The Abreast of Life Christchurch breast cancer survivors dragon boat team

Paddlers attend nationals

by Ann van Engelen

The Abreast of Life Christchurch breast cancer survivors dragon boat team recently competed in the National Dragon Boating championships at Lake Karapiro against some 3,000 national and international competitors.

“There were five boats in the breast cancer division including Missabitatitty from Australia,” says team paddler Jo Russell.

“It was a great event, and our team won a silver in the two-kilometre race, a bronze in the 200 metres and placed fourth in the 500 metres. It was lovely coming away with a couple of medals, particularly as the other teams have stepped it up a bit. We work very hard to get out there and a hundredth of a second is all it takes in placings.

“This year has been tough for various personal reasons for our members.

Some can not paddle any more, and some are going through treatment, so we have had to restructure. The boat is really important to us. We are empathetic to each other, and the comradery and laughing at ourselves is really important.”

The team is continuously fundraising to attend events and new adventures.

“It cost us more than $13,000 to attend nationals. We make cheese rolls and truffles, and we hold quiz nights and other events. Men and women can paddle, and new members are always welcome, the only criteria is that you have to have had a diagnosis of breast cancer. Some of us have had lumps out, some have had a double mastectomy. I live in Rolleston, and we have members from North to South Canterbury.

“We competed in Florence with 5,000 people last year. Dragon Boating is a worldwide movement, and New Zealand has the highest number of teams per capita in the world. We are very competitive in paddling and encourage spectators to come along as well.”

For more information go to the Abreast of Life Dragon Boat Facebook page or call Jo on 027 315 9562.