Dr. Howard Chen: Six questions with a world-known dragon boat philanthropist

“Dragon boat is a very unique sport…. [if] dragon boat lovers unite together, it will be the major sport in the future.”
– Dr Howard Chen

Dr. Howard Chen was introduced to dragon boat in 1995, after helping a friend of his fill boats for a festival. A year later Dr. Chen was approached again to start a new dragonboat
company. Wanting to work as a non-profit corporation but interested in the world of dragonboat, Dr. Chen created his own club out of Long Beach. With the help from the Lions Club and companies of friends, he acquired eight dragonboats to start his new club’s season in 1997. Dr Chen is currently the President of the International Collegiate Dragonboat Federation (ICDBF).

1. What are some of the most important dragonboat initiatives that you have led or been a part of? Dragonboat sports promotion is very difficult. It took the Chinese 2450 years and it’s still not very popular! Dragonboat needs a lot of money and man power to keep the sport going forward- it’s really charity work, and if you don’t get involved and lead EVERYTHING by yourself it will not survive. The sport runs so well in Toronto- it’s a miracle… and a group of crazy hard workers.

2. You have been involved with dragonboat at all levels, locally, nationally and internationally. You also have experience with small, locally run and government driven events. What are some of the challenges you see? This sport is very unique, but it doesn’t really have a fixed formula to copy. Every race and every day I see new issues and challenges.

3. You have so much experience in both the US and China dragonboating. What are some of the major differences? It’s a big difference! In Western countries, dragonboat is a general, public sport- you have to pay to join. In China it’s still a “special group” sport for elite athletes. You get paid to race and let general public watch you paddle.

4. We commend you with your work promoting university dragonboat. What is your role on the International Collegiate Dragonboat Federation (ICDBF)? At the present stage I am the President of the ICDBF, College students are hope for all in the future: they can learn a lot from the sport of dragonboat. This organization is involved as a non-political component to the community.

5. Can you tell us a little about your Long Beach Dragon Boat Club and Festival? This is our 19th year promoting dragonboat in southern California. We have had a very hard beginning, as our weather was too nice- we can paddle 12 months a year alongside along with many other things. A lot of people would rather enjoy barbeques than paddle. Just like the idea that you have a great tennis court in your back yard- but it does not make you automatically better at tennis than the other kids. But, we do have a pretty good number of paddlers now; I don’t care about the size, but rather the dragonboat community to be more healthy and harmonious.

6. What is your vision for dragonboat? Dragonboat is a very unique sport- I can list at least 20 good reasons to show it’s different than other sports. If we can get rid of the political issues and instead allow dragonboat lovers to unite together, it will be THE major sport in the future.

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