Breast cancer survivors' dragon boating

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Breast cancer survivors' dragon boating is an international movement inspired by the research of Canadian sports medicine specialist Don McKenzie. Survivors of breast cancer join together to paddle dragon boats to the benefit of their physical health and social wellbeing.


Donald Chisholm ("Don") McKenzie is a Canadian sports medicine specialist at the University of British Columbia, professor in the School of Kinesiology[1] and Director of the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre.[2] In a 1998 paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal McKenzie described how in February 1996 he started a dragon boat team for women with a history of breast cancer, which the women chose to name Abreast in a Boat.[3] He believed that this activity would benefit breast cancer survivors as it provided strenuous upper body activity in an aesthetically pleasing and socially supportive environment.[3]

His paper[3] concludes:

How important is the Abreast in a Boat project? It is an approach to promoting health and raising breast cancer awareness that is driven by women with the disease. It reaches out to other women and offers them a message of hope and support. It is helping to change attitudes toward "life after breast cancer," and it encourages women to lead full and active lives. It is making a difference.

In 2001, McKenzie was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his work with Abreast In A Boat. The citation ended with the words: "His remarkable achievements, enhanced by his guidance and caring, have given breast cancer survivors across Canada a sense of confidence and pride, and a lifeline to a better existence."[4]

Later research published by Mitchell et al. concluded that: "The interview data support the emerging hypothesis that dragon boating is a vehicle for improving women's wellness and post-treatment quality of life."[5]

Around the world[edit]

The International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission (IBCPC) is an international organisation based in Canada. It describes itself as: "an international umbrella organisation whose mandate is to encourage the establishment of breast cancer dragon boat teams, within the framework of participation and inclusiveness. We support the development of recreational dragon boat paddling as a contribution to a healthy life style for those diagnosed with breast cancer."[6] As of August 2011 it had member organisations in Australia (29 groups), Canada (41), Ireland (1), Italy (5), New Zealand (7), Singapore (1), South Africa (1), United Kingdom (7) and United States (24).[7]

Dragon boat festivals[edit]

The ICBPC sponsors dragon boat competitions about every four years:[8]

  • 2014 - Sarasota, Florida, United States
  • 2010 - Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
  • 2007 - Caloundra, Australia
  • 2005 - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Dragon boat racing for breast cancer survivors was introduced to Australia by Michelle Hanton OAM originating in Darwin in 1998.[9]

Dragons Abreast Australia head office is based in Brisbane in Queensland and is a registered charity.[10] Dragons Abreast Australia Ltd (DAA) has grown into the peak body for breast cancer survivor paddling groups around Australia and is a member of the Australian Dragon Boat Federation and the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission. Members adopt a set of common guiding principles and adhere to the philosophy of participation and inclusiveness.[11]


The original Abreast In A Boat team continues in Vancouver, paddling twice weekly from March to July.[12]

New Zealand[edit]

With 8 BCS teams (Abreast of life, Boobops, Busting with life, CanSurvive, Pink dragons, Simply the breast, Taranaki Dragons, Waikato Treasure chests) New Zealand probably has the highest ratio of BCS teams in the world. There is no national BCS entity like in Canada or Australia. However, there is a BCS division at the National Championships and NZDBA[13] has a board member with responsibility for Breast Cancer and Special Interests.

United Kingdom[edit]

Dragon boat racing for breast cancer survivors was introduced to the UK by Eve Elliott Pearson in Liverpool.[14]

Pool of Life was the first UK dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors, founded in 2004 with the help of Liverpool's Amathus Dragon Boat Club. It is based in Liverpool and a registered charity.[15][16]

The Paddlers for Life group is based on Windermere in the Lake District and is a registered charity.[17][18] A group of members took part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on June 2012 in their boat Artemis Diana.[19]

Paddlers for Life Scotland South West was formed in March 2010 and is based on Loch Ken, Dumfries and Galloway.It is a registered charity.[20][21]

Port Edgar Dragons from Port Edgar, South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, bought their first boat in 2011 and are a registered charity.[22][23]

The Wigan Water Dragons are based in Wigan and train on Scotsman's Flash. They launched their first full-sized boat in June 2011.[24]

Pink Champagne are a team based in Bournemouth, Dorset, who train on the River Stour.[25] Fiona Castle, widow of entertainer Roy Castle, is their patron.[26]

The Worcester Busters part of Worcester Dragon boat Racing Club[27] train on the River Severn in Worcester, and took part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.[28]

Wave Walkers train at the London Regatta Centre, Royal Albert Dock, supported by Raging Dragons dragon boat club. From small beginnings in 2012, the team now has a strong core and will be going to Vogalonga in Venice in June 2014.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

Annapolis Dragon Boat Club in Annapolis, Maryland, formed in 2011, competes in several dragon boat races, including the 2014 ICBPC Festival in Sarasota, Florida.[29]

Dragon Boat Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia, formed in 2004, took first place in the 2007 Peachtree City festival, and competed in the 2014 ICBPC Festival in Sarasota, Florida.[30]

Pink Steel, a breast cancer survivor team within the Steel City Dragons organization in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, won the 2010 U.S. Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew Nationals for the BCS division[31]


  1. ^ "School of Kinesiology: Don McKenzie". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre: People". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c McKenzie, Donald C. (August 1998). "Abreast in a Boat – a race against breast cancer" (PDF). Canadian Medical Association Journal 159: 376–378. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "Dr. Donald Chisholm McKenzie, M.S.M.". Meritorious Service Decorations (civilian division). Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Mitchell, Terry L.; Yakiwchuk, Christine V.; Griffin, Kara L.; Gray, Ross E.; Fitch, Margaret I. (January 2007). "Survivor dragon boating: a vehicle to reclaim and enhance life after treatment for breast cancer". Health Care for Women International (Taylor and Francis) 28 (2): 122–140. doi:10.1080/07399330601128445. 
  6. ^ "Home page". International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Members". International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "The International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission’s Dragon Boat Festival is coming to Sarasota in 2014!". June 22, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2015. 
  9. ^ "About us: History". Dragons Abreast Australia. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "About Us". Dragons Abreast Australia. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "History of Dragons Abreast". Dragons Abreast Australia. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "Home page". Abreast in a Boat. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  13. ^ "Who is on the board=NZDBA". Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "About us: History". Paddlers for Life. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "Home page". Pool of Life. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  16. ^ Pool of Life, Registered Charity no. 1111599 at the Charity Commission Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  17. ^ "Home page". Paddlers for Life. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  18. ^ Paddlers for Life, Registered Charity no. 1121539 at the Charity Commission Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  19. ^ "Flotilla Participants: Man-Powered Boats" (PDF). Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. p. 1. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Home page". Paddlers for Life Scotland South West. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  21. ^ Paddlers For Life Scotland South West, Registered Charity no. SC041432 at the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  22. ^ "Home page". Port Edgar Dragons. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  23. ^ Port Edgar Dragons, Registered Charity no. SC041803 at the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  24. ^ "Home page". Wigan Water Dragons. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  25. ^ "Home page". Pink Champagne. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  26. ^ "Who we are: Patrons". Pink Champagne. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  27. ^ "Worcester Dragon Boat Racing Club home page". Worcester Dragon Boat Racing Club. Retrieved 4 May 2014. 
  28. ^ "Worcester Busters home page". Worcester Busters. Retrieved 4 May 2014. 
  29. ^ Home page Annapolis Dragon Boat Club, retrieved February 1, 2015
  30. ^ Home page Dragon Boat Atlanta, retrieved February 1, 2015
  31. ^ Home page Pink Steel team of the Steel City Dragons, retrieved August 8, 2013

External links[edit]