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The Connection of Dragon Boat Paddling and Breast Cancer

The Origin of Breast Cancer Paddling

In 1996, doctors in Vancouver, Canada challenged a commonly-held medical belief that strenuous upper body exercise in breast cancer patients could lead to lymphedema. They gathered a team of thrivers for a six-month training program (with the goal of racing at a festival), and the very first BCP team in the world, Abreast in a Boat, was born. Their goal was to prove that the repetitive motion of dragon boat paddling would dispel this theory and sure enough, these pioneering women completed their six-month program without a single case of lymphedema. In the process, they also learned that the social connections formed among teammates appeared beneficial to both the paddlers’ physical and mental health.

Breast cancer thrivers are also a driving force behind the growth of dragon boat in the United States. Teams participate in races locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. According to the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission (IBCPC), there are currently over 260 BCP teams across the world, representing 33 countries. In July 2018, more than 125 BCP teams traveled to Florence, Italy to race on the Arno River at the IBCPC’s International BCP Festival. In March 2023, BCP teams from around the world will gather in New Zealand (newzealandbcs2023.com) to again celebrate our Sisterhood.

The Flower Ceremony has become a heartwarming tradition of dragon boat festivals. Incorporated into a busy day of racing is a stirring moment for breast cancer paddlers to gather and reflect on their journey. Flowers are thrown into the water to embrace their sisterhood and to honor those who have died from breast cancer.

The pairing of dragon boat with breast cancer recovery is pure genius. A diagnosis of breast cancer is challenging; but joining a dragon boat team and paddling with other breast cancer survivors is empowering and life-affirming. It is a refreshing dose of exercise, connection, and positivity that makes one feel alive!

Many breast cancer thrivers may never have participated in organized sports before their diagnosis, and they now have the opportunity to demonstrate how exercise can help reduce the chance of recurrence and bring more hope and joy into their lives.

Dragon Boat Opportunities 

2021 Virtual Event

  • The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing invites you to take part in the Capital City Dragon Boat Race which will be virtual again. It is set for Thursday, September 16th through Sunday, September 19th, 2021. Join in the fun by clicking here

2022 Race

  • We are planning on hosting the Capital City Dragon Boat Race in person next year!