The end of the season and celebration of our shared success

On Sunday 28th of April we had our Team Celebration for our 2018/19 Season.

We had a Brunch at Billfish Café at Westhaven.

The Awards were presented to the team members as below:

The Anita Filkin Trophy – Most improved Paddler – Jeanette Pearce

The Min Hodge Trophy – Most Versatile/flexible Paddler  Jointly to Jo Hooper and Darian Pearce

The Agnes Ogden Challenge Trophy – The team member who took on a new challenge – Judy Kemp

Special Congratulations to Susan Harland-Smith  who is now a level 2 Sweep.

We presented our Newbie no More Certificates to Ann-Maree Dower and Angie Flemming.


The trophies



The strength of women - documentaries and hard-earned treasure

A for - ACTION!

This season just seemed to have started and finished so quickly, it’s now all over- boohoo ☹.

 2019 Nationals took place at Lake Karipiro on  Friday the 5th & Saturday the 6th April. We were “lucky or fortunate” (whichever way you want to think) to have a film crew follow us and the team A BREAST OF LIFE, and Pink Dragons. The topic for this film is THE STRENGTH OF WOMEN, can’t wait to see the end product.  At first we were all a bit young girly giggly stuff knowing they were filming us but as the Nationals got closer the film crew became like a comfy pair of shoes, you didn’t know they were around- except when the camera was right in your face! lots of laughs and mostly volunteers doing the hard yards, so we were happy to be helping them out.

So, with stars in our eyes this is how it all unraveled…..

Thursday afternoon, shoved suitcase, gear bag and chilly bag in the boot and headed towards Auckland to swing by Libby’s place. Threw her and gear bag in the car and off we went, Thelma and Louise here we come…………but with a happier ending of course.

Reached Cambridge, went food shopping to cater for our 2 full days of paddling. Found the Motel, gathered our belongings and hauled it up the 3 flights of stairs to our awaiting rooms.

I bowled up to my room, swung open the door and yelled….” Honey I’m home “to find Susan lying on her bed with book in hand, cuppa at her bedside and checking out the insides of her eye lids, Whoops.

We all went out for dinner at a local restaurant, and had very limited (some of us zero) alcohol, tummies full and time for nigh nigh’s. Night night.

The Motel had a communal kitchen, which was fantastic as it brought us all together when needed. Breakfast’s was a display of a well-oiled machine. Toast toasting, cereal swimming, eggs boiling, coffee and tea steaming and just a sea of pink overlapping each other. Meeting held at 6.45am then convoy to the lake.

Arrived just after 7am and the fog was as thick as pea soup (grey not green) so start time was delayed by 30 minutes or so. Fog lifted and the marshalling calls started, YAHOO. 500m races today in standard boat (20 man) and small boat (10 man) in the afternoon.

SILVER in the 500m standard boat. GOLD in the 500m small boat….YES YES YES!!!

 Prize giving took place as the finals were completed. Finished around 4.30-5, loaded up the cars and back to the motel. Showers and change attire and off to the Breast Cancer Dinner held at the local rugby club. A magnificent feast was displayed and just the odd glass of wine consumed…. honestly. Speaker Emily Searle spoke of her breast cancer journey. She gathered short stories from many women around the world going through the same journey, her book was on sale.

 All of us pitched in to tidy up the club rooms then back to the motel to fall into bed, to be woken again at 5.30am and do it all over again.

Saturday morning, a sea of pink in the kitchen again. Meeting at 6.45am and convoy to the lake.

A Clear morning this time. Starting was on time. Today standard boat (20 man) and small boat (10 man).

 SILVER in the 200m small boat. AWESOME 😊.

Prize giving again and then back to the motel to shower and have a Busting family fish and chip dinner. Thank you to Michaels mum for the donation for our dinner. We sunk into our chairs and chatted about the last couple of days paddling. Medals were given out and now to relax with a glass of chilled wine and awesome company, BUSTING WITH LIFE- my team. One more function to go to and that was the 2k prize giving held in the pavilion at the lake, and a bit of dancing to blow away the aches and pains- (more like have another wine and forget about the aches and pains till the morning!)

To me, this season has been more self-motivating, to be more prepared, physically and mentally. A bit like when you just click to what’s going on around you and maybe the planets were all aligned. I was on the coat tails of the Graymen’s Waka training (I wasn’t even aware of this until  the new year rolled over) pushing myself that little bit harder than I could manage, making sure the other people in the gym class’s weren’t waiting on me. Maybe it was I tried the “DORY” theory ( thanks Angie ), if it worked for Dory then why can’t it work for me?! Ladies- it’s a privilege to be in a boat with VERY strong-minded woman, you make me laugh, you make me laugh at myself. An absolutely priceless bunch of ladies to have as friends and paddling partners. Let’s not forget that amazing slide in the kids play ground……..

 Can’t wait for the Documentary, can’t wait for 2020 season to start, can’t wait to go down that slide again and can’t wait for our next gathering. 

