Dragon Boat Restoration in the Shuswap

The community of Salmon Arm is the recipient of nine original teak Chinese wooden dragon boats that were brought to Canada to introduce the sport of dragon boating during Expo 86 in Vancouver BC. These boats are part of a truly unique Canadian collection that also includes six yellow cedar Taiwanese dragon boats. The collection was donated in June 2015 through the support of the Shuswap Association for Rowing and Paddling by the Chinese Cultural Centre Dragon Boat Association (DBA). The DBA was formed in 1984 and negotiated the arrangements with the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce for the boats to be shipped to Vancouver. The DBA maintained the fleet since their arrival in Canada.

The nine teak dragon boats will be restored by participants through a Job Creation Partnership Program with the Employment Program of British Co-lumbia. Funding is provided by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. A commitment of almost $203,000 from the Province to the project is providing participants with up to 50 weeks experience in woodworking and power tools operation as they bring the boats back to life. The restoration of each boat will include refinishing the hull, original dragon head and tail, seats, paddles, steering oar and drums. Aspiral Youth Partners Association is managing the project.

In a fair exchange for the donation, DBA requested that one of the teak boats be returned to their organization once it has been restored.How did you end up with these boats?

Ted was visiting a Dragon Boat Forum online to figure out how other communities were creating interest around Dragon Boating but was side tracked by a group of authentic wooden boats for sale in Vancouver. Ted and a local woodworker went to the coast to check out the boats and ten months later the boats were in Salmon Arm ready to be restored.

What is Aspiral Youth’s Connection to this project?

Ted discovered Aspiral Youth when trying to figure out a way to get more youth involved in the Rowing and Paddling club, they ended up being key in getting funding and employees for the Dragon Boat restoration project. The Dragon Boat project has employed many locals on EI and struggling to find work – now they have solid work experience and new skills they can add to their resumes.

Where will these boats live when they are complete?

“It’s a tough call” says Ted, they have not found a forever home for these boats yet. They are anticipating they will be ready to leave Salmon Arm by the end of October, they are hoping to keep at least one in the Shuswap.

What has been your favourite part of this process?

Chad and Wendy both agreed their favourite part of this process has been being able to show off the finished work, Chad also noted that the celebration held in January was a favourite for him.

What is the Awakening of the Dragons?

Whenever the boats are about to experience something special such as a race, their pupils are painted red, this process is often accompanied by a ceremony. The dragons are put back to sleep by having their pupils painted back to their original colours before they are put away.


Some of the finished boats can be seen at Picadilly Mall, check out the Original Wooden Dragon Boats Facebook page for hours. All the boats will be out on the water at their Canada 150 Dragon Boat Festival.

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