Breast cancer dragon boat paddling began before IBCPC was formed, it was not a case of the chicken and the egg, but rather that this was breaking such new ground. Dr Don McKenzie a professor in the Department of sports medicine and an exercise physiologist challenged the prevailing medical thinking that woman treated for breast cancer should avoid rigorous upper body exercise for fear of developing lymphoedema, a debilitating and chronic side-effect of treatment.
Dr McKenzie developed a program to determine the impact of exercise on breast cancer survivors choosing dragon boat paddling as the epitome of strenuous repetitive upper body exercise. Once his program was finished these ladies decided to continue with dragon boat paddling as the women found they were fitter, healthier, and happier, they loved the camaraderie and support of the fellow paddlers and had re-gained control of their lives. They realised Dragonboat paddling could become a means of raising breast cancer awareness and show that survivors could lead normal lives.
From here some of these women started to travel globally and also to engage with other dragon boat organisations and breast cancer dragon boat paddling became a worldwide phenomenon.
At the international gathering of breast-cancer paddlers at Abreast in Australia, held in Caloundra, in 2007 the idea of forming an international organisation was promoted with some 50 odd teams present all agreeing that this was a good way to move forward. At the breast cancer festival in Peterborough, Canada in 2010 the first official congress of the newly formed IBCPC was held.
Fast forward to 2021 and there are now 262 IBCPC member teams, across 32 countries and six continents with approximately 10,000 individual paddlers. IBCPC is the world leading body for breast cancer dragon boat paddling, we are associate members of IDBF and through the IDBF family have a seat at the Council table which enables us to promote and put forward our thoughts and ideas.
Our philosophy is that no one is left on the dock and therefore there are paddlers ranging from those who just want to have a quiet fun paddle right through to those who want to be competitive. The competitiveness of some of those member teams was highlighted by the number of entries for the 2020 IDBF Club Crew World Championships with a record number of 22 teams across 10 countries entered.
We appreciate that we still have a lot of work to do to cover those corners of the globe in which we are not represented but we are deeply heartened by the growth that we are seeing even in countries that have been established for a long time.
The IBCPC international Festivals are very well attended with 3000+ paddlers enjoying fabulous fun filled days, where breast cancer survivors celebrate both on land and water. They paddle, laugh, dance, talk, shop, listen, learn, support, sing, parade, make friendships and renew lifelong friendships. These festivals characterise the inclusiveness and camaraderie of IBCPC and will continue to be held in the coming years.
We believe really strongly that exercise is medicine, this is our mantra, and that through exercise and particularly participation in a dragon boat paddling team that these survivors both female and male can regain that part of their lives that they lost through a diagnosis of breast cancer.