- Linda Ashton

Crushing it at regionals! with a gremlin related twist...

As we gathered on the shore for the opening address of the 2019  Regional’s, Lake Pupuke reflected the early morning sunlight, the weather perfect for good times on the water.

What was the day to bring? Would our hard work and rigorous training see us achieve our goals? There’s a ‘yes’ in that answer, an ‘almost’ and an unexpected twist.

After a first 500m heat which left room for improvement we got our groove on and were happy with the second. In the final we fought hard and took gold. It’s been a few years since Busting has held the 500m trophy and a great prize to celebrate.

After returning good times in the heats, less than half a second separated us and our sisters in the 200m final giving us the silver in an exciting and very close race.

The last race of the day is the 2000m and fatigued as we may be we know we have to channel that  interval training, call on that final reserve of energy and give it our all. We put in a well paced race but was it good enough? For a short time it appeared that it was, but gremlins in the timing system were sorted out and ultimately we got second.

A memorable Regionals for us and cause to reflect on a fantastic day of racing with our BC sisters and across the whole dragonboat community. 

- Jo Hooper reporting for the team

Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta – 28th January 2019

Womens Minor Final.jpg

Winning on the water, go team!

What an amazing day on Auckland’s world class Viaduct Harbour celebrating Auckland Anniversary, Dragon Boat Racing and a team of incredible women

On what was to be a rather hot and humid summer day it started overcast with just a “spritzer” of rain to keep everyone cool.  

Busting With Life entered two teams on the day participating in three heats with both teams in the finals! In the true spirit of the BWL ladies, we came away with a WIN!

Aside from the racing it was a social day mixing with other teams, making new friends and enjoying the sidewalk entertainment and the bustle of the Viaduct on a public holiday.

What a great way to start the 2019 calendar and we look forward to more celebrations throughout the season as our team of avid paddlers, new and old, blend to be the unstoppable team that is Busting With Life!

Angie Flemming

Two from Two in Hamilton

We did it again, and there was no oops about that! Building on our recent success at Tauranga, the Waikato Dragon Boating Super 12 Regatta was an opportunity to prove to ourselves that coach Leslie’s efforts to turn us until thinking paddlers might just be working.

Hamilton put on a superb day for paddling with no wind and lots of sunshine.

The team had its best first race in a long time. There were five races in total, with constructive debriefs and the whole team focused on what we needed to work on to improve. We stuck to our race plan, and the win was the icing on the cake of a great day.



Kicking off the Dragon boating season

Spring is upon us which means the start of another Dragon Boat Season. What better to kick off the season than to head down to Tauranga to support, The Bay of Plenty Dragon Boat Club, Annual Fundraising Day.

The sun was out, which meant the “guns” were out, which was evident in the racing amongst the teams across all of the various divisions.   The BBQ’s were smoking away while the teams battled it out on the water and there was great banter going on between the teams while waiting patiently for their turn on the water. For our ladies, the racing started off a bit rocky with us having one rough race, one good race and by the third heat we were firing on all cylinders.  

It finally came our turn to prove what we were made of against the other breast cancer teams.   As the hooter sounded, our boat took off and the team paddled away, throwing in all that they had.  It was a tough race and fight for first was evident across all the teams.  The team came off the water on a high feeling and one can only imagine the atmosphere and vibe once we realised that we had won! Considering that the last time Busting with Life held the trophy was in 2009, this was an incredible achievement and I am privileged to be a member of such a warm and welcoming team. A great day was had by all and what a phenomenal way  to start off the season.

- Tanya Cosgrave



… A day of celebrations with past and current team members and guests joining together at the Ponsonby Cruising Club, Westhaven Auckland on Saturday 1st September 2018.


Over 100 people attended the 20th anniversary celebrations on a day filled with speeches, memorabilia, old photos & videos, a past uniforms fashion show featuring lycra shorts together with lots of time to catch up and share the entertaining “Remember when?” stories. There was laughter and tears at times. A wonderful personal message from Dr Don McKenzie who founded the worldwide movement was shared all culminating in a Flower Tribute on the water’s edge bringing the whole group together for a time of reflection. Dinner and live music and of course more stories completed the scene.

One wonders when the ladies started down this road whether they would have dreamt the team would still be going strong 20 years later, still being enjoyed as much by the current team as the Originals did and all who have followed over the years.  The bond in the team has always been strong and continues to this day; once a Buster always a Buster.

Busting with Life is the first Breast Cancer Survivors dragon boat team in New Zealand formed in 1998. A visiting Canadian BC Team, Abreast in a Boat, had been shown on TV paddling in the World Dragon Boat Champs in Wellington, earlier that year.

Busting With Life (BWL)founder Trici Nelson, saw the team on TV and thought, “Why can’t we have a BC team in New Zealand?” 

