About RDA


Kathleen's Story

‘Embarking on the journey of becoming a dragon boat paddler began as more than just a newfound sporting pursuit; it was a path to recovery from the trials of breast cancer. With the spectre of looming illness behind me, I sought solace and strength in the rhythmic motion of the paddle, turning to the waters as a source of healing and empowerment. From the depths of uncertainty, I emerged with a newfound determination to reclaim my vitality and embrace life's adventures with renewed vigour. As I navigated the currents of recovery, the camaraderie of the Rainbow Region Dragon Boat Club became my anchor, providing support and encouragement every step of the way. With each stroke, I shed the weight of fear and doubt, embracing the power within me and the solidarity of those beside me. From timid beginnings to the pulse-pounding crescendo of race day, my journey from breast cancer survivor to valued paddler AND successfully trialling for the Northern Region team, epitomises the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative potential of community.’


Image 1: All smiles following a win for Rainbow Dragons in the Women’s 20s at the Kalang regatta 2024.

Image 2: Kathleen celebrating victory for Rainbow Dragons Abreast  in the breast cancer survivor’s category at the Australian Masters Games, Adelaide 2023.


Rainbow Dragons Abreast (RDA)

Rainbow Dragons Abreast (RDA) Inc is sub-group of the Rainbow Region Dragon Boat Club, for breast cancer survivors (and their supporters), who have chosen to assume responsibility for their own health, wellbeing, and fitness through the sport of dragon boating.

Since Dr Don McKenzie’s ground-breaking research in 1996 into the effects of exercise on women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, dragon boating has been hailed an ideal activity due to the repetitive upper-body movement, which can be tailored to any level of ability. As well as improving strength and fitness, the sport has many added benefits to boost emotional wellbeing; training in a beautiful outdoor environment, the camaraderie of working in a team, the support of those with shared experiences, the joy of trying new things, social interaction, travel… the list goes on. Our members can enjoy the challenge, friendship, and exercise component of paddling regardless of age, fitness level, cultural background or interests.

We encourage breast cancer survivors (male and female) to live an active and adventurous life despite the physical limitation that may be imposed by breast cancer surgery and treatment. Our long-term survivors may be able to provide guidance and support for newer members who are on the breast cancer journey, allowing the survivor to have more confidence in dealing with issues that may arise in getting back to good health.

RDA is affiliated with Dragons Abreast Australia, as well as being part of the larger sports club (Rainbow Region Dragon Boat Club), offering many opportunities for the keen paddler as well as the novice. While RDA members are encouraged to participate in all club activities, there is a dedicated RDA training session each Sunday morning 8-9am at the Sport & Recreation Centre, Lake Ainsworth.

So, if you’ve had breast cancer and want to be fitter, healthier, happier and make lifelong friends trying a new activity in a supportive and encouraging environment, sign up for a free, fun morning of paddling with coaching and equipment provided. No experience necessary! All you need to bring is a water bottle, and wear comfy clothes (e.g. shorts & t-shirt) and shoes that can get wet. And don’t forget your sun protection.

Contact Juliette Sizer (RDA Coordinator) – rainbowdragons@dragonsabreast.com.au



RDA History

Our club’s origins date back to 2004, when Rainbow Dragons Abreast (RDA) was formed. As a member club of Dragons Abreast Australia (DAA), all our members were breast cancer survivors and their supporters. These ladies didn’t even have a boat to paddle in until June 2005 when they leased one from Dragon Boats NSW (DBNSW). Finally, in July 2006, we received our very own boat, thanks to the support of the local Lions Club and the Northern New South Wales Lions Trust.

The club’s size fluctuated over the years, however there was always lots of interest from the public in this fast-growing sport.  In 2009, Rainbow Dragons Abreast decided to form a sports club, where breast cancer was not a prerequisite. The Rainbow Region Dragon Boat Club was born, with Rainbow Dragons Abreast continuing as a sub-group within the new club.

Over the years, RDA has had an enthusiastic membership and achieved varying levels of success at many regattas, both domestic and abroad. Highlights have included the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission (IBCPC) regattas (2007 Caloundra Qld, 2014 Florida USA, 2018 Florence Italy and 2023 Cambridge New Zealand), Chinese New Year regattas in Sydney, Australian Masters Games (winning gold in Adelaide 2016 and Tasmania 2019, and silver in Adelaide 2023) and Pan Pacific Masters Games (more gold), all of which featured a breast cancer category for racing.

In addition to the breast cancer survivor events, our RDA members fully participate in many of the Sports crews, from regional regattas to representative teams and overseas events.

RDA has had representation on the DAA board and continues to support the worldwide movement for breast cancer paddlers. Our RDA group has been actively involved in advocating for people who’ve had a diagnosis of breast cancer in our local area, as well as fundraising and awareness programs. Most years, we participate in the Mother’s Day Classic, on one occasion as the highest fundraising team (for the National Breast Cancer Foundation) at the Ballina event.

Sadly, breast cancer has claimed several of our members over the years. These women will live on in our hearts forever as our ‘Angels Abreast’ – we honour those who have passed with a special ceremony of remembrance. 


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