Sport and support found with Cultus Lake dragonboat crew

Spirit Abreast brings breast cancer survivors together from across the Upper Fraser Valley, and is open to new members

The Spirit Abreast Dragonboat team hits the water for its first practice last year. The team

The Spirit Abreast Dragonboat team hits the water for its first practice last year. The team

The Spirit Abreast Dragonboat Team is about to launch its 16th year, and they’re hoping to entice more ladies into their boat.

The team comprises breast cancer survivors from across the Upper Fraser Valley, who paddle regularly in Cultus Lake. Susan Grant is one of the newer members, having joined in 2014. Team members come from across the Fraser Valley to meet up on the lake.

She learned about the group from a poster in the chemotherapy room at a hospital.

“As I was going through my treatment I thought well maybe one day, but it won’t be this year,” she recalls. But she kept it in mind, and as she was going through radiation, nearing the end of treatment, she thought maybe it was possible.

“I walked back up to the chemo ward, wrote down all the information, and went home and phoned them up,” she says. She had had a double mastectomy by then, and lymph nodes removed, but felt she could do it.

But even she surprised herself at how much she was capable of.

“You think, I’ve had all this surgery on this side and I won’t be able to do this,” she says. But it turned out that paddling was exactly what the doctor ordered. While Grant had never been an athlete, she took right to the watersport.

It helped that everyone on the team had been through very similar, if not exactly the same, experiences.

“You’ve got a built-in support group,” she says. “If you have little aches and pains and tweaks they understand. You’ve got a whole boatload of support.”

And if you’re not pushing yourself hard enough, they’ll support you that way too, she says.

“It’s a great sport that’s for sure,” she says. “Our youngest is in her late 30s, and the oldest now is in her 80s. That’s the captain, we call her Jean the Machine. I’m 50 now and say when I grow up I want to be like Jean, to be as fit as she is.”

They’ve been off for the winter months, but are gearing back up for a busy season that will include three regattas and regular practices. Their first meeting is a meet and greet that the public is welcome to attend.

It’s being held at Decades Coffee Club in Chilliwack on Wednesday, March 29 at 7 p.m.

Grant adds that there’s no reason to be intimidated, and that newcomers don’t even have to paddle. They are invited out onto the water just to see how the sport works and meet the team. There is a small team fee but the paddles, shirts and pfds are all supplied by the team.

For more information, contact Jean Olsen by visiting


Just Posted

Shortreed Elementary received $40,000 from the Indigo Love of Reading foundation to purchase new books. (Special to The Star)
VIDEO: Shortreed one of 30 Canadian schools aided by Indigo’s Love of Reading program

Aldergrove school received $40,000, which will be put towards new books for the library

Students staged a flash mob on the last day of dancing at Lisa’s School of Dance in Langley City on Saturday, June 19. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Final dances held at Lisa Dew’s dance school in Langley City

After 35 years, the school has been forced to close due to the bottom-line impact of the pandemic

Jessica Horst, a volunteer with the Bertrand Creek Enhancement Society, picked Scotch Broom at Jackman Wetlands on Wednesday night. (Lisa Dreves/Special to The Star)
Scotch broom removal a big task six years in the making at Jackman Wetlands

Volunteers filled a truck-full of invasive shrub growing rampant in Aldergrove park

Health and safety protocols for arriving international travellers are strict and don’t consider reasons for travel, says a letter writer. (Black Press Media files)
LETTER: Langley performer irked by ever-changing, inconsistent COVID rules

Letter writer feels she had not choice but to move to Mexico to ride out pandemic

A fawn separated from his mother by a well-meaning homeowner in Maple Ridge is a cautionary tale, say Conservation officers and staff at Langley’s Critter Care wildlife sanctuary. (Critter Care/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Maple Ridge fawn in Langley wildlife sanctuary after separation from mother

Wildlife officials say moving a fawn is not a good idea

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read