Credit: Sandy Mitchell, the Central Coast Dragon Boat Association board president / Courtesy
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Video by Grace Bennett

Cal Poly’s new dragon boat team took to the water for the first time in Morro Bay on Oct. 8. 

Dragon boat racing is an ancient Chinese water sport that “emphasizes timing and teamwork,” according to the Central Coast Dragon Boat Association.

The boats, decorated with a dragon head and scales, seat 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steers-person.

Traditional dragon head that sits on the dragon boat. Courtesy of: Sandy Mitchell / Central Coast Dragon Boat Association board president

“It’s really about community and about having fun,” Dr. Anne Jansen, Cal Poly ethnic studies professor and the team’s organizer, said.

Jansen started paddling with the Central Coast Dragon Boat Association on the SurviveOars team last year and said she fell in love right away.

“I thought it maybe was going to be a one-time thing and as soon as I got off the boat, I was like, nope I’m signing up,” she said.

During her time with the SurviveOars, she said the team, which is mostly older adults, talked about wanting to get more young people involved. Cal Poly had a dragon boating team in 2017, the SLO Voyagers, that worked closely with the SurviveOars, but everyone that was on the original team graduated during the pandemic. When Jansen was hired as an ethnic studies professor at Cal Poly this year, she saw her opportunity to start a new team. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students to have access to something that’s kind of hard to have access to,” Jansen said. 

Out of the 20 people who expressed interest in joining the team and 10 who attended the first paddling session on Oct. 8, political science freshman Rylyn Jagger was the only one who showed up to the information meeting last Tuesday. Jagger said she was happy to hear about the dragon boating team at Cal Poly. 

“I’m really excited to meet the people who are on the team and I’m excited to learn a new style,” Jagger said. 

Jagger paddled with the East  Bay Rough Riders, a team in Berkeley, California, for two years before coming to Cal Poly. She said she enjoys dragon boating because it’s a fun way for her to get out on the water and exercise and that she loves the community. 

“It’s very inspiring and also it’s just like the best environment you can get,” she said. 

Jansen said she hopes the team will give students the opportunity to get a sense of community, gain a support system outside of the university and manage their stress. 

For more information about the team and how to join, email Dr. Jansen at