A team of breast cancer survivors from Kitchener-Waterloo are taking rowing to the next level.

The Waterloo Paddling Club Dragon Flyers will be heading to Florence, Italy to compete on the river Arno in a friendly competition against breast cancer survivors from around the world.

The group was first formed five summers ago and has grown to a squad of 27 women who are all survivors.

“We work hard on the boat but we are also there to support each other,” says captain Emily Carruthers.

The team meets twice a week at Laurel Creek Conservation Area from May to September to train.

Joanne Beattie is the oldest team member at 78 years old and says she is looking forward to travelling to Italy.

“To meet different team members, you know, from other countries. It’s just going to be a wondering experience,” says Beattie.

The team coach and steersperson Bronwyn Forest is not a cancer survivor but she says the other women feel like family to her. She will be heading to Italy with the team to participate in the event too.

“I don’t think they realize how much they impact me,” says Forest. “It’s going to be very emotionally rewarding … to be part of that and to witness something like that.”

After the regatta, some of the women will also be making stops in Venice and Rome to make the most of their getaway.

Dragon-boat racing is considered the perfect activity for women who have survived breast cancer because the upper body movement is crucial to recovery.

The International Breast Cancer Paddler’s Commission Dragon Boat Festival is held every four years in different locations throughout the world.