Frequently Asked Questions about the Berkeley Racing Canoe Center

What kind of dragon boats does BRCC operate?

BRCC has three "6-16" dragon boats and one Champion dragon boat. The 6-16s are 48 ft long and are designed for 24 paddlers, plus drummer and steersperson. The Champion is 42 ft with seating for 20 paddlers. The Champion is leased from the U.C. Berkeley team. All the boats are berthed at M-Dock in the Berkeley Marina.

Where do you practice?

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.

What is the practice schedule?

As of April 2015, there 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.

Do the evening practices go all year, even when 6-7 PM is after dark?

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.

I'm a paddler visiting the Bay Area from out of town. Can I join you for a practice?

Of course! Out-of-town paddlers are always welcome. Allow a few extra minutes to read and sign the liability waiver.

Who is eligible to be a member of BRCC?

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.

Do I have to know how to swim?

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.

How much does it cost?

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.

How do I become a member of BRCC?

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.

I'm really out of shape. Can I still join BRCC and participate in practice sessions and racing?

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.

I have no interest in racing, but paddling a dragon boat looks like fun. Can I still join?

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.

Is there a secure place to leave valuables during the practice?

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.

What should I wear?

Layers, as if you were going jogging. It might be chilly at first, but you will warm up very quickly.

Will I get wet?

You might get splashed a little, so don't wear anything that would be ruined by salt water.

Will my cellphone be safe in my pocket?

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.

Can I bring a young child on the boat for the practice session?

Yes, there is no lower age limit. Although for very young children you might have to supply the child's lifejacket in order to get a proper fit.

Can I come out on the boat for a ride and not paddle?

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.

Can I bring my dog?

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.

How do I get a key to M Dock?

Keys to M-Dock are keys to the entire marina, and the marina office will not allow us to hand them out indiscriminantly. See the Vice President about taking the Key Test. This is the first part of the written test for certification as a steerserson. 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 take-home and open book, based mostly on BRCC Operating Rules, and help from other BRCC members is allowed.

Download the steersperson test from the "documents and forms" page on the BRCC website. Fill out the first section and return to the BRCC Vice President, who will arrange with the marina office for a key. The cost is $15.

The key Test also begins the process of becomming certified to steer a dragon boat.

What boats does BRCC have other than Dragon Boats?

As of April 2015, BRCC owns one OC-1 (single-person outrigger canoe), and three sea kayaks (one of them new). We also have two traditional canoes, one of which is set up for time trials. Plus one surfski, and one small sit-on-top kayak. BRCC members enjoy free use of these boats (after a check-out and some instructions, as needed).

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.

What do I need to do to be able to use a kayak?

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.

What teams does BRCC sponsor?

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.

Where do the teams compete?

The big event of the year is at Treasure Island in September. This is the largest dragon boat race festival in the U.S. There are local races in Lake Merced, Redwood City, Foster City, the Oakland Estuary 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 a number of team members join other teams to race at various venues in the Far East.

What is BRCC's mailing address, and how can I contact BRCC officers?

The mailing address is:

Berkeley Racing Canoe Center
1442a Walnut Street #243
Berkeley, CA 04709

Contact info for individual BRCC officers and Committee Chairs can be found on the website,, on the "contacts" page.