After 20 years of paddling at Christina Lake, the Robusters have found a place to house their dragon boat with help from many supporters across their Kootenay communities. Photo: Submitted

Kootenay Robusters find a den for their dragon boat

Kootenay Robusters began in 2001, the brainchild of a Trail nurse and breast cancer survivor.

Members of the Kootenay Robusters Dragon Boat Team gathered at the site of their future home base on July 31 to accept a $10,000 community investment grant from Elyza Jantzen on behalf of the Heritage Credit Union.

The team received $5,000 from the Castlegar branch and $5,000 from the Greenwood branch.

Over the past four years the Robusters have been working to secure a spot at the lake where a boat shed could be constructed to store the team’s boats and equipment.

Since the Robusters first began in early 2001, the team has relied on Christina Lake residents to host paddlers, equipment and boats for practices that take place three times a week.

After 20 years of paddling without a home base, plans are now proceeding for a place to anchor the Robusters thanks to the cooperation of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, BC Parks, the transport ministry, and immediate neighbours at Christina Lake.

The boat shed will be located on an unused road allowance at the end of Lavalley Road, next to the Christina Lake Provincial Park.

The project will be undertaken in two phases with site preparation and foundations completed this fall and the structure built in the spring of 2022.

The Robusters thank the many supporters who have donated generously to this project and members of various communities who buy the paddlers’ annual calendars, which brings in a considerable amount of funding needed.

The Robusters remind locals to keep any eye out for their 2022 calendar early in the fall. Purchasing a calendar will help the Robusters move ahead with their dream of a paddling legacy for the area.

About the Kootenay Robusters:

The Kootenay Robusters is a non-profit organization for breast cancer survivors and associates to experience physical, emotional, spiritual and mental wellness at a level that they find comfortable and personally challenging.

Through the paddling experience, their aim to raise awareness of breast cancer and the uplifting truth that there is life after breast cancer.

The Kootenay Robusters began in early 2001, the brainchild of a Trail nurse and breast cancer survivor. After hearing about the ‘Abreast in A Boat’ teams, she and several other women whose lives had been touched by breast cancer decided to start a local team and so, with no dragon boat, no paddling experience, and the closest lake miles away, the Robusters team was formed.

Women from the Kootenay communities of Trail, Castlegar, Rossland, Christina Lake and Grand Forks came together, with the initial goal of competing in Vancouver’s dragon boat festival in June. Members included both breast cancer survivors and associate paddlers who joined to support the survivors.

The women embarked on a strength and fitness program, and after leasing a dragon boat from the coast, began paddling in late May on Christina Lake. With just one month’s training the team headed to Vancouver. In September the team raced in Kelowna, placing 2nd in the Breast Cancer Challenge race.

Dragon Boats and breast cancer

The association between breast cancer and dragon boats goes back to 1996. At that time it was widely held that repetitive upper body movements led to lymphedema, an irreversible swelling of the arm and chest that is a common complication of breast cancer.

A Vancouver sports medicine physician, Dr. Don McKenzie decided to test this belief by conducting a medical study of 25 women, who began an exercise training program involving dragon boat paddling. The results of the study indicated that repetitive upper body exercise like paddling does not cause lymphedema, and the myth was laid to rest.

The first dragon boat team, ‘Abreast In A Boat’, has served as inspiration for teams not only in BC, but around the world. What began as a study has grown into a network of women who are increasing awareness of breast cancer, exploring their limits, building strength and physical fitness, and providing each other with emotional support and camaraderie.

There are now more than 50 breast cancer survivor teams world-wide, competing at many Canadian and international dragon boat festivals while raising breast cancer awareness.

Read more: From martial arts to dragon boats

Read more: Kootenay Robusters paddle in Lethbridge

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