Social Skills: Guangzhou International Dragons

By Tristin Zhang, December 22, 2016

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Social Skills is a monthly column featuring community groups where you can meet new people through exercise or other enjoyable activities.

When the Guangzhou International Dragon Boat Team was founded in 1998 as a consulate union, it comprised mostly consular staff and kayakers, a rookie team by all account. But the motley crew started to grow with the joining of Cantonese fishermen, Scottish bartenders, Colombian smugglers, American executives and other colorful characters. 

Today, its rowers hail from China, Australia, France, Britain, Jordan, Malaysia and Thailand, to name a few of the constituent countries.

The dragon boat team is a regular in races in Guangdong around Duanwu Festival, while also being invited to international competitions held in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea.

“When competing overseas, we’re often the only team flying the flag of China, even though we’re a mixed bunch of international paddlers,” says the team’s manager David Butler, who feels honored to represent the Middle Kingdom, where dragon boat racing originated, in competitions abroad.


“The social side of dragon boat racing is important,” he adds. “After the races, we usually have a banquet or celebration and hold a performance, like a dance or short skit. Months before the competition, we’re on the water regularly to perfect our technique. And then, a few days before the race, we get together again to rehearse our dance routine as well."

For Butler and his teammates, dragon boat racing is a comprehensive exercise that develops one’s strength, stamina and fitness. It also allows expat members to explore the Pearl River and surrounding region, which has inspired them to raise awareness about the water pollution.

For more information, add David Butler’s WeChat contact: DavidDub or visit

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