The Abreast of Life Christchurch dragon boat racing team

Positivity through paddling

by Mike Isle


The Abreast of Life Christchurch breast cancer survivors dragon boat team had another successful weekend at the Aoraki Open Regatta held at Lake Pegasus recently.

“We competed against 16 teams and came first in the 1,000 metres, second in the 200 metre and third in the 500-metre races. That was excellent considering our average age is 55 years and we compete against younger ladies who are cancer free,” says club president, Janice Melville.

The champion team have won many gold medals and have been rebuilding the team after the Canterbury earthquakes meant relocating the sport to Lake Pegasus.

“Many of our girls couldn’t travel. This regatta was good practice for the upcoming Nationals in April where we will compete against other breast cancer teams.

“We have a strong bond with our sister team the Amazon Hearts women’s team. Male breast cancer paddlers can join our team or a mixed team.”

Dragon Boat racing for breast cancer sufferers was started by Dr Don McKenzie in Canada to prove upper body exercise doesn’t cause lymphedema in people with breast cancer.  

“He has proven that it actually helps on many levels including fitness, socialising, and positivity.
“We encourage all women irrespective of age, shape and ability, to participate. We are building up to the South Island championships at Lake Hood on March 23, and then the nationals in April.”

Joanne Russell is a team member living in Rolleston and says she loves being involved.

“We have an amazing connection because of the experiences we have been through.

“We are very competitive and always aim for a better time and placing and encourage spectators to come along as well.”