Abreast Of Life Dragon Boat Team
Central Vancouver Island
History of Dragon Boating
"The roots of dragon boat racing date back to the 4th Century BC in China. According to legend, Qu Yuan, a revered poet and statesman, hurled himself into the Mi Lo River to protest the corrupt regime of the reigning Chou Dynasty emperor. When local boatmen saw Qu Yuan disappear beneath the water, they raced out to save him. Sadly, they were too late.
"Fearing that his body would be preyed upon by fish and evil spirits and other denizens of the river, the boatmen beat their paddles furiously upon the water. It is said that they also threw rice dumplings wrapped in silk into the river as a sacrifice to his heroic spirit.
"Over time, dragon boat racing became a way to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan and to celebrate his heroic spirit. Today, Qu Yuan's death is honoured each year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month at Dragon Boat Festivals around the world. Rice dumplings are now considered a festival delicacy and are wrapped today in bamboo leaves instead of silk. Before each festival ancient blessing rituals such as 'Awakening the Dragons' (rousing the dragon boats to life by a special eye-dotting ceremony) are performed."
History of Breast Cancer Dragon Boating Survivors
In 1995 Dr Don McKenzie, a sports medicine physician at the University of British Columbia, started researching the issue of rehabilitation following diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Current opinion had prevailed that the avoidance of strenuous exercise was necessary to prevent lymphoedema or swelling of the arm where lymph nodes had been removed. Dr McKenzie believed that upper body exercise has a role in recovery from breast cancer and lymphoedema because it can improve range of motion and reverse muscle atrophy, activate skeletal muscle (which may help pump lymph), and stimulate the immune system.
To test his theories he formed a dragon boat team Abreast in a Boat in Vancouver in February 1996. The only criteria for joining was a history of breast cancer: age, athletic ability and paddling experience were not considered.
Dragon boating was chosen for several reasons. It is a strenuous, repetitive upper body activity. It is non-weight bearing and therefore associated with a lower risk of injury than weight dependant activities such as running. It uses predominantly upper extremity and trunk muscles, and the improvement in strength has a carry-over effect to day-to-day activity. The training intensity can be varied simply by pulling harder.
That first team had their first look at a dragon boat in April, trained twice weekly on the water through April, May and June, and then competed in their first race at the Vancouver Festival in late June 1996. The findings were compelling. The paddlers showed a marked improvement in both physical and mental health. Several women reported improved range of motion of their shoulders and there were no cases of lymphoedema. To other people with breast cancer, the women paddlers have become role models, giving inspiration to lead full and active lives.
Today there are more than 140 breast cancer dragon boating teams worldwide, in Canada, USA, a team in every state of Australia, and teams in New Zealand, Singapore, Italy, Poland and United Kingdom, all reaching out to other women and offering them a message of hope and support.
History of Abreast of Life - Central Vancouver Island
Abreast of Life Dragon Boat Team for Central Vancouver Island was founded in 1998 by a group of women who were all breast cancer survivors. Fundraising and community support enabled us to purchase a secondhand dragon boat which was one of the original False Creek "six sixteen" boats made in Vancouver. In the first few years our members came from Shawnigan Lake to the south, Port Alberni to the west and Courtenay to the North and all the communities in between. Now the team is made up of paddlers from Nanaimo, Nanoose, Parksville, Qualicum, Errington, Whiskey Creek and Qualicum north. The team was granted permission to practise and to moor our boat at C.F.METR base in Nanoose Bay.This location offers security and beautiful protected waters.