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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

You Can Try Dragon Boat Racing For Free In Jackson Park This Weekend

"The club provides all the equipment: the life vests, the paddles, the boat. All you have to do is bring yourself."

The competitive team members of the Greater Chicago Dragon Boat Club.
Courtesy of Delmarie Cobb
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WOODLAWN — Chicagoans have the chance to try out the centuries-old sport of dragon boat racing Saturday in Jackson Park’s outer harbor.

No sign-up is required for the free demonstration, which is organized by the Greater Chicago Dragon Boat Club. Participants can simply show up, and the 22-person boat will take attendees out in shifts.

Dragon boat racing in Chicago is “very democratic,” said political strategist and racer Delmarie Cobb, who has spent four years with the club. Competitive racers on the team range from 20 to 60 years old, she said, and gender is not a factor.

“The club provides all the equipment: the life vests, the paddles, the boat,” Cobb said. “All you have to do is bring yourself.”

Racers’ body types matter less than their rowing technique, Cobb said. She recounted a time that was put on full display a couple years ago at the Chinatown Dragon Boat Race for Literacy.

“The Cook County Sheriff’s Department was big as they can be — all muscles,” Cobb said. “When team members looked up and saw these guys, they said there’s no way they’re going to beat them.

“But they didn’t have the technique. They were not in sync, so we got in the water and blew them away.”

The racing club also has an Adaptive Adventures team for those with disabilities to get in on the action.

Cobb said the team won its division at a race this weekend in LaPorte, Indiana, by the slimmest of margins: .04 seconds.

“That’s one of the things we’ve done to give back and get more people involved who wouldn’t think that they could be involved ordinarily,” Cobb said. “It’s so great to see them out on the water being competitive.”

For more information about Saturday’s event, click here.

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