Around the same time the Breast Cancer Support Services (BCSS), also having seen Abreast in a Boat on TV, were contacted by a member of the team to see if there was a Breast Cancer dragon boat team in NZ.

Trici approached BCSS and together with Lois, Frances, Pam, Paula, Debbie & Evelyn the dye was cast and Busting with Life (BWL) began. As well as being the first Breast Cancer Dragon boat team in New Zealand they were the first team outside of North America, some feat.

The first meeting was at the Domain in Auckland and group fitness training continued on Sundays until training in a dragon boat at Lake Pupuke began.  Wayne Gunn (Valerie Gunn’s son) led the fitness training and Graeme Rountree (Trici’s son) was co-opted as the coach.

Our founding members today!

Our founding members today!

It’s not just about paddling. The team works to build public awareness of breast cancer, the importance of early detection and increasing breast cancer survivor awareness by providing appropriate exercise and fitness training, as well as giving support & camaraderie to paddlers.

There have been many challenges and successes for BWL since those first years in learning how to become a cohesive and competitive, all-inclusive team. Dragon boating has become the official breast cancer sport, worldwide, and our team members have become international athletes at regattas in many countries. The sisterhood is strong, providing the excitement of racing, challenging competition and improved physical fitness. BWL has become part of a positive breast cancer movement of women willing to overcome physical adversity and prove there is life after breast cancer.

20 years of trophies/medals                                                                         

At the 20th celebration it was moving to see the ladies reunite with their paddling partners and the current team loved hosting them and enjoyed hearing their many memories and stories. It was truly a wonderful celebration of our very special team.

Busting with Life

1998 - 2018 and going strong

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IBCPC Dragon boat festival, Florence, Italy

Walking around the 125 tents at this event, you realise that 99 percent of all the ladies here have all had breast cancer. It is Amazing! There are about 3500 paddlers, 125 teams with 30 teams from Australia and 33 from US. It is phenomenal.  This is the largest all women event in the world.  The camaraderie here is so natural. 

Everywhere you go in this town, there are groups of pink clad tourists. The Americans and the Aussies are loud, the south Americans  are looking for a party and a beat to move to, the Poms are quietly queuing for cups of tea, and the kiwis are, well, a bit of all of them but less so.

We are all talking together and trading pins or whatever we have. Everyone wants the NZ pin as it is quite rare. It is a great way of meeting different people. So many people have expressed an interest in wanting this event to be in NZ next time, and would love to come to us.

Our team, the 'Vienna Pink Dragons International' has Austrian, Aussie, Belgian, Kiwi, English, French, Canadian, South African, Polish and German members. Everyone is lovely and we have been made very welcome. 

Most are ok with English, but if there are instructions,  that has to be translated. Day to day conversations - we are all on the same wavelength. Especially when we come off the water, high fives are pretty international. 

The opening ceremony started with a parade through the streets of Florence and over the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge - the oldest in Florence.  It has gold shops either side, but used to be butcher's shops, who got rid of their waste at the end of the day by swilling it directly into the river below. Yuck! We were able to have a special paddle under this bridge, with an Argentinean team and Colleen from Boobops on the sweep oar. Luckily no butchers swill just tourists claping and cheering us.

We had two races each day and won all four with an easy ( mostly) margin. Quite surprised as some of our paddlers had not been in a race before, and the 500m is not a usual distance, as 200m  is the norm. Some of the other teams look so uncoordinated, with paddlers pulling out, or so badly out of time. I remind myself, as we all do, that it is participatory. 

On the the second day the last race was a memorial for Sandy Smith, whose family attend each event, with the flower ceremony at the end. There was only space for one representitive from each team, so our organiser Svenja was nominated. 

We had the privilege of getting a photo with Dr Don McKenzie. This great man started the whole Breast Cancer Survivors Dragon boat team - 22 years ago. He realised that it was beneficial to BC survivors and says " It improves the quality of life and has measurable benefits in physical and mental health". Yeah, what he said...

It is a great honour to meet and get a photo with him.

It is very well organised even with busses to transport us to the event and away at the end of the day. 

Us kiwis have had some knock backs with a few illnesses that we brought with us or picked up along the way. We are all pushing ourselves to the limit with cramming in as much as we can every day. But when it comes to the crunch, everyone is in the boat giving 100%.

The pace of paddling is very slow, but so strong.  It felt very odd when we started, but it worked! Our times were 2m 39 to 2.36 - getting faster for the last race. Not too bad for a composite team with 3 newbies. The fastest times were 2.20 with Can Survive on 2.21.

The sweep is not used to having a full boat and is used to being in salt water, but managed very well. 

At the end of the weekend we had made so many new friends, and have invitations to go to many countries to paddle. 

We came away knowing that we were part of this great participatory event, but so excited that we finished up as ranking 37 out of 125 teams. That's what we came to do... Done!

Ciao for now 

Mac and the Pink Ferns

Azba, Catherine, Ceedub, Di, Donna, Mac, Robynne, Susan

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