In the fall of 1995, a research project was being conducted by Dr. Don McKenzie, a sports medicine physician and exercise physiologist, at the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Dr. McKenzie was studying cardio respiratory fitness levels in two groups of women: one group had been treated for breast cancer and the other group had no history of breast cancer. The breast cancer group had many anecdotal stories about the “don’ts” they had been told after treatment.

Most of this advice restricted activities involving the upper body. Though well intentioned, there was no published research that supported this information. A desire to return these individuals to an unrestricted, active lifestyle, was the impetus behind Dr. McKenzie’s idea. The women formed the first all breast cancer survivors’ dragon boat team. In February 1996, in Vancouver, BC the first team was formed calling themselves “Abreast in a Boat”.

The International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission (IBCPC) was formed in 2005 and is based in Vancouver, BC. Abreast in a Boat hosted the first participatory festival the same year. Since then, Caloundra, Australia was host in 2007, Peterborough, Canada in 2010, Sarasota, USA in 2014 and Florence, Italy in 2018. The host region for 2022 remains unnamed.

Since 1996, more and more survivors have formed teams around the world. Over 160 Breast Cancer dragon boat teams are now paddling around the world, raising awareness with teams in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States.