Hawke’s Bay Dragon Boat Club Sends Team to Karapiro International Event


The Hawke’s Bay Dragon Boat Club team look stylish in their new uniforms.

Although the chills and fevers of winter are almost behind us, dragon fever may have hit the bay.

Hawke’s Bay Dragon Boat Club had its official launch in January 2020, but with Covid restrictions the club has struggled to grow, says secretary-treasurer Dot Foote. However, that hasn’t stopped enough members from forming a partial team to compete in next year’s international event to be held at Lake Karapiro.

“It’s been hard to get people, but we have about 10 crew members and we can team up with another crew for the event,” Dot said.

The Hawke’s Bay club has 80 people on its books, with a core group of 16-18. Within this group is a strong contingent of breast cancer survivors, forming the Bay Bosom Buddies who will compete at Karapiro.

Breast cancer survivors and dragon boat racing have their origins in Canada, where in 1996 sports medicine physician Dr. Don McKenzie started the Abreast in a Boat dragon boat team to test the myth that repetitive upper body exercise in women being treated for breast cancer promotes lymphedema. . Dr. McKenzie believed that by following a special program of exercise and training, women could avoid lymphedema and lead full, active lives. Following the lead of that original Abreast in a Boat team, many teams have been formed around the world, with dragon boat racing now the fastest growing water sport in the world.

About 4,000 people are expected next year at the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission (IBCPC) event, which is usually held every four years and attracts breast cancer dragon boat teams from around the world,

“We just want to be part of it. We’ll do our best,” Dot said.

A dragon boat is 12m long, has a crew of 20 paddlers and a broom that stands at the stern and steers with a long oar. A drummer, or caller, sits at the front of the boat and faces the crew, drumming a rhythmic beat for the crew to paddle. Dot says they are delighted to have Raquel Matiaha on board who has joined the club as a coach and sweep.

“Raquel has paddled for many years with the Wairarapa club and has been looking forward to getting back into dragon boating since moving to Hawke’s Bay. She is developing an enthusiastic group eager to get out on the water as soon as possible.”

The club usually goes out for a paddle on Saturdays from 9am. Dot says the dragon boat promotes teamwork and camaraderie.

“People participate until they are 80 – there is no upper age limit. You don’t have to be as fit as people might imagine. Each person has one-twentieth of the necessary power.”

The club “inherited” a boat that had been unused for several years and required restoration work, which was carried out by a local builder who gave his time. Club members also helped with the sanding and painting, before she could get back in the water.

After months of fundraising, the club recently took delivery of T-shirts and caps.

“They add to our sense of place – it gets our name out there.”

Dot is quick to point out that the club is open to anyone over the age of 12, whether or not they are a breast cancer survivor. She also says there is no need to have previous boating experience.

“When I joined it was completely new to me. I had no boating experience or knowledge. For most people it’s new. You don’t have to feel like you join a team that has it all figured out.”

■ Anyone interested in dragon boat racing, phone 021 151 2747 or email [email protected]


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