Pink Paddling and Team History

  • Origins of Pink Paddling

    Dr. Don McKenzie’s research.

    In 1994 a sports medicine physician and exercise physiologist, Dr. Don McKenzie questioned the advice of the time that repetitive upper body exercise should be avoided for people, mainly women, who had surgery for breast cancer. The surgery often includes removal of lymph nodes under the arm in the armpit. This removal can lead to build up of fluids in the lymphatic system so the arm can become painfully swollen and complications such as cellulitis can develop, an infection leading to further inflammation and pain.

    Dr Don McKenzie

    Dr. Don McKenzie conducted the initial research which lead to BCS dragon boat paddling becoming a world wide activity.

    Dr. Don McKenzie , working at the University of British Columbia, initiated a research project recruiting a group of breast cancer survivors to take up dragon boat paddling and his six months project of regular paddling showed that the repetitive exercise of paddling did not lead to complications. The group of women in this research project became the team Abreast in a Boat, a team that has celebrated over twenty years of dragon boat paddling. Their website is here.

    The more detailed story of this transformative moment is here. Breast Cancer And Dragon Boat Racing: The Story Behind A Movement

    Now there are hundreds of breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams paddling across the world. Over two hundred of these teams are registered with the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission, an international organisation promoting paddling for breast cancer survivors and helping organise international participatory festivals.

  • Paddlers for Life Windermere, Our Story

    Paddlers for Life Windermere

    In 2006 a small group of breast cancer survivors from the NW, Christine, Eve, Louisa, Sandra and Sue, were travelling down to Liverpool. They were paddling with the breast cancer dragon boat team ‘Pool of Life‘ in Queen’s Dock, Liverpool. This team were supported by Amathus, a dragon boat team from the UK league of teams.

    These paddlers soon realised there was a need for a team located in the north west UK which was focused on the needs of breast cancer survivors paddling in a participatory ethos that would promote well-being. Another aim would be to help people who have had a cancer diagnosis to ‘move on’ from the diagnosis and often aggressive treatment of breast cancer that will include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

    Sue and Louisa - Founder members

    Sue and Louisa are Founder members and were key in forming the charity.

    Louisa and Sue did a huge amount of work setting up an organisation with charitable status supported by others with the common interest. They needed to establish the purpose and focus of the group, identify and recruit like minded people to paddle with them, find a paddling venue and then source funding to equip the team with a dragon boat, paddles and safety equipment.





    With the help of a generous grant from BOOST (Building On Overlooked Sporting Talent)  and the support of  We are MacMillan Cancer and Cumbria Community Foundation, the founder members of Paddlers for Life Windermere were ready and prepared for an inaugural seminar to be held at their new home, Low Wood Hotel water sports centre. The team were finally ready to start paddling in 2008. Low Wood Hotel  generously agreed to host the team at their water sports centre on Windermere near Ambleside following an initial approach from Sandra.

    A group of breast cancer survivors and supporters meet to finalise the inaugural seminar to launch Paddlers for Life in January 2008.

    A group of breast cancer survivors and supporters meet to finalise the inaugural seminar to launch Paddlers for Life in January 2008.


    Trustee group photo.

    Sue, Christine and Louisa at the inaugural conference with the local MP.

    The charity, Paddlers for Life, was launched at an inaugural conference at Low Wood Hotel in 2008. The conference was attended by breast cancer survivors, their family and friends who support them and health professionals working with cancer patients as well as representatives from other organisations linked to cancer support and research.


    The team has grown over the years with new members joining and many members taking on charity responsibilities as trustees to ensure that breast cancer survivor dragon boat paddling continues to be available to anyone with a cancer diagnosis in this wonderful location.