Dueling dragons

The River Sirens Dragon Boat Team want to spread the word about the sport they have fallen in love with.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Schwartz – Special to The Sun: The River Sirens dragon boat team in mid competition.

The River Sirens Dragon Boat Team is gearing up for the annual Cooper River Dragon Boat Regatta, and it want you to join it.

If you are wondering just what a dragon boat is, Moorestown resident and coach of the River Sirens, Maureen Kane, can explain.

Think of the typical boat you might see manned by a four-person crew team, blow it up about five times that size and add a colorful dragon head to the bow.

“The boat holds 20 paddlers, so it’s a much bigger boat and you paddle on one side, so it’s paddling rather than rowing,” said Kane. “The boats have 10 seats in them and you have a seat partner so you’re either paddling on the left side or the right side when you’re out racing.”

Kane, who grew up boating, compares dragon boats to power boating.

“Rowing is like sail boating. Dragon boats are all out, it’s crazy, it’s fun and really anybody can do it,” said Kane.  

The River Sirens are a women’s dragon boat team formed in 2005 when a group of women who exercised together at a Barrington gym got together for dinner and decided to form a team to compete in the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival in Fairmont Park.

According to Kane, the newly formed River Sirens won a medal in their division at the festival and decided to keep the team going.

The Sirens are the only competing dragon boat team on the Cooper River in Pennsauken. Since 2015, they have hosted the annual Cooper River Dragon Boat Regatta, which brings in 30 competing teams from as far as Washington, D.C.

According to Kane, during the Cooper River regatta, teams participate in three races. In the morning, teams compete in 200-meter races, and in the afternoon, the top teams compete in a final 500-meter race.

The regatta is a big, family friendly event, says Kane. In the down time between races, teams meet and socialize. The race brings a variety of vendors available to teams and spectators alike.

The River Sirens are seeking new members. According to Kane, dragon boating is a very beginner-friendly sport, and they are looking for women of all skill levels, even those who have never raced before.

“My philosophy as a coach is everybody should give it a try,” said Kane. “You don’t really see rowing festivals with people who have never done it before, because the boats are a little smaller and tippier, whereas, with a dragon boat, you can get people in there who have never done it before and they can have a great day.”

The River Sirens hold regular practices beginning in April and running through October. The team consists of two groups, a beginner-friendly community team and a more competitive-minded sports team.

“The culture of our team is very supportive. It’s a team of women that are supporting each other in their own physical fitness and in their own lives in different challenges they have. They always know they have friendship there on the water,” said Kane.

For more information on the River Sirens, or to find out how you can join, visit riversirens.org. For more information on the Cooper River Dragon Boat Festival, check out cooperriverdbf.org.