The pink-powered event changing lives one paddle at a time

The pink-powered event changing lives one paddle at a time
Kaylah Joelle Baker

For the first time ever in Australia, Dragon Boat Victoria is coming all aboard to host the country’s first ever national breast cancer regatta for their Dragons Abreast Australia network and all its pink paddler members. 

Taking place in Docklands on Saturday, December 3, the Pink Paddle Power Regatta follows on from the launch of Docklands’ newest team, Dragons Abreast Melbourne Pink Phoenix, merely months ago.

And while regattas have been held in the past by Dragons Abreast Australia, this coming event will mark the first time a state sporting body has taken on the event, and teams from all over Australia and New Zealand will be in attendance. 

“We are so grateful and thankful that Dragon Boat Victoria have created a special regatta for all of us, and it’s just fantastic that there will be hundreds of breast cancer survivors coming,” Pink Paddle Power Regatta publicity officer Linda Papworth told Docklands News. 

“It would be great if the local community could come down, help us create a bit of a buzz and make some noise. We have all been through a lot, and we are all winners just to step into the boat and get out on the water.”

While some full teams will be coming across for the fun, “non-competitive” event, Dragons Abreast Australia will also be helping with coordinating teams who may need some extra paddlers, resulting in some boats being crewed by composite teams.

The event will officially launch on the Friday night for participants, with the regatta beginning for both participants and the public on the Saturday with an opening ceremony full of lots of energy, noise and drumming.

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) CEO Kirsten Pilatti will be in attendance to open the day at 9.30am and will be followed by a traditional Chinese ceremonial lion dance from the Chinese Youth Society of Melbourne.

The 200-metre races will then start from Docklands Harbour, with a half boat race of 10 paddlers racing in each boat, followed by a full boat race with the capacity of 20 paddlers racing in each boat. 

The sporting part of the day will then wrap up with a memorial race and a Flowers on the Water ceremony to remember those who have not been so fortunate in surviving their fight against breast cancer. 


“We had a lady paddle with Dragons Abreast in Gippsland, and she passed away a few years ago, and she was an absolute mad, crazy woman and keen paddler, so we named the race in her honour,” Ms Papworth said.


“Us pink ladies really know how to have a good time, so there will be lots of fun and a chance for everyone to mingle and chat about what we do.”

As well as the focus being on the water, a long line of marquees full of different teams and health alliance groups will also line the waterfront, including Docklands’ very own Think Pink Foundation.

In addition to supporting many of its Think Pink families who will be participating in the regatta, the foundation will also be sharing more about what it is doing through its Living Centre. 

“Think Pink has been part of the Docklands community for the past two years, so it is an ideal opportunity to participate in this fabulous event that brings together the breast cancer community in which Think Pink plays a vital role in providing care for,” a Think Pink spokesperson said.  

While an exciting event for all in attendance, Ms Papworth said the event was also a really important opportunity to get the message out about how “life-changing” dragon boat racing could be.

As a sport that involves strenuous, repetitive movement of the upper body, dragon boat racing has been on the rise for its post treatment benefits, and with people at all different stages and strengths, it is a sport that can be easily tailored to suit each person’s journey. 

“We really want to get the message out there that exercising after breast cancer treatment is not only safe and something you should be doing, but that it also helps with regaining your confidence and health after going through something as horrible and daunting as treatment,” she said. 


“One of the main benefits besides physical wellbeing is that you can also be around people who completely understand what you are going through. We don’t often talk about cancer in the boat, but if you have an ache, pain, or concern, someone would have been through it and can talk to you about it.”


“The mental wellbeing of people who dragon boat has just been incredible, and it has changed lives, because you feel like you are not alone anymore.”

In support of the special day and its significance, the night will also end with the Bolte Bridge lit up in pink, as paddlers, supporting family and friends, and health alliance partner organisations celebrate with a Pink Power Regatta Ball. •

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