The Dragon and the SurviveOars

Last month I saw a long, brightly painted rowboat sitting at the docks, along with a smaller, plainer one, and as it was during the Bird Festival, I thought perhaps they had brought them in so that more of the birders would have safe access to the good birding in the back bay. It looked to me like it could hold about twenty people and I thought it was a great idea since some years back, a group went out in kayaks and some inexperienced paddlers got into a very dangerous situation with several people in a life-or-death situation and those who tried to rescue them were in turn put at risk in a treacherous situation. Fortunately all were rescued without injury or loss of life, but I’m sure it was a huge concern for the organizers of the Bird Festival in future years.

At the dock...

At the dock…

Then, in the past couple of weeks I’ve seen it again, docked where the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol have their boats and personal watercraft for rescue and other work. I noticed the name on it: Joanna’s Joy. I started wondering who is Joanna and who takes this out since I walk the waterfront nearly every day and have never seen anyone in or near it.

Joanna's Joy

Joanna’s Joy

Then, yesterday afternoon I took a very long walk, past the harbor, around where the breakwater meets Morro Rock, and onto the beach. I stayed out much later than usual and didn’t start back until almost sunset. It was getting close to dark by the time I reached the north end of the docks and a fishing boat was also approaching. I couldn’t resist walking onto the T-pier to see what they caught, and as I did, I saw a couple of people down near “Joanna’s Joy,” then a few more. I thought maybe they had been out paddling and were stowing their gear as it was late. But, within a matter of minutes, a larger group of women and a few men assembled, a bright flock with a flaming pink life vest here, a fluorescent pink baseball cap there and pale and brilliant pink headbands and jackets scattered throughout the group. As I took a closer look, I saw they were preparing to go out for a sunset paddle.

Rower's Assembling

Rowers Assembling

I called down below to a woman and asked about her group and she called back up to me that they were the Central Coast mumble mumble. After she repeated it two more times, I was embarrassed to ask a third time and so just asked if I might take a few photos for my blog.

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Ready, set...


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They back-rowed from the dock and then gracefully turned and paddled north toward the breakwater and Morro Rock.

Heading North

Heading North

I watched the fishing boat tie up and decided I better get moving toward home as it was getting dark and although the area is perfectly safe, I’m a klutz and there are many trip hazards along the way. Walking south along the waterfront, I saw Joanna’s Joy and her lively crew rowing strongly from the north to the south and was able to snap a couple more photos of them silhouetted against the darkening sky and water. I was filled with joy and admiration for these ladies and gentlemen who choose to live life on their terms.

Sunset Paddle

Sunset Paddle

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When I got home, I told Harold about them and mentioned the way the boat was painted. As I spoke, I recalled several cyber friends who have written of rowing and racing dragon boats and it occurred to me that the crew I’d seen must be dragon boat rowers.  Enter Uncle Google: a quick search on Central Coast Rowing, Central Coast Dragon boats, etc. brought me to Central Coast SurviveOars. According to their website, they are part of Team Survivor, San Luis Obispo, an organization for women who have survived all types of cancer. Team Survivor is a national organization dedicated to “foster and promote exercise opportunities for women affected by cancer” which the San Luis Obispo group does through their dragon boating team, the SurviveOars . The local group’s blog isn’t current but you can see it here. I love the concept of the parent organization and they have different types of programs in many areas so if you or someone you know is in cancer treatment or recovery and might benefit and appreciate the camaraderie and support, check out Team Survivor. All are welcome and some of the activities they enjoy include:

  • Walk/Run Groups (“Walk & Talk”)
  • Dragon Boat Racing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Yoga
  • Cycling (Road and Mountain)
  • Golf Clinics
  • Pilates
  • Triathlon Training

I hope you are as inspired by them as I am. They refuse to let their cancer control or define them.


5 thoughts on “The Dragon and the SurviveOars

  1. thank you so much for the pictures and write up..well put together…it is quite an experience on the water….especially this time of day….. you might wish to join us as we also have cancer survivor supporters on the boat…..Where is your home in Oregon? I also have a place in Coos Bay…the closest paddling group is in Salem which is a major bummer…as I really miss it when we travel up there…..bonnievast


  2. What a beautiful tribute to our group! The photos are amazing and your writing is wonderful. Please come out and paddle with us when you are able – we would love to have you join us! We go out Tuesday and Thursday evenings, as well as Saturday mornings.


  3. Bonnie and Hayley, thank you so much for your kind words and offer. I only have 2 weeks left in Morro Bay before I return to Oregon to my awakening garden and small nursery. I would love to join you but don’t know if I’ll be able to before we head north, but if not now, I will for sure when I return next fall.

    Bonnie, I live in a small town called Shedd, about half way between Eugene and Salem on the I-5 corridor, close to Corvallis.

    I’m not a survivor, but am a supporter. My sister is a breast cancer survivor and my grandson lost a leg at 7 years old (he’s 19 now) to Ewing’s Sarcoma. His friends call him Shark Bait, as that is the story he chooses to tell 🙂 He has an amazing sense of humor and hasn’t let it slow him in any way.

    My husband and I are new to paddling, having just purchased our first kayak. We’ve only been out a few times, but we’re looking forward to getting more experience on still water at home in Oregon so we’ll be more competent when we return.

    Happy paddling!


    • Just read recently about a team of men rowers from OSU who had their boat wrap around a bridge piling as the river was running so fast and high and I recalled your comment there. They were all rescued safely, fortunately.


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