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Paddling with the Taranaki Dragons

Taranaki Dragons
Taranaki Dragons

The Taranaki Dragons have got a lot more puff these days and they are also working on a new profile.

A $4,200 grant from the TSB Community Trust back in March 2017 assisted the dragon-boating club to buy a set of carbon-fibre paddles for their new boat and also develop a new logo.

Last year, the club’s membership grew, so members decided to get a second boat.

The Waitara-based club’s boats, Oranga pai (good health) and Hauora (well-being), can each fit 20 paddlers, a sweep and a drummer.

Team co captain Kathryn Ham says Taranaki’s first dragon boat slipped into the Waitara River during the summer of 2007/2008. The initiative was launched by two breast cancer survivors, who had heard about the benefits of the sport at a national conference in Rotorua.

Dragon-boat racing, which originated in China more than 2000 years ago, is an ideal exercise for women who have had breast cancer. That’s because it’s a non-weight-bearing exercise that helps strengthen upper body muscles after mastectomies. It also helps prevents lymphoedema.

“Just being part of the team helps their wellbeing,” Kathryn says. “There’s not a level of fitness required to paddle, but paddling builds your fitness.”

However, not all members of the Taranaki Dragons have had breast cancer, says co-president Kate McCormack.

She says the sport is open to all people and caters for all ages and stages, there is even a paddler in her 80s.

The octogenarian is an inspiration to everyone. “She loves it and can’t wait until the next paddle. Her biggest regret is that she didn’t find paddling earlier,” Kate says.

Both women say it’s great to be out on the water, paddling past kayaks and boats, enjoying the outdoors.

“It’s so much fun. They are a brilliant group of people who all get on well. People feel comfortable in our team,” Kathryn says.

If the tides are high enough, the Dragons practice on the Waitara River every Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon. “People are always welcome – we love to see new people. By having the new boat we can take both boats out.”

They even race each other, which members greatly enjoy.

The Taranaki Dragons compete in three to four regattas each year. In April the nationals were held at Lake Karapiro.

“We really want to acknowledge to ongoing support from the TSB Community Trust in helping to further our sport,” Kathryn says.

2017/2018 season began on September 24th. If you are interested in paddling or require any information please email Taranaki Dragons at