History of ABOL
The people, the past
In 1998 "Abreast in a Boat" (AIAB) - the first Breast Cancer Survivor team - visited New Zealand. AIAB were established with the assistance of Dr Don McKenzie, who set out to prove that upper body exercise was beneficial to BC Survivors - thinking that flew in the face of previous medical advice.
AIAB's visit coincided with the World Club Crew Championships being held on Wellington Harbour. At this event, AIAB spectacularly sank their boat, which made the "Holmes" TV show, plus the front page of several newspapers.
While here, their aim was to spread the word about this exciting sport of dragon boat racing that breast cancer survivor women in Canada were participating in, and encourage the formation of teams in New Zealand.
An Auckland team, Busting with Life, was formed, with Olympic champion Paul McDonald, Coordinator of the "National Dragon Boat Association", as their advisor.
The challenge then came from Aucklanders Paul McDonald and Ian Ferguson to form a team of survivors in Christchurch. That challenge was taken up by Dave Sloss, Manager of the Linwood Rugby Club. Dave contacted the Cancer Society, and in April 1999 he presented the idea to a meeting of the New Beginnings Support Group. This was enthusiastically received by the women and on 15 August 1999 the crew began their exercise regime with Sunday morning walks around Hagley Park.
An article in The Press followed and brought more support.
On 7 September 1999 the Abreast of Life Dragon Boat Team was officially launched at the Lancaster Hotel, with coverage from local television station CHTV. On 31 October the team had their very first paddle in a dragon boat, on the Avon River at Kerrs Reach.
Training sessions on the Avon started a week later, and then on Lyttelton Harbour on 21 December.
Andy Philips later joined Dave as co-coach. 30 January, 2000 saw the team compete for the very first time in the Christchurch Early Bird Regatta. More media attention followed with an article and photos in the Christchurch Star. In March the Christchurch Casino Dragon Boat Festival was held, and the team wowed onlookers at the street parade with their rendition of “Man, I feel like a woman”.
The team performed well in the regatta, improving their time in each race, and winning “Best Chant.” The team had two chants, one to sing on the land, and one on the water. Our land chant was sung to the tune “She’ll be coming round the mountain”.