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Our History

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.

Breast cancer survivor dragon boat paddling began at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada in 1996. 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. He trained twenty-four breast cancer volunteers in a gym for three months, introduced them to dragon boats and taught them paddling techniques. At the end of the three-month season on the water none of the volunteers had lymphoedema. Not only that, survivors found they were fitter, healthier and happier. They loved the camaraderie and support of their fellow paddlers. They realised Dragonboat paddling could become a means of raising breast cancer awareness and show that survivors could lead normal lives.


Since then the movement progressed first in Canada and then the World. Globally there are thousands of breast cancer teams paddling to improve their health.  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. IBCPC was formed with the mission to encourage the establishment of breast cancer dragon boat teams, within the framework of participation and inclusiveness. At the breast cancer festival in Peterborough, Canada in 2010 the first official congress of the newly formed IBCPC was held. 

Fast forward to mid 2023 and we have 316 teams, across 37 countries (and growing daily) with approximately 15,000 paddlers represented. IBCPC is the world leading body for breast cancer dragon boat paddling, we are associate members of International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) where IBCPC have a seat at the Council table which enables us to promote dragon boat paddling for breast cancer survivors across the globe.  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. The first international breast cancer festival was in Canada in 2005 with Australia proudly hosting the next one in 2007.

Since then paddlers have participated in IBCPC Festivals in Peterborough (Canada) 2010, Sarasota (Florida USA) 2014 and Florence (Italy) 2018. New Zealand will be hosting the next Festival in 2022. Each Festival provides breast cancer survivors with the opportunity to network, attend workshops, paddle and celebrate life! 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 strongly believes that "Exercise is Medicine". Through exercise and participation in dragon boat paddling, breast cancer survivors, both female and male, can regain that part of their lives that they lost through a diagnosis of breast cancer.