Teams of 22 paddle 41-foot-long boats carved and painted to look like dragons in head-to-head races where heats of four boats sprint across 500 meters of flat water. Winning a dragon boat race isn’t about strength; it’s about synchronicity. A drummer sits at the front of the boat, beating rhythmically on a massive drum and barking orders to the team.

Dragon boat races were originally created 2,500 years ago to commemorate the death of a beloved Chinese poet who drowned in the Mi-Lo River. The U.S. has a surprising abundance of dragon boat competitions, with 100 different festivals across the country. A half-dozen events take place in the Southeast throughout the year. Check it out for yourself at the Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, at Lake Lanier, Ga., on September 11.