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history of

the serpents

Based in the historic City of Durham in the North East of England, the country's most Northern crew was one of the founder dragon boat clubs in the UK. Emerging from the Tyne and Wear Dragon Boat Association, the Serpent's name derives from their catchment area. An area dominated by three big rivers. The Tyne to the north, the Tees to the south and their home river the Wear at Durham.


Amazingly their esteemed and eccentric helm, Clive Hole was involved at the first UK inception of dragon boating during the early 1980's when dragon boats were introduced here by the Hong Kong Tourist Association. Clive was still there in 1989 when HRH The Queen Mother launched a dragon boat. That boat was probably the first ever to be built in the UK, constructed on the Tyne by the shipyard apprentices of Hawthorne Leslie and copied from an original Hong Kong boat. The boat was named the Bowes-Lyon in honour of the Queen Mother. Another boat, the Andrew Leslie, was paddled by the club for many years while other boats were distributed to other areas of the country. The Andrew Leslie is still afloat on Windermere in the Lake District and Amathus would later cross the English Channel in two of the boats built on the Tyne.


Those boats still survive as a testament to the craftsmanship of the Tyne shipyard apprentices. 

It wasn't until 1990 that The Tyne and Wear Dragon Boat Association became the Three River Serpents following the introduction of new members from the River Tees area.

Tyne, Wear and Tees (TWATs) didn't have quite the right ring to it!


Over the years the Three River Serpents have raced in many countries. Canada three times, China twice, Malaysia twice, Hong Kong, South Africa, Japan and even had an ill fated Swan Boat trip to India.

On a domestic level, along with BDA events scattered across the country and the annual pilgrimage to the Nationals in Nottingham, the Serpees (our affectionate nickname) are always on the lookout for all kinds of paddling adventures. Windermere Solstice Race, The Great Tyne Row, Newcastle V Durham University Boat Race, The Great Tyne River Race London and team building with the GB Rubgy League squad are just a few of our exploits.

We are proud to have supported many charities over the years. We have an extremely close relationship with the incredible Paddlers For Life, and in supporting this wonderfully holistic approach to paddling, we have made numerous trips to Windermere, Loch Ken and South Queensferry.

In 2020, of all years, the club officially expanded its fleet! Via a virtual voyage from Tahiti to Durham, which captured the imagination of so many people far beyond our local community, we raised the funds needed to purchase our very own V6. Our success made us the first dragon boat club in the country to offer both dragon boat racing and V6 outrigging to its members.

A new era is dawning for the Serpees.

Paddlers for Life Windermere have always had a special relationship with Three River Serpents. Just like us, they are the epitome of what it means to be a team; friendship, support and a drive to make each member become the best they can be. 

The years of collective experience that the Serpie’s have is phenomenal and they pass that on to everyone they meet. 

Paddlers for Life is grateful to have a deep connection with them all and we appreciate the support they have given us over our 13 years of being.

Without the Serpents we wouldn’t be where we are now, and we wouldn’t be as skilled in what we do. They have lent us boats, trained us to be competent and safe paddlers and they taught us to have a passion of dragon boating. 

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Paddles up!

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