Breast cancer survivors' dragon boating
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. It is supported internationally by the International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission (IBCPC), an Associate Member of the International Dragon Boat Federation.
Donald Chisholm ("Don") McKenzie is a Canadian sports medicine specialist at the University of British Columbia, professor in the School of Kinesiology and Director of the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre. 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. 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.
His paper 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."
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."
Around the world
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." The IBCPC is an Associate Member of the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF), the world governing body for Dragon Boating, and the IBCPC President is a Member of the IDBF Council.
In August 2011, the ICBPC had a total of 116 member organisations in 9 countries: Australia (29 groups), Canada (41), Ireland (1), Italy (5), New Zealand (7), Singapore (1), South Africa (1), United Kingdom (7) and United States (24). By December 2020 it had 236 teams in 29 countries including 57 in the United States, 56 in Canada, and single clubs in Fiji and Qatar.
Dragon boat festivals
The IBCPC sponsors dragon boat competitions about every four years:
- 2018 - Florence, Italy
- 2014 - Nathan Benderson Park, 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.
Dragons Abreast Australia head office is based in Brisbane in Queensland and is a registered charity. 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.
The original Abreast In A Boat team continues in Vancouver, paddling twice weekly from March to July.
Canadian breast cancer dragon boat teams sprung up rapidly across the country beginning in 1997. As of 2020, some of the teams include:
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B.C. Buoyant Buddies, Vernon; Bust'n Loose, Kelowna; Cowichan Valley Dragon Divas; Friends Abreast, Shuswap; Island Breaststrokers, Victoria; Kootenay Rhythm Dragons, Nelson; Kootenay Robusters, Trail; NorthBreast Passage, Prince George; Paddling for Life, Powell River; River Spirit, Campbell River; Sunshine Dragons Abreast; Survivorship, Penticton; Dragon Divas, Duncan; Hope Afloat, Comox; Alberta Breast Friends, Edmonton; Sistership, Calgary; Abreast of Bridge and Lethbridge.
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 has a board member with responsibility for Breast Cancer and Special Interests.
Paddlers in the Pink was started in January 2003 in Singapore, being Asia's first dragon boat team comprising only breast cancer survivors and supporters. PIP was the only team from Asia participated in the 2014 IBCPC in Florida, USA. PIP continues to support IBCPC and will be participating in the upcoming 2018 IBCPC in Florence.
Dragon boat racing for breast cancer survivors was introduced to the UK by Eve Elliott Pearson in Liverpool.
The Paddlers for Life group is based on Windermere in the Lake District and is a registered charity. A group of members took part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in June 2012 in their boat Artemis Diana.
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.
Wave Walkers train at Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre, Docklands, London, and Longridge Activity Centre, near Marlow. From small beginnings in 2012, the team now has a strong core and took part in Vogalonga, an annual non-motorized boat event, in Venice in 2014 and 2015.
Dragonheart Vermont's Sisters and Soul Sisters breast cancer survivor teams were established in 2004 in Burlington, Vermont. The 200 members make up 10 teams and organise the annual Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival.
KC Pink Warriors, Kansas and Missouri's first full-time dragon boat team, was established in April 2019. They practice at Wyandotte County Lake in Kansas City, Kansas. They are a registered 501(c)(3) Charitable organization. 
Orlando Warrior on Water, Central Florida's only Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat team, was established in 2009. They practice on Lake Fairview in Orlando. They are a registered 501C3 Charitable organization.
Machestic Dragons, New Jersey's first Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat team, was established in 2005. They practice on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, New Jersey. Paddle for Pink is their annual dragon boat festival, held each June in Mercer County Park.
Save our Sisters, Miami, South Florida's first Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Racing team.
Indy SurviveOars, a breast cancer survivor team in Indianapolis, Indiana
Pink Dragon Ladies®, Tampa Bay, Florida. Founded in 2004, the "Pinks" are the first cancer survivor dragon boat team in Florida. Together with "Save Our Sisters-Miami," they co-hosted the 2014 IBCPC International BCS Festival in Sarasota, FL.
Heart & Soul Dragon Boat Team - a breast cancer survivor and supporter mixed team located in Melbourne, Florida, formed in 2014. Part of the Space Coast Dragon Boat Club. Competed in the 2014 ICBPC Festival in Sarasota, Florida. Won 3 Gold medals in 2017 SRDBA Southeast Championships, Women's B Division.
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- 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. 28 (2): 122–140. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.556.6538. doi:10.1080/07399330601128445. PMID 17364976.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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