The power of dragon boats

Jul 25th, 2014

Michelle Osmond

The Avalon Dragons
The power of dragon boats

Every year, breast cancer survivors and their friends and families take part in a very old, and very therapeutic event. They race dragon boats. For the past three years one of those survivors, HKR’s Marie Hickey, has been part of the Avalon Dragons.

“We are the only breast cancer survivor team in North America to have built our own wooden dragon boat,” Marie says proudly.

According to the Avalon Dragons website, dragon boat racing originated in South Central China over 2,500 years ago.

Most dragon boats are powered by a crew of 20 paddlers (but they can have up to 50), facing the bow of the boat, one drummer at the front facing the paddlers, holding the beat of the paddling and one steersperson at the rear of the boat.

The Avalon Dragons and the Town of Paradise are holding the fourth annual Festival Fun Day of dragon boat racing on Saturday, August 16 at Octagon Pond in Paradise. The festival has a record 31 teams registered this year – up from 24 last year.

Marie, who is also chair of the Festival Committee this year, says her team races locally during the summer with one outreach trip somewhere in the province and a national or international trip each year. “Last year we went to Corner Brook, this year we’re going to Harbour Grace. Our team is also going to an international dragon boat festival in October in Sarasota, Florida. There’ll be 99 teams from around the world at a venue they’re building especially for this event.”

The Avalon Dragons also work with support services offered to breast cancer patients and promote physical activity as a way to combat cancer risk and lymphedema (a condition associated with breast cancer surgery). The team is currently on a fund-raising drive for a watersport facility on Octagon Pond and the Rotary Club of Avalon Northeast has taken them on as a fundraising partner for the next three years.

“Dragon boating has been great for me on so many levels. It has given me a regularly schedule fitness routine (we do a boot camp in winter), a good support group of fellow breast cancer survivors and fun,” Marie says.