Baltimore Dragon Boat Club

The Baltimore Dragon Boat Club shown in practice in the harbor by the Under Armour Complex. (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun / August 21, 2012)

Meet Peter Van de Castle and his wife, Barbara, who exercise by sea and by land with the Baltimore Dragon Boat Club.

The competitive group of more than 100 members practices the 2,500-year-old Chinese sport of dragon boat racing year-round and participates in festivals and regattas along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. For competitions, the human-powered boats are decorated with elaborate dragon heads and tails.

The group invites people of all ages and skill levels to come out and try. "This is one of those sports that is absolutely available to everyone," says Peter Van de Castle.

How they got started: The club was formed in 2008 by a trio, David Gaskin, Susan Troupe and John Pezzulla, who started racing regularly at a Catholic Charities fundraiser at the Inner Harbor and wanted to continue dragon boating year-round. They immediately began recruiting more members.

Who's in the group: Women and men from their teens to upper 70s. The youngest member, who joined at the age of 10, began as a drummer and now has built up enough strength to row in races.

Why it's a workout: A drummer, 20 rowers and a helmsman work as a team in one boat. The intense cardiovascular/aerobic workout focuses on timing and coordination working the leg, back and arm muscles. From January to May, in the offseason, more than 20 members of the group opt for land training at Under Armour's gym.

Why they do it: Dragon boat racing is a full-body exercise that brings together people from all walks of life, including doctors, educators, artisans, construction workers and engineers. Barbara Van de Castle was skeptical when her husband first became involved in the sport, but then she tried it and she has been paddling ever since. "Our common goal is everyone having fun paddling a boat," she said. "We are here to have a good time and become healthy and enjoy ourselves together."

More information: Get a race schedule and list of other upcoming events at baltimoredragonboatclub.com. See a video of a practice session at baltimoresun.com.

If you have a group that meets regularly to exercise, tell us about it so we can feature you in our Health & Style pages. We'll want basic information about your group (how often you meet, number of people in the group, what you do and why you do it), as well as a photo if you have one. Send to cmallette@baltsun.com or Catherine Mallette, Features, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St. 21201.