Frequently Asked Questions
Dragon boats are replicas of ancient Chinese river boats, and are not considered seaworthy for open water. Nearly all operation in summer is limited to the waters inside the Berkeley Marina. The marina is 600 meters from east to west and 500 meters north to south, so there is amble room for race practices.
In the winter, and sometimes on summer mornings, the Bay is calm enough to venture outside the harbor to points north and south along the East Bay shoreline. We have paddled as far as Brooks Island and Treasure Island, and (with a safety escort) to Angel Island.
We have evening practice four nights a week, Monday through Thursday, 6-7 PM. Saturday practice is 9-10:30 AM. Non-members and novice paddlers are welcome to drop in on any of these sessions for an introduction to dragon boat paddling and to BRCC. There is no cost for an introductory practice session.
Yes. We have navigation lights on the boats and other safety gear. In fact, most of our paddling outside the marina is on winter evenings when the wind is calm and the water is flat.
Of course! Out-of-town paddlers are always welcome. Allow a few extra minutes to read and sign the liability waiver.
Anyone can join BRCC. Membership currently includes people as old as 80 and as young as 14. People with physical disabilities are encouraged to join and participate fully in racing and recreational paddling.
No. BRCC provides Coast Guard approved lifejackets. After 12 years of operation in Berkeley, we have never swamped or capsized a dragaon boat. However, this is always a possibility, and non-swimmers should understand that whenever they are on the water there is always a small chance of going in the Bay.
We recommend that non-swimmers borrow a BRCC lifejacket and practice floating with it in the shallow end of their local public pool. Be sure to talk to the lifeguard first.
The annual membership fee for adults is $100. $25 for college students and free for youth under 18. Membership begins on the day of joining and ends one calendar year later unless renewed.
There are no other fees for practice sessions in the dragon boats or for using kayaks, canoes and outriggers in the Small Fleet. However, participation in major race events may involve race fees and travel and lodging expenses.
Participate in any scheduled team practice session to check it out. There is no charge, and BRCC supplies paddles and lifejackets. It’s best to arrive 10 or 15 minutes early to allow time to read and sign the liability waiver and determine the right size paddle.
If you decide to join BRCC after one or two practice sessions, find the Treasurer or other BRCC officer and give them a check. There is also a more detailed form for new members to fill out.
Yes, and you will not be alone. BRCC membership represents a very wide range of physical ability and commitment level. Don’t worry about it, and don’t put off joining until you are in better condition. Paddling is one of the best ways to get in shape.
Of course. While most of the practice sessions are focussed on improving race performance, recreational paddlers are always welcome. There are many important roles for non-racers in BRCC, especially those relating to our public service and community outreach activities. We also use the boats for special events like trick-or-treating, holidy caroling, midnight moonlight cruises, trips to Emeryville for Dim Sum, clambakes out on a sand bar, and more.
Yes, the BRCC equipment lockers are locked during practice, and they are inside the locked gate to M-Dock. Car break-ins in the parking lot are infrequent but they do happen. Valuables are much safer in the dock lockers than left in cars in the parking lot.
Layers, as if you were going jogging. It might be chilly at first, but you will warm up very quickly.
You might get splashed a little, so don’t wear anything that would be ruined by salt water.
It’s good practice to keep your cellphone in a small waterproof bag or ziplock while paddling. Although some members have paddled with unprotected cellphones in their pockets for years without any damage.
Yes. We have a ‘Cleopatra Cushion’ for non-paddling passengers. This is one of the features that distinguishes dragon boating from other forms of competitive paddle sports: We have room in the boat for passengers.
Yes, but it’s best not to bring a dog on the first few sessions. Some dogs find it stressful at first, but nearly all dogs enjoy the ride after they are acclimated. Dogs are more relaxed if their human is also relaxed and confident.
Keys to M-Dock are keys to the entire marina, and the marina office will not allow us to hand them out indiscriminately. Therefore, you need to take a key test and send it to the Vice President who will then arrange with the marina office for a key. The cost is $15.
The Key Test covers basic BRCC rules and procedures for boat access, care of the lockers and docks, equipment storage and security, and maintaining good relations with other marina users. The test is open book, based mostly on BRCC Operating Rules, and help from other BRCC members is allowed.
The key Test also begins the process of becomming certified to steer a dragon boat.
BRCC members enjoy free use of these boats. Using OCs requires a huli certification to show your ability to recover after an OC flips over. You have to be able to upright it, get back in the canoe and continue paddling.
The qualification requirements are a little different for each type of boat, but BRCC members willing to go through some very basic instruction and practice have unlimited free access. Availability is excellent.
Demonstrate that you can slide it into the water, board safely, maneuver inside the marina with good control, know something about right-of-way with respect to other boats in the marina, and put the boat away correctly. For inside-the-harbor paddling you do not need to demonstrate a roll recovery or a wet exit, although the wet exit practice is highly recommended.
For taking a kayak outside the harbor, demonstrating a successful wet exit and recovery is required. See the BRCC Operating Rules for details.
The DragonMax team is the principle adult racing team. BRCC also hosts the East Bay Rough Riders, a high school team drawing most of its members from El Cerrito High. BRCC also hosts a U.C. Berkeley Team, and corporate teams from Bayer and AT&T sometimes form for local race events.
See Our Teams
There are local races in Lake Merced and Lake Merritt. The team typically travels to Long Beach, Tempe, Vancouver, and other cities to compete in major race festivals.
DragonMax competed in the 2014 Club Crew World Championships in Italy and in 2018 in Hungary. A number of team members also join team DNA to race at various venues all over the world.