March 7, 2023

The 11th National Dragon Boat Race rows to Udupi making a splash

99Gamer watches in awe as Udupi hosts this exotic yet ancient sport for the first time

An Intense Sport setting course amidst Udupi’s Calmness!

Boat race udupi malpe

On the banks of the Swarna river near Heroor in Udupi, over 700 people from 15 Indian states came together for the 11th National Dragon Boat Championship between 23rd and 26th February 2023. Being an avid photographer, I was of course one of them – holding on to the camera around my neck and rushing towards the front row. Photography, for me, is like inventing a time machine – you can go back to the best moments of your life and relive them. So, how could I not miss when the first ever National Boat Race to take place in Karnataka happens to be in my hometown, Udupi. 

I’m also a pretty big fan of Kambala, I was really drawn by the colorful boats – it reminded me of the Dragon Swing I used to ride on in Karavali Utsav. I’ve always loved the idea of any kind of adventure. So here’s what I learned about this exotic sport that knocked on our local doors of Udupi.  

The Dragon Race - History of a high-energy sport

Dragon boat race in udupi

Dragon boat racing is a two-millennia-old tradition that started in China and has evolved over the years into a highly competitive game that is savored by millions across the globe. 

Since its establishment in 1991, the International Dragon Boat Federation has staged world championships that bring together teams from an excess of 40 countries, and is part of the Asian Games and the World Games, further increasing its popularity and visibility on the international stage. 

The unique Dragon Boat design

The boats used in dragon boat racing are long, narrow canoe-like vessels adorned with intricate detailing on their Dragon head and Tail. 

On the lower part of the boats, the design patterns between the head and tail made each one unique, along with the color-coordinated jerseys of the teams. 

Making a splash as one team

Splash boat race in Udupi Malpe

The most outstanding part of the boat race was witnessing the unity with which each team operates. 

Every time the whistle started the race, a drummer seated in the boat's front provided a steady beat to energize the sailors, the steersman stood at the rear and ensured the boat stays on course, and the 20 paddlers, boosted by the sound of the drums, worked in unison to maintain a fast and steady pace creating a powerful wave of water with their synchronized strokes.

Throughout the race, one thing that stands out beautifully is the team efforts – like witnessing a well-oiled machine, powered by people working together as one team. 

Talking of teams, another unique aspect of the race was that there were both same-gender and mix-gender teams, representing the best athletic talent that each state offered.

One race, several emotions

The thrill of adrenaline also came with a mix of emotions at each of the races. 

The focus before each whistle was blown, the high energy that would burst forth at the start of the race, the fervent sounds of the drums pushing the teams on, the joy of the winning team, and the disappointment in the losing ones. 

The entire race was a mix of emotions. Despite the warm weather conditions, the teams battled bravely as they gave their best in each of the races, and the united efforts were a treat to witness. It was indeed gratifying to see Udupi being recognized for its natural jewels and I hope we get to host more of such National and International events.

The most thrilling part for me? My camera got a lot of action and it was rejuvenating to be able to capture worldly traditions just minutes away from my home. I am putting up my gallery here and I hope you enjoy the stills. 


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Shanmukharaja M

Shanmukharaja M, Senior Technical Architect