Why we paddle.

The link between dragon boating, an activity that started in China over 2,000 years ago, and breast cancer may not be immediately obvious. But pink dragon boat teams made up of people who’ve had breast cancer have been growing in popularity since the movement began in Canada in 1996.

Based on his detailed research, Dr. Don McKenzie began breast cancer dragon boating to challenge the conventional wisdom that after cancer treatment, women should avoid upper body exercise for fear of developing lymphoedema.

Now the benefits of physical activity for people with breast cancer are well known, and there’s evidence that regular exercise helps prevent lymphoedema. Today there are over hundreds of teams of breast cancer survivors all over the world and the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission (IBCPC) is their international umbrella organisation with a membership of over 220 breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams.       

So why do we paddle? 

  • For strength and fitness.
  • To help avoid or reduce some side effects of cancer treatment – such as fatigue, weight gain, osteoporosis and lymphoedema.
  • To improve long-term health, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and may reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.
  • To help our mental well-being by reducing anxiety, stress, depression and improving our overall mood.
  • To prevent or reduce the loss of muscle tone and aerobic fitness that can happen during treatment.
  • Meeting new people– treatment can be isolating and after treatment it can be difficult to find the new “normal”. At Paddlers for Life we celebrate life and support each other whether to talk through treatment or simply need a friendly smile and a hug.
  • Mastering a new skill (whatever your age) – learn how to paddle in a dragon boat in a positive and supportive environment. We have regular training but it is wonderful to learn a new skill (that not many of your friends will be able to do!)
  • Enjoying the beautiful scenery as we paddle on Windermere.

    “We are so lucky to be able to paddle in such a stunning location with the mountains as our backdrop – no matter the weather it never fails to inspire!” 

  • Camaraderie and being part of a team.

    “That feeling of strength, the camaraderie, getting us all together. You can do it if there’s 22 people in the boat, you can go anywhere. It’s everybody, all working, paddling the same – it’s empowering !”

  • Freeing your mind– this sport is truly amazing for your all round well-being – body, mind, soul and spirit.

“Where treatment can sometimes make you feel out of control, Dragon Boat Paddling is the perfect opportunity to let all the worry and stress drift away and take control.”

  • Friendship and laughter – Every time our boats go out; from getting the boat ready, to launching and then setting off on our paddle there is laughter and the friends we make on the water are fantastic – strengthened by the fact that…

“We are all in the same boat.”