FAQs

When did the Plurabelle Paddlers group start up?

The group started in 2010 when Fiona Tiernan and Marian O’Dea got together and decided to form a women’s Dragon Boat team. They sought funding from the Health Services Executive and Breast Cancer Ireland to fund two Dragon Boats, Anna & Livia. The group has gone from strength to strength and now has 70 members ranging in age from 30 to 70.

What is dragon boating?

Dragon boating is a team watersport which originated in China centuries ago. In 1995, Dr. Don McKenzie, working in the University of Columbia launched “Abreast-In-A-Boat”  He wanted to research the effects of repetitive upper body exercise in women treated for breast cancer. At the time it was thought that this kind of exercise might worsen lymphoedema (a swelling of the arm that may affect some women after surgery). His study involved 25 women and none of the women monitored lymphoedema became worse and no new cases of lymphoedema were reported. The use of Dragon boating as a means to help women (and men!) with breast cancer has now grown to 150 teams worldwide, including teams in Cork, Waterford, Clonmel, Donegal, Belfast and Mayo.

What are the benefits of dragon boating?

It’s a great way to get active, fit and healthy! Studies have also found that a gradual programme of upper-body exercise in those treated for breast cancer can help improve movement to the area of surgery and/or radiation.

Where are you based?

We are based in the South Dock, Grand Canal Basin, Dublin 2 (view mapclick on map to enlarge it). We store the boats near the slipway (where the Viking Splashworld amphibian boats enter the dock). Our clubhouse is the last building on the other side of the dock.

Do I need experience to join?

No experience is required. We were all newcomers to the sport and we have new people trying it out on an ongoing basis. You will be shown how to use the paddle before you go out in the boat.

When can I start after treatment?

We recommend a minimum of three months after completing treatment before paddling. You should take medical advice before taking up exercise. You are always welcome to join us in the clubhouse after training for a cup of tea before the three months are up.

Whom do I contact if I want to give it a try?

Email newmembers@plurabellepaddlers.com or telephone (087) 468 6662. We have dedicated members who are assigned to meet new paddlers at their first session and answer any questions that they may have. View our new members recruitment leaflet.

What equipment do I need?

You don’t need any equipment to try it out as you will be given a buoyancy aid and paddle for the session. It is best to wear clothes that allow you to move freely. Avoid “plant” based materials such as cotton or linen (especially jeans) as they tend to hold water when wet. Bring a rain jacket if you have one and a change of clothes as we tend to splash a bit when learning how to paddle! A small bottle of water is also a good idea – paddling is a form of exercise, so it is best to stay hydrated.

What happens if the boat capsizes – do I have to be a strong swimmer?

The boat is very stable and is unlikely to capsize. The helm pairs people of equal weight and ensures the boat is well balanced before taking the boat out. The helms are all trained to a high standard (Irish Dragon Boat Association) and are very capable. In the unlikely event of a capsize, the buoyancy aid will keep you afloat and enable you to reach the dockside. Once a year, the coach organizes a planned capsize drill to give people a chance to experience what it is like.

Who coaches the team?

The team is coached by Julie Doyle. She is a member of the Great Britain Dragon Boat racing team, and now lives in Ireland.  Julie is the Chairman of the Irish Dragon Boat Association (IDBA), which is the governing body of the sport of dragon boat racing in Ireland. If you want more information on the IDBA, have a look at their website (www.dragonboat.ie)

How often do you train?

Training is twice a week from March to October/November on 8:45am Saturday morning and 6:30pm Wednesday evening. You decide when you want to come and there is a system in place to “sign up” for the sessions. It makes it easier for the person who is helming the boat that day to plan the session. If you decide to become a member you will be given access to the Teamer system, but you don’t need to think about it initially.

What does it cost to become a member?

The membership fee is €90 euro for the year. We try to cover our own costs as much as possible and this fee covers clubhouse costs, insurance, replacement and equipment You are welcome to come along for two sessions and then decide if you want to join.

Is there medical supervision?

Ailish Daly from the Beacon Hospital gives us advice but there is no medical supervision at the training sessions. We take the approach that each person is responsible for their own well-being so if you feel tired you can do a half session or if you are in the boat and feel you can’t continue paddling, you just stop and take a breather.

What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a swelling caused by damage to the lymph system and can occur for a number of reasons.  In those treated for breast cancer it may develop in the arm or around the area of surgery or radiation. We advise that our members with lymphodema wear a compression sleeve when paddling.

News & Events

  • Operation Transformation

    Like thousands and thousands of Irish television viewers we’re glued to this year’s Operation Transformation on RTE One. This year, one of the leaders is Sarah O’Callaghan. Sarah has lymphoedema as a result of breast cancer treatment. Thank you Sarah for placing a spotlight on this condition.

    Plurabelle Paddlers is among the 150+ dragon boat racing teams worldwide for women who have experienced breast cancer, many of whom have Lymphoedema. Read about dragon boat racing for those who have experienced breast cancer on our FAQ page. If you have had a breast cancer diagnosis and fancy giving dragon boat racing a go, visit our Try it Out page.

    Good luck Sarah on Operation Transformation. We’ll be rooting for you & for all of this year’s leaders.

  • HERE BE DRAGONS – Plurabelle memoir is out now!

    ‘HERE BE DRAGONS’ is a memoir of the Plurabelle Paddlers (though don’t worry, we’re not finished paddling and partying just yet!). The book includes lots of photos as well as short articles (written by various club members) on the formation of the club, the introduction of dragon boat racing to Ireland and the various regattas that we have competed in over the years. There are also contributions from foreign clubs and memories from Plurabelles who have paddled with clubs in distant parts of the world.
    As you know, we’re a shy and retiring bunch (ahem!). We don’t like to brag, but some of the early reviews include phrases like ‘the quality of the paper and the clarity of the photos are amazing'; ‘a book to cherish'; ‘smashing photos and well-written’. The book details ‘challenges, determination, fun, laughter and tears, but most of all friendship and comradeship.’
    The book (which costs €10) isn’t on general sale, but if you’d like to get your hands on a copy simply email info@plurabellepaddlers.com and we’ll be in touch.  So, go on, treat yourself (or someone you love) to this beautiful book that tells our incredible story.

  • ‘All in a Row’ – Paddling on the River Liffey

    The weather gods were kind to us on Saturday 9th December for the ‘All in a Row’ charity fundraiser in aid of the RNLI and the Irish Underwater Search and Recovery (thankfully there was no snow, but boy, it was FREEZING!). The Plurabelles were on the river Liffey decked out in Santa hats and fairy lights (I guess it’s no wonder that we were a favourite with the snap-happy tourists!)

    Anna Livia is the name given to the personification of the River Liffey (and the name of our boats!). James Joyce named the heroine in Finnegans Wake Anna Livia Plurabelle. You could say that we were at ‘home’ on 9th December, on this wonderful river in our great city. View photos

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In Assciation with Breast Cancer Ireland and the HSE