Why We Paddle
In 1986, the Chinese delegation of Expo ‘86 gifted Vancouver, BC with six teak dragon boats. In 1996, Dr. Don McKenzie from the University of British Columbia, in conjunction with physiotherapist and breast cancer survivor, Dr. Susan Harris, formed the first breast cancer survivor dragon boat team in Vancouver.
It was their intent to prove that upper body exercise has a large role in the recovery from breast cancer and lymphedema because it can improve range of motion, reverse muscle atrophy, stimulate the immune system and activate the skeletal muscle. Previously, women were told not to exercise after breast surgery. Since 1996, dragon boating has grown to be an international sport with breast cancer survivor teams being an important part of each festival.
The only criterion to becoming a member of a breast cancer survivor team is to have had a history of breast cancer. Age, athletic ability and paddling experience are not considerations. The frequency, duration and intensity of water training vary with each team and each training program usually includes some form of strengthening and stretching exercises off the water as well. Every paddler competes to the best of her ability and technical skill, but always with incredible energy, enthusiasm and emotion. The acceptance of breast cancer teams is overwhelming at dragon boat festivals all over the world where teams with superior athletic ability are usually the norm.