Last week I had the privilege of catching up with Janet Warren, one of the members of the long-paddling Dragon Boat team, the North Shore Dragon Busters. This team is somewhat different to the other Dragon Boat teams we have, as all members are breast cancer survivors. In every other way, they are no different – they work just as hard, are just as committed and competitive as any other team!
Deep Cove Kayak: Thanks so much for meeting with us – why don’t you start by telling us about how the North Shore Dragon Busters team got started?
North Shore Dragon Busters: Well, we started in 2001 as Abreast in the Cove as part of the wider ‘Abreast in a Boat’ network of teams that were started by Dr Don McKenzie. His aim was to prove that breast cancer survivors didn’t need to be limited in their physical activity, and boy, did he prove the critics wrong! After starting in Vancouver, there are now 174 breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams around the world. The focus of the ‘Abreast in a Boat’ at the time was purely fitness…but after taking part in an international regatta in Brisbane, Australia in 2007 [and coming 4th in the WORLD!], we decided we wanted to be able to be more competitive so amicably parted ways with the network and became North Shore Dragon Busters in 2008.
DCK: That sounds fantastic – congrats on the regatta placing! So – the obvious question…how does having had breast cancer affect the team?
NSDB: Apart from it being the one thing that we all have in common, it is honestly barely mentioned. Just like any other team we have a variety of levels of fitness across the team, but Jan Evans our fantastic coach works with everyone to make sure they are performing as well as they can be. We manage to be a support network for each other, of course, but having had breast cancer doesn’t define us. There are some incredibly sad times when we have lost members due to recurring illness, but we pick each other up during the hard times and rally together.
DCK: How many members do you have on your roster, and how often do you practice?
NSDB: We have 28, and usually 22 show up to practice, plus the steers-person and the drummer. We range in age between late 30’s and early 70’s, with the average age somewhere late-50’s I think. We practice twice a week, and our season goes from March/April through to the second week in September when we finish with a bang at the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival each year.
DCK: That’s a long season! The Festivals sound fun though – how did you get on at the Steveston festival this past Saturday??
NSDB: We had an excellent day! We have now improved so much that we were in the Women’s B Final (playing with the big girls—) out of A, B, C, and D Finals. We were last in that final, but now know where we have to go to be more competitive as we start competing against the next level up. Fun!
DCK: And when your season is finished, do you guys continue training through the winter?
NSDB: We do – various members of the team meet to hike, ski and snowshoe, and then I run a series of training sessions in the Spring to get us ready for paddling. We also don’t just paddle through the summer either; we box at Griffin’s Boxing too every Monday which is awesome! Those guys have been super supportive of us too.
DCK: What does next season bring for you guys?
NSDB: Next season is going to be really different, as our coach, Jan Evans, who has been with us since 2002 is leaving to retire to the Sunshine Coast. She has been a driving force for the team, embracing the struggles as well as the triumphs, and done her own research into how to coach us to the best of our abilities. She has set us up with a new coach so while we will be incredibly sad to see Jan leave, we are excited to see what the new coach will bring.
DCK: Good luck to Jan, to the team and to the new coach for next year! And finally, for you personally, what is your favourite thing about dragon boating?
NSDB: I am the drummer for the team, and I am sometimes overwhelmed to see how hard these women work. I get so proud at the end of races when the team has just given everything, I often find myself tearing up behind my sunnies! There is also something unique about paddling in Deep Cove. We have a saying amongst the five Dragon Boat teams that come out of Deep Cove, to “keep it in the Cove,” which means that when we see each other get a result in a race, we all share in it because we come from the same place. When I am paddling in the Cove, as soon as we push off from the dock I can feel the weight of the world lift from my shoulders, and I can just embrace the beautiful scenery around me, and my teammates working hard beside me, and there is something very special about that.
DCK: What a lovely place to finish on! Thanks SO much for sharing with us – and best of luck with the last few weeks of the season. You can check out more about North Shore Dragon Busters on their website by clicking here, or any of our fantastic Dragon Boat teams on our website here.