Salomé, Adriana, Gabriela Rojo, Joaquín González

Salomé, Adriana, Gabriela Rojo, Joaquín González

When I was asked to write about my experience of being interviewed about Abreast In A Boat at Co-op Radio I was frightened. I was confronted with such a big challenge as my mother tongue is Spanish and I had to write in English!  But then I thought that when you write from the heart, the message is transmitted all the same, and I relaxed and became very happy.

As soon as I learned about Abreast In A Boat (almost immediately after I was diagnosed) I felt the necessity to join.  I can tell you, it is one of the best things I have ever done. I felt suddenly connected with dozens of “sisters of life”.  This brought me joy.

It was these feelings and emotions that drove me to sit and be interviewed in a very comfortable atmosphere at a Latin Radio Show called Romantic Tango. I spoke out to the Latin community about the importance of regaining a full life after breast cancer treatment through support and physical activity, and the importance of not feeling alone. It was so easy as Joaquín, the radio host, was conducting a delightful conversation and was fully connected to it.

The addition of the beautiful music the radio station plays made for a peaceful and inviting mood and the interesting questions kept the conversation going. I left the radio station willing to go back in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to continue spreading seeds, hoping to support more ladies so that they may change their lives by joining AIAB.

That is the outcome for me at this moment of my life:  live strong, be happy and help others to achieve this as well. It is not so difficult, it’s just a question of carrying on!

Thank you very much to Joaquín González and the radio staff for having me on their show. Also, thank you so much to Gabriela Rojo, Vancouver’s Tango icon, for introducing me to Joaquín. Co-op Radio, CFRO 100.5 FM

Adriana Bartoli is a novice with the Deas Divas and though she cannot paddle due to health reasons she is a true Diva and attends practices and regattas. Adriana is passionate about AIAB and has been busy promoting AIAB to the Spanish community.

This fabulous poster was created for the False Creek Women’s Regatta, Breast Cancer Challenge Race and Flower Ceremony that is being sponsored by Scotiabank. Please print and display this poster wherever it will be of interest to encourage viewers to come out and support this event.

False Creek Women’s Regatta poster

The Abreast with FORT-itude crew entered the 91st May Day Parade in Fort Langley on May 20th this year. This is the oldest May Day Parade in BC.

Of the 60 entries, the presence of pink did not go unnoticed!!  “Jeannie Lea” (our wonderful dragon) was a hit with the children and she made the front page of the local newspaper, The Langley Times (watch the video of the parade).

Gail Bonner

The Abreast In A Boat, Rocky Point Crew presented Matthew McBride, owner of the new radio station CKPM 98.7 FM in Port Moody, with a team photo on Saturday, May 4th in appreciation of his generous support for our organization.  CKPM 98.7 FM will be promoting our organization on the air daily, providing on air interviews, and will be onsite at most of our paddling regattas.  Without people like Matthew we would not be able continue to reach others touched by breast cancer, or to keep our boats on the water.  Please show your appreciation by tuning into to CKPM 98.7 FM if you are in the Tri-City area.

Do you ever wonder why the Fortitude crew wins so many races and also look so good in those paddling shorts?  Well the secret is out ~ they train twice a week during the paddling off season at Barry’s Boot Camp.  You can see Barry works them hard.   Is that an airplane I see in the background?  I think they are holding this clandestine meeting at Tracey Capadouca’s hanger in Langley!

Madame starter, you have the race . . . paddlers, we have alignment . . . GO!

Remember that little exchange? You should. Most teams heard it from 4 to 8 times yesterday! Good grief, what a day of racing! We had 5 races before we’d even unwrapped our sandwiches!

After finishing the first two races we next headed out for the ‘knock out’ event with nine other boats representing a pretty wide range of paddling abilities. All of the pink teams were represented (False Creek, Rocky Pt, Fort, Richmond), plus Kamini’s bionic team. I know some of you were just crossing fingers not to be knocked out in the first round. But we didn’t have to worry. Not only did we survive the first round, we survived the second round too. By the 3rd race, we were all thanking our lucky stars for all the interval training we’d done! With only 5 minutes between rounds which included the paddling out time, there truly was no rest for the wicked. Got knocked out the 3rd round, but feeling really, really proud as we sailed into the docks alongside the Fort Team!

Another race in the afternoon and then onto the semi-final knock-out event. What? Another knock-out?? Given our crew disadvantage (only 18 paddlers) plus all the energy we’d already put out on the water, it was an awesome thing not to get knocked out first round. Dutifully we headed back out to the start line and I think many of our muscles were crying ‘uncle’ or ‘beer’ or ‘bath’ by this point, but the spirit was willing so off we went again. Go, go, go, go! Push! Reach. Arrrrgh! Finish it NOW! Where are those $%&ing buoys?? Let it ride!!!!!!! Could any other 3 words sound so sweet? But as hard as we worked, we were not quite fast enough to secure another round, so we paddled proudly back to the dock, knowing our first regatta was now in the bag.
I’d hasten to guess that if you went home feeling satisfied and fulfilled, it might have been due to the fact that most of the challenges, struggles, discomfort, joys, achievements and happiness you experienced were shared by everyone else on the team – even those that weren’t there with us yesterday. We were truly in this thing together. Solo sports have their place, but there is just something so special about being part of something bigger than ourselves. And when we come together, the results are amplified beyond the sum of us all individually.

