Based in Grand Canal Dock central Dublin, the Plurabelle Paddlers was founded in 2010 by Fiona Tiernan. After treatment for a recurrence of breast cancer, Fiona decided to manage her health by getting fit. She was inspired by the breast cancer dragon boat movement first pioneered in Canada 12 years earlier. Research by Dr Don McKenzie of the University of British Columbia, had shown that regular physical exercise supports breast cancer recovery.
Looking to keep herself as well as possible and have fun, Fiona persuaded a friend, Marian O’Dea, and an experienced dragon boat coach, Julie Doyle, to form Ireland’s first dragon boat club and called it the Plurabelle Paddlers. With funding from the HSE and Breast Cancer Ireland, and support from friends and family, they managed to buy two dragon boats – Anna and Livia. And so began the support, adventures and friendships that come from being a Plurabelle Paddler.
In 2012, our founder Fiona Tiernan secured a tempoary clubhouse at the end of Hanover Quay. With a lot of work and generous donations, it became our base for off-the-water training and most importantly have a cup of tea and catch up. In 2019 we moved to a brand-new purpose-built clubhouse just across the dock on Charlotte's Quay. Here we do off-the-water training, Pilates, hold meetings and host visiting dragon boat teams. But most importantly, our clubhouse provides a space for members who are unable to paddle to keep in touch.
“When you’ve had cancer you are told there are so many things you cannot do ever again. The walls close in. Paddling this dragon boat is the antithesis of all that. Every single one of these women has faced down being treated for breast cancer, what it does to your life, and your body. I have laughed more during and after these gruelling training sessions than for some time. I am not normal yet, I may not ever be normal again. But for a couple of hours a week I am an Amazonian, in the company of fellow warriors.”
“It’s not for us the ‘poor me’ mentality. We are determined to not let cancer win - life wins every time. We tick every box: outdoor fun, get fit, make friends, inclusive, affordable, supportive and community-based. All shapes and sizes, Northside, Southside, professional, unemployed, race, nationality, bald, hairy, bald again!! We are winners every day.”
“Imagine a sport in which you participate competitively whether you are eighteen or eighty, whether you are male or female, whether you are large or small. Imagine a sport that you can start in your later years, even if you have had cancer… That sport exists - it is dragon boating.
“Imagine a post-breast-cancer support group that rarely talks about cancer, but mostly talks about health, fitness and, of course, dragon boat racing. Imagine the best group of friends who, like you, have all recovered from breast cancer and want to make a better life for themselves. This club is the Plurabelle Paddlers.”
From fundraisers and competitions, to evening outings and fitness trips, we have travelled everywhere from Nottingham and Athy, to Florence and Florida to take part in dragon boating competitions.
Every September we co-host the International Dublin Dragon Boat Regatta with the Irish Dragon Boat Association at the Grand Canal Dock.
Our board of directors
- Angela Collins
- Anne-Marie Derham
- Margaret Fitzsimons
- Jackie Guyett
- Margaret Mulcahy
- Barbara O'Driscoll
- Susan Rowe
- Fiona Slevin
- Rose Thorne
RCN 2007 9857
Company Number 496744