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About Us

In 1996, word of an exciting sport recently taken up by women with breast cancer, began to be talked about at breast cancer conferences. This was the first breast cancer survivor  dragon boat team, Abreast in a Boat, of Vancouver. Team members radiated enthusiasm for their experience with dragon boating.

Eleanor Nielsen founded Dragons Abreast Toronto after meeting members of Abreast In A Boat in Vancouver. Early in the team recruitment process, she was joined by Rose Jones and Marilyn Schneider, who helped steer the early years. 33 eager novices made up the first team

Abreast in a Boat began as a small research project by Dr. Don McKenzie, to study the impact  of dragon boat paddling on a group of women treated for breast cancer. Women are often told to avoid strenuous upper body exercise for fear of producing lymphedema, a side effect of breast cancer surgery and radiation. The study concluded that when women are carefully monitored and trained, there was no increase in lymphedema.

That was supposed to be the end of it. However, by that time the study participants were so enthusiastic about their paddling experience, they wanted to continue and began spreading the word through the Canadian breast cancer community. A new movement was launched.

Dragons Abreast was formed in 1997, with 33 members from the GTA. Little did we know what we were embarking on: the joy, the challenges and sometimes the pain that we would face. By 2003, Dragons Abreast had grown to 106 members  and 3 crews. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, we have world class coaches. We have become a familiar face at Toronto Dragon Boat festivals as well as around the province and at many breast cancer events.

Our Purpose

  •  to encourage those with breast cancer to lead full and active lives
  •  to demonstrate the overwhelming benefits of rehabilitation and recreational exercise for women recovering from breast cancer
  •  to encourage persons of all ages and physical ability to participate in some form of physical activity, such as dragon boating
  •  to raise awareness about breast cancer
  •  to be a support for other team members
  •  and to have FUN!


Our Theme Song

by Carol Pigott (Sung to the tune of ‘Land of the Silver Birch’)

Dragons abreast are we
Paddling together
Pulling and gliding while
Keeping the pace
Reach out of this boat can fly
We’re going to touch the sky.


Boom di dyada
Boom di dyada
Boom di dyada
Boom, Boom, Boom.

Pounding of Dragon’s Hearts
Say, can you hear them?
the stories in this book could Stroking to Drummer’s beat
We’ll never stop
Wild women, strong and free
Dragons Abreast are we.


Pacers are digging deep
Feeling the power
Hearts of the Engine Room
Beating as one
Boosts from the Rockets Blast
Damned if we will be last.


Keeping the hope alive
Raising awareness
Heeding the warrior’s cry
Find us the cure
Paddling from sea to sea
Onward to victory.