During the Festival, I worked my way back and forth from the beach, where I could watch the races take place, to the marshalling area, where I could see the teams coming on and off the boats. There were a number of teams of people who had never paddled before and you could fairly easily spot them by their lack of synchronization as they paddled – some only had one hour of practice on the water. At one point fairly early in the day, I spotted a boat of people dressed in primarily black uniforms, and they even had their own black paddles. They were paddling in unison and they looked like a powerhouse. Watching their boat just cut through the water, all those black paddles moving at the same time, was a beautiful sight and as they headed towards the dock, they looked downright intimidating. I was impressed.
I was even more impressed when they pulled up to the dock and began to climb out of the boat. They were not the boat full of powerful people I expected to see – actually, I need to correct that. While they weren’t what I expected to see, they were clearly powerful people. They were the members of the Island Breastrokers team and were all older women. Some even appeared to have difficulty walking with ease, but in the boat together, they were racing athletes.
They and the other teams of breast cancer survivors had quite an impact on DBI Festival. Those people unfamiliar with dragon boat racing – and there were many of them – were surprised and amazed at the power of these women. They stated during the medals ceremony that dragon boat racing was a way in which they could demonstrate that they were still strong and vital people. It’s the perfect sport for that, because it is a sport where teamwork is crucial and the individual strength of any one member is less important than their ability to mesh as a team. These women are clearly very good at supporting each other.
Nearing the end of the Festival, they held the Breast Cancer Survivor Flower Ceremony, where six boats of the international survivor teams were surrounded by the two Israel survivor teams, who threw flowers in the water to honour the survivors and remember those who had lost their battles against cancer.
Even some Israeli spectators, many of whom had never even heard of dragon boating days before, were moved to tears by the experience.
DBI was honoured to have these teams participate in their event.
Our breast cancer survivor teams:
Canadian Abreast Heart
Canadians Abreast Spirit
Canadians Abreast Spitfires
International Pink Sisters
Israeli Cancer Association
Israeli Yad La Hachlamah Cancer Association