Breast cancer survivors' dragon boating

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Breast cancer survivors' dragon boating in California

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[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] 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.[citation needed]

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).[7] 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.[8]

Dragon boat festivals[edit]

The IBCPC sponsors dragon boat competitions about every four years:[9]

  • 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.[10]

Dragons Abreast Australia head office is based in Brisbane in Queensland and is a registered charity.[11] 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.[12]


The original Abreast In A Boat team continues in Vancouver, paddling twice weekly from March to July.[13]

Canadian breast cancer dragon boat teams sprung up rapidly across the country beginning in 1997. As of 2020, some of the teams include:

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.

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[14] 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.[citation needed]

United Kingdom[edit]

Dragon boat racing for breast cancer survivors was introduced to the UK by Eve Elliott Pearson in Liverpool.[15]

Lagan Dragons Northern Ireland formed in 2015, the first cancer survivors' dragon boat team in Northern Ireland. They are based at Belfast Boat Club.[16]

Manchester Dragoneers paddle on their boat Annie at Debdale Park, Manchester every week.[17] Members of the group took part in the international dragon boating festival in Florida in 2018.[18]

Oxford Paddlers For Life [19] was founded in Oxford in 2017 and paddles on The Isis in Oxford.

The Paddlers for Life group is based on Windermere in the Lake District and is a registered charity.[20][21] A group of members took part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in June 2012 in their boat Artemis Diana.[22]

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.[23][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]

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.[27][28]

Port Edgar Dragons from Port Edgar, South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, bought their first boat in 2011 and are a registered charity.[29][30]

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.[citation needed][31]

The Wigan Water Dragons are based in Wigan and train on Scotsman's Flash. They launched their first full-sized boat in June 2011.[32]

The Worcester Busters part of Worcester Dragon boat Racing Club[33] train on the River Severn in Worcester, England, and took part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.[34]

United States[edit]

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.[35]

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. [36]

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.[37] 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.[38] Paddle for Pink is their annual dragon boat festival, held each June in Mercer County Park.[39]

GoPink!DC, a breast cancer survivor team in Washington, DC [40]

Save our Sisters, Miami, South Florida's first Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Racing team.[41]

Wellness Warriors, Boston, MA, an all-cancer survivors (ACS) team, founded in 2007.[42][43]

Pink Phoenix, of Portland, Oregon, launched in January 1997.[44]

Annapolis Dragon Boat Club in Annapolis, Maryland, formed in 2011, competes in several dragon boat races, including the 2014 ICBPC Festival in Sarasota, Florida.[45]

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.[46]

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[47]

Los Angeles Pink Dragons, a breast cancer survivor team in Long Beach, California [48]

Pink Phurree, Texas' first breast cancer survivor team in Houston / Clear Lake, Texas, and competed in the 2014 ICBPC Festival in Sarasota, Florida.[49]

Live Love Survive, a co-ed cancer survivor team in Foster City, California [50]

Lighthouse Dragons, a breast cancer survivor team in Jupiter, Florida with a supporter team - Jupiter United [51]

Breast of Texas , a breast cancer survivor team in Grapevine, Texas [52]

Indy SurviveOars, a breast cancer survivor team in Indianapolis, Indiana[53]

Against the Wind, of Philadelphia, We are the first BCS dragon boat crew on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Founded in 2001.[54]

Prairie Dragon Paddlers, of Champaign County, Illinois. This is the first BCS team in the State of Illinois, Founded in 2014.[55]

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.[56]

Heart & Soul Dragon Boat Team - a breast cancer survivor and supporter mixed team located in Melbourne, Florida, formed in 2014.[57] 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.[citation needed]


  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. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. 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.[permanent dead link]
  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. 28 (2): 122–140. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/07399330601128445. PMID 17364976.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  6. ^ "Home page". International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  7. ^ "Members". International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission. Archived from the original on 7 September 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  8. ^ "Members". International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  9. ^ "The International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission's Dragon Boat Festival is coming to Sarasota in 2014!". June 22, 2013. Archived from the original on February 1, 2015. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  10. ^ "About us: History". Dragons Abreast Australia. Archived from the original on 2 May 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  11. ^ "About Us". Dragons Abreast Australia. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  12. ^ "History of Dragons Abreast". Dragons Abreast Australia. Archived from the original on 2 May 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  13. ^ "Home page". Abreast in a Boat. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  14. ^ "Who is on the board=NZDBA". Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  15. ^ "About us: History". Paddlers for Life. Archived from the original on 24 March 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  16. ^ "Lagan Dragons". Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  17. ^ "Manchester Dragoneers breast cancer dragon boat team & boat repairs". Tameside and Glossop Macmillan information and support service. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  18. ^ "Off to Florence to participate in an international participatory festival". Paddlers for life Windermere. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  19. ^ "Oxford Paddlers for Life home page". Oxford Paddlers for Life. Retrieved 12 Jan 2019.
  20. ^ "Home page". Paddlers for Life. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  21. ^ Charity Commission. Paddlers for Life, registered charity no. 1121539. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  22. ^ "Flotilla Participants: Man-Powered Boats" (PDF). Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 June 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  23. ^ "Home page". Paddlers for Life Scotland South West. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  24. ^ "Paddlers For Life Scotland South West, Registered Charity no. SC041432". Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. 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. ^ "Home page". Pool of Life. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  28. ^ Charity Commission. Pool of Life, registered charity no. 1111599. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  29. ^ "Home page". Port Edgar Dragons. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  30. ^ "Port Edgar Dragons, Registered Charity no. SC041803". Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  31. ^ "Wave Walkers home page". Wave Walkers. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  32. ^ "Home page". Wigan Water Dragons. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  33. ^ "Worcester Dragon Boat Racing Club home page". Worcester Dragon Boat Racing Club. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  34. ^ "Worcester Busters home page". Worcester Busters. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Central Florida Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team".
  38. ^ "Machestic Dragons".
  39. ^ "Paddle for Pink".
  40. ^ "GoPink!DC - Washington DC Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Paddling Team".
  41. ^ "About Us | Save Our Sisters Miami | Dragonboat Race Team". Retrieved 2017-04-09.
  42. ^ "Welcome To The Wellness Warriors". Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  43. ^ TheDigitalPitch (2015-07-10), Wellness Warriors: Paddling With A Purpose, retrieved 2017-01-05
  44. ^ Home page
  45. ^ Home page Annapolis Dragon Boat Club, retrieved February 1, 2015
  46. ^ Home page Dragon Boat Atlanta, retrieved February 1, 2015
  47. ^ Home page Pink Steel team of the Steel City Dragons, retrieved August 8, 2013
  48. ^ [1] Pink Dragons
  49. ^ [2] Pink Phurree
  50. ^ [3] Archived 2016-09-14 at the Wayback Machine Live Love Survive
  51. ^ Lighthouse Dragons SOS
  52. ^ Breast of Texas Dragon Boat Team
  53. ^ "Indy SurviveOars |". Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  54. ^ "Philadelphia Flying Phoenix Dragon Boat Racing | Philadelphia Flying Phoenix".
  55. ^ "Home".
  56. ^ "Home". Pink Dragon Ladies Dragon Boat Team. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  57. ^ "Heart & Soul Dragon Boat Paddlers". Archived from the original on 2018-01-29.

External links[edit]