Christina Sestan
Captain, Deas Divas


Click to see the full images.

It was a lovely Spring day on March 17th for our annual Spring Fling.  It added to the fun as it also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day.  73 of us wore the “green” in an almost unimaginable number of ways.

From green hair to green hats, to shamrock bras and dresses, T-shirts, boas and…too much to remember.  And, what a wonderful lunch spread we all provided! From fruit to nuts and beyond. An impressive selection of desserts was my favourite.

Our President, Judi Clark, welcomed all of us and introduced a number of our novices. They made an impressive entry under our dragon, Jeannie Lea.  Each novice introduced herself and all seemed to be excited to be entering a new chapter in their lives.  A big welcome to all of you.  We are all looking forward to getting to know you.

Judi mentioned that Jane Frost, one of our original members had received the BC Community Achievement award a few years ago and was pictured in the Sun Newspaper.  Congratulations Jane.

A number of our sponsors were in attendance.  We were introduced to our new crew shirts (modeled by Tracey Capadouca).  The design committee (Yvonne Stitch, Jean Buckley, Carol Short, supported by the Board – Rena Pratt, and Mary Hayden) were thanked for their creativity and design of the shirt.  Canderlla, and Joseph, of MJ Fashions, who made the shirts for AIAB, were thanked for doing a great job, and supporting AIAB over the past several years.

John Short of Vancouver Marina (Carol Short’s husband), also represented AIAB sponsors B.C.M.T.A., and False Creek Fuels, saying a few words to all of us.  AIAB is grateful for the support of our sponsors.  As a result of the generosity of B.C.M.T.A and False Creek Fuels we were able to purchase new life jackets at minimal cost to AIAB.  Thank you!

Henry and Greta Heinen, represented their son, Rick Heinen of BC Greenhouse Builders (1971) Ltd., presented AIAB with a generous financial gift from BC Greenhouse Builders.  We had the opportunity to thank Henry, Greta, and Rick for all of their support.  Sunday was also an extra special date for Henry and Greta as they celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary!  Congratulations!

All in all, it was a great kick-off for our season.  Hopefully, the sunny day was a good omen for the upcoming season and we will have many more of the same.

Paddles up everyone.


Content submitted by Brenda Tierney and Mary Hayden

Water Safety Event held Saturday March 9th 2013

21 paddlers attended this event and all AIAB crews were represented.  We had a great turn out of novices, 12 in all and they had a lot of fun once the nerves settled.  Life Guard, Steve Cohen, was a great instructor and covered every possible scenario of being capsized in open water.

 Abreast Up The Creeks Novice, Grace Ein, tells her story:

I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about the water safety event at the Britannia pool last Saturday evening, because I was not looking forward to getting wet while fully dressed.  However, once I got in the water, it was fine.  Soon after we were in the water, someone beside me said that my PFD (personal flotation device) was not tight enough.  She then proceeded to tighten it for me.  I was so glad that she did, because I later saw lots of ladies with their PFDs floating to the top of their necks because they were too loose.

The life guard then told us to swim away from the boat when it flipped.  I thought to myself – “the boat is not going to flip” – then I remembered that I also never thought that I would get cancer, so I listened carefully to what the life guard had to say.  The best part was the hot tub at the end!  My first wet experience with this Dragon Boat team makes me look forward to our first practice.

Here are the participants and their crews:

Abreast up the Creek              8 participants

Novices:  Eydie Walls, Grace Ein, Rita McAllen, Anna Chow, Carolyn Fisher, Donna Jablonski.

Returning Members:  Cathy Marr, Judy Crumlin

Abreast – Rocky Point              4 participants

Novices:  Gail Campbell, Ruth Hopwood, Judy Buss

Returning members:  Geri Madden, who came to learn, even though she just had surgery and couldn’t go in the water

Abreast Deas Divas                                    3 participants

Novices:  Ellen Davies

Returning members:  Vivian Omori, Barbara Lawrence

Abreast with FORT-itude        3 participants

Novices:  Debbie Kazakoff

Returning members:  Sally Van Ingen, Maria Hindmarch

Abreast In Richmond               2 participants

Returning members: Susan Gam, Sue Tong

 Abreast Hope                           1 participant

Novice:  Deborah Warne

Brief rundown of the demonstration:

Everyone gathered in the foyer in anticipation for their adventure.  Judy Crumlin was there to take the cheques and check off the names.  Maria went over what she was wearing even including her gloves.  Typically what you would be wearing at a Dragon Boat practice.  Basically the instructions for a capsize are:

Stay with the boat, don’t swim to shore, stay together, appoint safety person at every practice to count who’s on board.  Everyone to have a whistle.  If the boat capsizes, first move about a yard away from the boat but still together.  The boat is unpredictable at this point and may flip.  Once the boat comes up and is stable, everyone moves closer and uses the boat to keep afloat.  Keep calm.  Call out your number and blow your whistles.

