This month's Dragon Boat Festival is a rush for spectators too

The gun goes off and six dragon boats dart forward, propelled by 22-person crews moving in unison, like so many 45-foot-long, multilimbed beasts. Drummers pound a fast-paced beat that drowns out the sound of paddles cutting through the water, and the crowd goes nuts.

Welcome to the 10th Annual San Francisco International Dragon Boat Festival, held this August 27 and 28 at Treasure Island and expected to be the biggest ever.

Hans Wu, race director (and former president) of the California Dragon Boat Association and captain of San Francisco’s Dragon Warriors team, says dragon boat racing is the ideal spectator sport because it’s so adrenaline charged. It’s a sprint sport, happening over just 500 meters, taking just over 2 minutes.

It’s also a sensory sport. “You have sounds: the boat going through the water, the drummers, people yelling,” he says. “And visuals: the colors of the boats ― each one individually painted ― and the dynamics and motion of so many people moving together. And even smells: all the good food from the festival. It’s a lot of sensory input at once.”

And it’s free to watch!

INFO: Visit for more information on this year’s dragon boat festival.

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