PADDLING FOR HEALTH: Rainbow Dragon Angela Smith and supporter Mollie Strong.
PADDLING FOR HEALTH: Rainbow Dragon Angela Smith and supporter Mollie Strong.

Paddling for health and happiness in their 60s and 70s

THE message was loud and clear, breast cancer survivors 68-year-old Angela Smith and 73-year-old Chris Smith give dragon boating the thumbs-up for a happy healthy life post-cancer.

Both are members of Rainbow Dragons Abreast Byron Bay/Lennox Head, and both are out there on the water every week paddling for their health, and loving it.

But they're not just building muscle and heart strength, they're also building personal bonds and adding stamps to their Visas.

Chris has been dragon boating for four years, following breast cancer treatment, and trains three or four times a week.

She says it's good for her upper body strength and has "given me a new lease on life".

"I feel a lot younger than I am."

She's training for the Pan Pacs in November on the Gold Coast, putting in hours in the gym as well as in the boat.

Chris said, "especially at our age, you think you can't do it, but once you do it does get you in. When I first started I had to stop all the time, now I do it no trouble at all."

Angela has a similar story.

"For someone who had not been involved in sport in any way it has been quite remarkable."

Both talk about the benefits of being part of a group of people who have been through the same things.

Angela says "everyone is very supportive, very happy, we don't take things too seriously".

"But if some are wanting to go to a particular regatta they can get as serious as they want, or you can just come along every Sunday and have a paddle."

They travel to competitions throughout Australia, and two years ago the team went to Florida where they won a gold medal.

They are already registered for the four yearly International Dragon Boat Regatta in Florence.

Back at home, there's always the reality of the reason they're on the water.

"If we lose someone we put flowers on water and all get together," Chris said.

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