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What is dragon boating?

Dragon Boating is a sport that has been imported from China and goes all the way back to ancient times. It is the fastest growing team water sport in the world. A dragon boat is forty feet long with a colourful ceremonial dragon’s head and tail, and carries 22 people – 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a steersperson. Dragon boat festivals happen all over the world, with over 40 survivor teams in Canada alone. During the races, four to six boats travel between 200 and 500 metres. The races usually last between two to four minutes, depending on the capabilities of the teams.

How does dragon boating help breast cancer survivors?

Physical activity affects the production, metabolism, and excretion of the female hormones. These factors may be linked to lowering the risk of breast cancer in habitually active women.

Formal exercise programs for women with breast cancer are limited to small groups of patients, although the general consensus is that exercise helps to maintain functional capacity in these patients.

Upper body exercise has a role in recovery from breast cancer and lymphedema. It can improve range of motion and reverse muscle atrophy, activate skeletal muscle, stimulate the immune system, and reset the lymphatic vessels.

Why dragon boating?

Dr. Don McKenzie, a sports medicine physician at the University of British Columbia, launched ‘Abreast in a Boat’ in 1996 to test the myth that repetitive upper-body exercise in women treated for breast cancer encourages lymphedema. From a medical study involving one dragon boat and a crew of 25 women, the Vancouver-based organization has grown to inspire the foundation of many other teams across Canada and around the world.

Dragon boating offers a strenuous, repetitive upper body workout that projects a visible message of power and strength to everyone with breast cancer. The sport uses predominantly upper extremity and core muscles to improve overall strength.

Who can join the Avalon Dragons?

You can be a member of the Avalon Dragons if you have had a previous diagnosis of breast cancer. We’ll train you, support you, and ensure you have the time of your life.

If you’re not a breast cancer survivor, but you have a passion for the cause, we’d love to have you on board. We’re always looking for organizers, fundraisers, and generally fun-loving folks to join our team.

I have no previous sports or fitness training - can I still join?

Absolutely! Just make your situation known to one of the coaches or the team captain. We have designed our fitness sessions and our paddling practices to accommodate every level of experience. Getting fit is a gradual process and your captain, coach, and teammates will support you all the way.

Is there an age limit?

Paddlers of all ages are eligible to join. Currently, our team members range in age from 35 to 83 years.

What benefits can this team offer me?

Studies show that survivors who participate in dragon boat racing experience considerable physical and psychological benefits. Dragon boating will provide breast cancer survivors with:
- Tools to increase your fitness level
- Emotional support
- The thrill of competition
- Team camaraderie
- A source of hope and inspiration

What does it cost to get involved?

For a small membership fee, paddlers receive a paddle and a life vest for the paddling season. We are very lucky to have volunteer coaches and donated boats, which helps keep our membership fees low. Paddlers are responsible for the costs associated with travelling for festivals, although funds are available in cases of economic hardship.

Are there other teams in Newfoundland and Labrador?

One of our long-term goals is to promote the benefits of dragon boating to survivors across the province. We helped establish a new team in 2016 in Appleton, for breast cancer survivors in the central area. If you’re interested in bringing dragon boating to your town, we’d love to help. Email us at for more information.

How can I become a sponsor?

There are many ways to support our team. You can purchase a boat, make a donation, become a volunteer, or sponsor our annual festival. For more information, please email us at

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