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

Check us out on our Facebook page

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

Learn more about the event! -

Reaping the rewards of fitness - Nationals, Lake Hood, March 23rd & 24th 2018

Lake Hood, 2018 will be remembered as our first year in recent times to get medals at the Nationals. With increased fitness, not only did we win three bronzes, we also did Personal Bests in all our finals, including cracking the one minute barrier with a time of 59.68 seconds in the 200 metres. The graciousness of Boobops when we beat them in the 500 metres final will also be remembered.

Although cold, the weather held out with good conditions on the water. Our lovely new lined jackets came in very handy over our thick fleeces, keeping us warm between events and during prizegivings. It was great to have those prizegivings at the end of each event, rather than all at once at the end.

Once again, the BCS dinner was a highlight. Mixing with other teams’ members at tables meant the camaraderie within our own team extended to our BCS sisters in other teams when we met them the next day. Gemma McCaw was a riveting speaker as she described not only her connection to breast cancer through her nan, but told us personal stories and lessons learnt as a top sportswoman. We are still wondering whether it is true that when we think we are giving it our all, it is only 40%!

As always, the success on the water is matched equally by the enjoyment of being away together as a team. To share our goals, our successes, our disappointments, our accommodation, our transport, our meals, our fun times and our lives with each other, is treasured by us all.

I want to give a big thank you to Leslie, our coach, and to Judy and the committee for all their hard work. The rest of us just had to paddle; they gave so much of their time to ensure everything was ready and set up for us to succeed. Thanks too to our family members for their support and to the four paddlers from other teams who joined Busting for this event. They were a great addition.

This was the last year we would be at Lake Hood, but not the last one to win medals at Nationals events!   

- Helen McKessar

Endless high fives and three bronze medals - Auckland Regionals March 17th 2018

What will I remember about my first Regionals? When I think back to St Patricks Day 2018 instead of shamrocks and Guinesss,  I immediately see endless high fives, medals(!) and the 2000m race.

I knew as a team that Busting were into our high fives which I love. Race after race (seven of them for us!) other teams lined up to high five us and we them - breast cancer survivor, engineering firms, everyone! The comradery shown in dragon boating has made a real impression on me and it was evident at this competition. I was really pleased my children were there to see that the teams were incredibly competitive but also supportive.

Three bronze medals were a fantastic reward for the hard work Busting has done in the last few months. The bronzes in all three races were great but the 200m race stands out as it was so incredibly close, a good reflection of the work Busting has done. One second between 1st and 3rd! Incredibly frustrating and satisfying all at the same time!

The last impression I will keep of Regionals is the 2000m race, my first one. Wow. This race is definitely a challenge for me, both physically and mentally.  I survived it and was pretty impressed with myself I have to say. Many conversations were going on in my head, interrupted by telling myself to breathe!. There was definitely a real sense of accomplishment in knowing I did not give up.  What a day!

- Libby

Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta

Auckland turned on good weather for the Anniversary Day Regatta and the Viaduct is a magnet for people to watch the events happening here and on the harbour. The early crew had secured a great spot for our base for the day, with much needed shade. 

Our first race wasn’t great but the following two with a better pace saw us get together as a team. It was good to have John Papalli from Greyman’s Gym who has been giving us additional support in our fitness and getting more power in our stroke observing from the side. 

I was a spectator for the Woman’s final which turned out to be a nail biter. Busting with Life got a good start and had the lead in the initial part of the race. However towards the end of the race saw youth overtake us with only 17/100 of a second between first and third. We were third in this final. 

Our take home from the day is to be responsible for our own fitness as we head to Regionals and Nationals. 

- Jeanette