Dragon Divas can always use more hands

The Cowichan Valley Dragon Divas are so well-known and hardworking that some folks might think they never need a hand.

But they do.

They need extra hands to help paddle their famous dragon boat and to that end the enthusiastic group of cancer survivors are holding a membership drive. They started earlier this month with a special session at the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre.

"We are here to recruit new members and welcome back old members and tell them a bit about our society," said Divas paddler Carla Davies.

"It has been difficult to get members for the Divas lately. I would like to think it’s because fewer women are getting cancer, but a lot of our members have come to the age where they feel they can’t paddle strongly any more."

Dragon boat paddling is serious exercise but it’s really worthwhile, she said.

"It does take a lot of work and energy, a lot of endurance and strength to do this. It’s not just a Sunday afternoon paddle when you’re competing. Some members have found it’s time for them to move on, so, we are looking for new people."

If you’re a woman who’s survived cancer and think you might enjoy it, the Divas offer a rewarding community of supporters.

"We don’t care what age you are. We welcome members of all ages. The Angels in Nanaimo have a woman in her 80s that paddles. They help her in and out of the boat but she paddles. She’s amazing. You can be any age. You just have to do some work to get stronger. Upper body strength is really important. And then be ready to come out and have fun while we are spreading awareness," Davies said.

It’s a commitment to fitness, but "you get stronger as the year goes on," she said.

"Your coach will probably ease you in for a while and then say: get at it. We have to get into festival training mode so you have to have good lung capacity. You have to have aerobic exercise somewhere in your program for the week and you have to have upper body strength, too."

It used to be that the Divas had all dealt with breast cancer, but that isn’t the case any more.

"As of last year we are inviting any female who has had any type of cancer to join us," Davies said. "Our focus is still on breast cancer although we touch on many other cancers in the support we give throughout the year to efforts like the Terry Fox run, Tour de Rock, the Cancer Society luncheon and the Volunteer Society luncheon. We support them all.

"Last year we also got really involved in the Ovarian Cancer Walk and I still wear my ribbon: teal is for them. As we have four members with ovarian cancer now. It’s part and parcel of breast cancer so we kind of dove into that."

All people have to do to join is visit website at dragondivas.ca. To belong to the Divas, it’s $25 for a year and if you paddle, it’s another $100.

"We have occasional paddlers who have not had breast cancer who come out and help us paddle," Davies said. "They pay $5 per session. Some of them paddle every time we go out. They’re very committed, these gals, and we’re really glad to have them with us.

"There is no deadline to sign up. Of course we would like to fill the boat. People are okay to join as long as their doctor says they are fit to paddle. We have women in treatment who paddle with us. There were a number of us paddling quite competitively last year, too," she said.