. It's just a bunch of moms who decided we want to do something good for the community. We all raise each other up, cheer each other, bring kindness to the world."