Being diagnosed with breast cancer and facing the gauntlet of treatments to ensure the best chance of survival brings out an inner strength that is definitely part of what makes our team outstanding. We are an enthusiastic group of survivors who thrive on the positive outcome that being involved in a dragon boating team provides. As well as gaining support within the team – we hope our profile shows other women that there is a positive outcome from such a challenging journey.
Where it all began...
Back in the summer of 2002/2003 a team of 20 enthusiastic and committed people gathered at Frank Kitts Lagoon for the first time. All except one were novices to the sport of dragon boating but there was one common thread - a diagnosis of cancer had touched their lives.
The team trained in whatever weather – wind, rain and cold. There were capsizes, bruises, and aching bodies -but it was such fun! A fantastic bond developed and the team members learnt to help and encourage each other. What they lacked in finesse, they made up with tenacity and soon became known as “paddlers with attitude”.
The Result At the National Dragon Boat Festival in March 2003 held in Wellington CanSurvive won the Petite Final in a special cancer survivor section. This win was against eight other teams, six of whom were from overseas and very experienced! Emotion ran high heightened by an impromptu on-shore haka as the team paddled to the start line followed by another to celebrate their victory.
Further on Fibreglass boats and carbon fibre paddles arrived – faster and lighter and the spirit of the team added to a collection of New Zealand medals and trophies. In 2007 CanSurvive attended Abreast in Australia Dragon Boat Regatta. From its beginnings as a team of paddlers who had been affected by cancer of all types, the make-up of CanSurvive members changed to only breast cancer survivors in the late 2000s as this became a formal division in many regattas.
More Recently After several seasons of near misses with plenty of silver and bronze medals the 2014 season saw CanSurvive finally achieve their goal to become National Champions. It didn’t stop there. After two years of hard training and fundraising the team set off to the 2014 International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission (IBCPC) Participatory Dragon Boat Festival in Sarasota Florida. Up against 101 teams from around the world, CanSurvive came third in a stunning final. Having experienced this significant success CanSurvive was named Hiremaster Wellington Sports Team of the Year in 2015.
In 2018 CanSurvive went one better in the same regatta in Florence, Italy, finishing second in the final out of 128 teams.
check out our international success. The IBCPC event will be hosted in New Zealand at Lake Karapiro in 2023.
A second team
CanSurvive was joined by Can2 in the 2015/16 dragon boat season - our sister team made up of both breast cancer survivors and non BC supporters, daughters and friends. Can2 has achieved their own unique bond and attended the National Championships for the first time in 2019.
By Mary McAvoy, Iona Elwood-Smith and Heather Steevens
Our Constitution (72KB PDF)
The NZDBA National Championships in March are the highlight of the dragon boating season. It is a time when we participate in races specifically for breast cancer survivors, giving us the opportunity to compete against equals and experience the moving 'flower ceremony' in memory of our angel paddlers. We also take part in regional championships and the Wellington Dragon Boat Festival. For details of how we have performed, check out our New Zealand results.
"I've been paddling for 9 years. There's something magic that happens when you are out on the water moving as one. Truly amazing feeling of togetherness, power and freedom." - Rose Beattie, Paddler