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Ten Thing Successful Dragon Boat Paddlers Do

Posted by Kristin Stickels on
Ten Thing Successful Dragon Boat Paddlers Do

Looking to improve your paddling skills this season? Here is a list of the top ten things that successful paddlers do on a regular basis which make them so outstanding.

Paddlechica Worlds Ed Nguyen

Photo: Ed Nguyen

1) Set goals

Successful paddlers have a path of progress in mind. They set goals in order to determine the best route to achieving those objectives. Goals can be performance- or habit-based. Examples of performance-based goals might be aiming to make your team’s mixed boat, or shaving two seconds off your time trial. Examples of habit-based goals might be going to bed on time, or stretching after every training session. The purpose of setting goals is to give structure and motivation, which leads to progress.

Padlechica Setting Goals



2) Work out off the boat – both cardio and strength training

Sure, paddling is great, but you can’t up your game without gaining strength and endurance. Hit the gym, take a Crossfit class, run, swim, hop on the erg. Train smart to build up your muscles and increase your stamina. Successful paddlers spend time in the gym pushing themselves to new limits. They recognize that building up their lats, abs, quads and many other paddling muscles will be a huge benefit to them on the boat. They work on their cardio so that they have the endurance to sprint 500m without fading, or can easily tackle the 2k without significant fatigue.

Paddlechica Sore Today 2


3) Show up on time

Top paddlers know the value of their training sessions. They respect their teammates’ time and the effort involved in attending practice. They wouldn’t even think of jeopardizing the success of the team by showing up late to a race. Consider each practice your job. Take it seriously.

Paddlechica Being Late


4) Encourage others

Some of the most impressive paddlers I know inspire others with their encouragement. They understand the concept of teamwork and consistently work towards making the team better by helping everyone. While they enjoy competition, they understand that everyone on their team benefits from improvement. They live by the motto that you are only as strong as your weakest paddler, therefore they work to bring others up, not put others down.

Paddlechica Encouragement 2


5) Hydrate and eat properly

Eating “clean” and ensuring adequate intake of fluids is key to training strong. A top paddler understands that his or her body is best fueled by a balanced diet; he or she does not engage in sporadic dieting or dieting fads such as cutting out all carbs. Find what works for your body and be smart about it. Binge dieting two weeks before a weigh-in doesn’t make sense and won’t help your performance.

In addition, successful paddlers understand the importance of hydration before a workout and protein after a workout (either in the form of a protein powder or food such as a chicken breast). Treat your muscles well – they’ve worked hard for you!




6) Stay focused while at practice

Allowing your social life to take precedence on the boat certainly impedes your improvement. Don’t be the chatty one on the boat. Respect others who are there to train and work hard. Stay focused, concentrate on your training, and maintain an eye on those goals you’ve made. Successful paddlers train with purpose.

Paddlechica Focus 2


7) Seek opportunities to be surrounded by better paddlers

While it’s nice to be “top dog” and can be intimidating being among those who are better than you, an excellent way to improve your paddling is to put yourself in situations where you are at the bottom of the pack. Take the opportunity to learn from the best. Attend a camp with paddlers who are a level above you, visit a team that you know is stronger than your own team. Top paddlers make a point of seeking out paddlers who are better than them in at least one area. If you know you want to work on a specific area of your technique for example, find someone who does that well and work with them. Sit behind them and emulate them. Sit in front of them and ask them to guide you.

Paddlechica Surround Yourself 2


8) Trust the coach

Your coach hasn’t set out to torture or humiliate you. He or she is looking to improve the team as a whole and you as an individual paddler. Listen to your coach. Trust his or her feedback. Ask questions if you are not clear on something. If you plan to disregard what your coach says, perhaps it is time to join another team. Successful paddlers find a coach they trust, listen carefully to the coach’s feedback, work to make corrections, and place their trust in the coach.

Paddlechica Trust Your Coach


9) Learn from mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s what you do with them that counts. Outstanding paddlers make the most of their mistakes and grow from them.


10) Rest and recharge

Great paddlers know their limits and know when to take a day off to recover. Training is important, but training smart is more important. You won’t gain anything by overtraining, so listen to your body and rest when you need it. Take a day off of training so that you can come back even stronger.

Paddlechica Rest Day




Kristin Stickels is a three-time Team USA member of the US National Dragon Boat Racing Team. She is the coach of the Miami team Puff, the Florida Tarpons women's team and the local Breast Cancer Survivors' Team (SOS).

She is also an avid outrigger canoe paddler and raced through the Panama Canal on a native cayuco boat from the Atlantic to the Pacific.


Found out more about Hornet paddles at 

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