The Boston Dragon Boat Festival takes place annually in early June on the banks of the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge. This year, seventy-four teams competed over a 500-meter course in an energetic race to the finish on 9 and 10 June. I competed with the Wellness Warriors in the organization’s “Thunder” boat this year, capturing a bronze medal in both the women’s and ACS (all cancer survivors) finals. It was a beautiful day on the water, and a really rewarding experience to compete with my fellow cancer survivors in such a fun and challenging race.
What is dragon boating?
Starting in 1979, the Boston Dragon Boat Festival – the first and oldest such festival in North America – has grown from a small neighborhood event commemorating the death of the beloved Chinese poet-patriot Qu Yuan in 200 B.C. to the largest Asian-American cultural event in New England, drawing more than 20,000 participants and spectators.
Though dragon boats come in different lengths, they are generally 40 ft long and 4 ft wide at the widest point. A dragon boat can have anywhere from sixteen to twenty paddlers, sitting in pairs. A drummer sits at the front of the boat and calls or drums the tempo for each stroke. The steerer stands at the back of the boat and keeps it on course. If you look closely you can see me in the first row on the front right.
Who are the Wellness Warriors?
Wellness Warriors is Massachusetts’s first dragon boat team for cancer survivors, providing a paddling support group for men and women of all ages diagnosed with many different types of cancer. Boston’s Wellness Warriors teams train weekly on the Charles River from May to September and compete in races across New England.
Wellness Warriors is a non-profit organization, and the support of corporate and individual sponsors helps the team meet operating expenses and reach out to new paddlers in the metropolitan Boston area. The Wellness Warriors hope to inspire every cancer participant who sees them or paddles with them to share in the joys of this active, exciting sport that offers great exercise and bonding friendships with other cancer survivors.
Why dragon boat paddling?
Dragon boat paddling for breast cancer survivors was first initiated in 1996 by a sports medicine physician and exercise physiologist at the University of British Columbia. It is repetitive and vigorous, provides aerobic benefits, and builds strength. The results of that study were significant, with the women reporting better physical and mental health through this team-building exercise and a shared camaraderie. Today, there are hundreds of cancer survivor dragon boat teams across the world, with more than fifty in the U.S.
Congratulations to all the winners and thank you, SGH, for your support and sponsorship of the Wellness Warriors team!