They wouldn't have met if it wasn't for breast cancer, but now they have, Boobops paddlers have their very own sisterhood.

Te Puke's Judith Butler is coach of the Tauranga-based Boobops dragon boat team, made up entirely of breast cancer survivors.

Founded in 2003, Judith joined Boobops in 2006.

''I saw something in the paper and contacted them and gave it a go,'' she says. ''You just get hooked, it's amazing.


''It's like a sisterhood, another family - the camaraderie - and it's competitive.''

Boobops' 30 team members range in age from 39 to 79. During the dragon boat season that runs from September to April, they train two nights a week and Saturday mornings at Sulphur Point in Tauranga.

Two have-a-go days have been organised for this coming Sunday and September 27.

Boobops are also running a raffle during September and October with the winning tickets drawn at a pop-up shop they are opening over Labour weekend at Mount College.

''This will be quality preloved clothing at bargain prices and will be a fun event,'' says Judith.

Fundraising is for the trip to Ashburton the team hopes to make in 2021 for the national championships.

''It is hard to get funding at the moment, so we're going to have to do the hard yards ourselves.''

While competing internationally is unlikely to be possible for some time, in the past the team has travelled to international events in Australia, Hong Kong, the USA and Italy.


''The travel involved is amazing and the sport in itself, after you've had breast cancer, is a positive thing.''

Judith has over the years gone from paddler to captain with last season her first as coach.

It isn't something she needed to gain qualifications to do.

''We are very competitive, but it's the fun aspect as well.''

At one time there was a good sized group of women from Te Puke involved in Boobops, but that has dwindled as people have moved, and at the moment it's just Judith and Dawn Bartie.

''We do have a couple coming from Te Puke to the open day though,'' says Judith.


''We want to reach out to as many people as possible and if they can give it a go, then that's great, but even if they just want to come along and meet the girls as a supporter rather than as a hard-out paddler, then that's fine too.''

While club members are supportive of one another and their wellbeing, the ''breast cancer survivor'' element isn't something that is dwelt on.

''We support people through it, but we don't really focus on that,'' says Judith.

''There isn't anything negative - we would never have met if we didn't have breast cancer, and we are great mates now.''

Boobops had a great season last summer with three silvers at regionals in March and were well prepared for nationals at Karapiro before they were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dragon boating is a growing sport and there are eight breast cancer teams in New Zealand.


The next International Breast Paddlers Commission World Championships are scheduled for Lake Karapiro in 2022, with over 5000 breast cancer survivors from all over the world expected to take part.

■ The two have-a-go days will start at 9.30am at the shed on the opposite side of the road from the boat ramps off Keith Allen Drive. Anyone intending to go along is asked to contact Jill O'Reilly on 027 485 5958 or email: