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Ancient dragon boat racing helps local cancer survivors on path to recovery

Posted at 11:29 AM, Jun 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-20 14:29:58-04

A group of Central Coast residents is turning to the water and a sport that dates back more than 2,000 years to find healing and support.

They all have one thing in common.

“We’ve all had cancer journeys,” said Miki Gillman. “The specifics might be different but we have a lot in common.”

Now they’ve found healing, both emotionally and physically, in a dragon boat with a paddle in hand.

“We all, after being through a scary cancer journey, be as healthy as we can be and dragon boating is the ultimate in health because you’re out on this beautiful bay with all the wonderful wildlife and that’s a spiritual experience, and then you’re working together in a team, which is very, very supportive itself,” said Gillman, President of the Central Coast Dragon Boat Association (CCDBA).

Dragon boats are modified canoes that hold up to 20 paddlers and sport a traditional dragon head and tail.

The local paddlers range in age from their 40s to their 80s. Some come for recreation and some for competition, but they all get the support of those who’ve been on a similar journey.

“Yeah, I think for sure there’s an emotional draw as well as just the interest to be competitive, get some exercise,” said Gail Riley, CCDBA paddler. “I have loved that it’s such an eclectic group, you know, just wide age range, lots of different professions, and just really fun.”

“It’s just a really rewarding experience being out on top of the water and getting some exercise,” added CCDBA coach Burt Adams.