Photos were taken by Cathy Marr and Stewart Brotchie.

Judi Clark, President of AIAB gave a warm welcome to all who attended, then introduced and thanked our Events Coordinators, Barb Baker and her Assistant Eleanor Vandergaag, who have both given lots of their time to organize the forum.

All participants received a bag of goodies filled with lots of useful information on upcoming events such as “Bust a Move” coming up April 13th at Richmond Olympic Oval, “The Vancouver Sun Run, happening Sunday, April 21st and the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-marathon happening June 23rd.  We also got a pen from Eminence Organics, a fridge magnet from CIBC run for the cure, coming up October 6th.

The other fridge magnet has a very interesting story, styled on a poster going back to WWII England.  Apparently several of these morale boosting posters were circulated all over the land and one seemed to be the favourite among most people it said “ KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” with King George VI’s crown logo sitting above these impressive words.

Barb and Eleanor have taken this saying one step further and have created a similar saying which has been printed on this last magnet it says “ KEEP FIT AND PADDLE ON” , very inspiring words.

We even got to see a short movie on London and how these posters came about and how scarce they became, one showing up in a Barter Book shop in North East England and which was so admired that several more were bought and framed to hang on the wall and remain there to this day.  Watch the story on  youtube 


Speaker Jo-Anne Merrell

Iron man athlete and Abreast In A Boat paddler and coach, Jo-Anne Merrell spoke to us about Inspiration and Goal Setting.  She finished her Iron Man Triathlon in Penticton with a time of 15 hrs, 43mins and 42 seconds which entitled her to wear the Iron Man Jacket she proudly wears.  The Swim, Bike, Run race was achieved she says by setting goals that are SMART.

S          Specific

M        Measurable

A         Attainable

R         Realistic

T         Timely

Jo-Anne suggested using the same principles in all of our goals and advised us to have:

Long Term Goals      One to Five Years

Mid Term Goals        Three to Six Months (2013 Season)

Short Term Goals      Daily workouts and Healthy Eating

She also suggested using the Calendar we received to write down our goals and when we would like to achieve them.

She also talked about having Balance in our lives.  Don’t forget about your relationships with Family and Friends.

Rob Williams, Kinesiologist from The Rob Williams Group gave a lecture on how important posture is in being strong in whatever you do.  He showed us how to test our posture and gave exercises to improve it.

Amanda Chan, Kinesiologist from Ares Training took us through a paddlers warm up and we handed out exercise bands and she showed us exercises that we could do at home with the bands to strengthen our core and shoulders.

We had 2 draw prizes.  The first was a gym bag of relaxation bath products and was won by Bunny Rosse.  The second was a gift certificate worth $150.00 for a pair of New Balance runners from Rackets and Runners and New Balance and was won by Grace Ein.  Grace is a new member of AIAB.

Rebecca Chapman helped with registrations and Sally Van Ingen helped with the food. B

The story begins with the crew of twenty four Breast Cancer Volunteers departing from the dock at Alder Bay in False Creek in the spring of 1996 on their first anxious and tentative dragon boat paddle as part of a medical project by Dr Don McKenzie, MD PhD Professor and Director, Faculty of Medicine, Division of Sports Medicine, UBC.  This challenged the current medical thinking that those treated for Breast Cancer should not engage in rigorous upper body exercise for fear of getting Lymphedema. After dry land training and a three month season on the water, no one got Lymphedema. Dr McKenzie’s medical project was complete.

The women were fitter, happier and healthier. They named their team Abreast In A Boat and encouraged other survivors to enjoy the benefits and share their exciting experience.

Ten years later in 2005, they invited teams from around the world to celebrate ‘Ten Years Abreast’ in Vancouver.  The Australians caught the spirit and in 2007 paddlers flocked to Caloundra, Queensland as they did to Peterborough, Ontario in 2010. On each of these occasions, for three fun filled days the teams, some 2,000 people in all, and each a Breast Cancer Survivor celebrated on land and water. They are now looking forward to the next Festival in Sarasota, Florida in 2014.

It was agreed that these Festivals, not competitive tournaments, but celebratory regattas characterized by their inclusiveness and camaraderie should continue. To this end in June 2010 the members established the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission (IBCPC).  Its mandate is to promote participation and inclusiveness in Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Teams, to encourage the establishment of new teams around the world and to act as a link to its member teams for mutual benefit.

All this from Dr McKenzie’s one boat of breast cancer volunteers that paddled out of False Creek in 1996……and so the story continues !

To find out more go to the IBCPC website at