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Gitta westra

I think it was fate:

If we would not have moved to the Central Coast almost 4 years ago and not build a home where we did and had an “Open House” for neighbors once the building was done, if one of the neighbors would not have known we were Dutch and not have been involved in the SLO opera, I would most likely have never known about dragon boating.

As luck would have it, one of my neighbors did know we are Dutch, she was involved in SLO Opera, where she had met another Dutch friend. She asked if she could bring her to our Open House and that is how I met Bernadette Tellefson. I was immediately intrigued by the dragon boating she told me about.

Long story short, I joined as a supporter, loved it, not only because of the great workout, but also being out on the water is magical, seeing the wildlife and different weather

patterns is awesome. Creating new friendships in an area where we did not know anyone has been very inspiring in many ways. I became more and more involved in the group and currently I am the Registration Coordinator for new members and part of the Steering Committee. Recently also appointed as an Assistant Coach and Caller.

Thank you Bernadette for introducing me to a new sport and being a great friend. It has made all the difference for us to adjust to this new area.

Paddles Up!!!

Patrice Sanchez

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I was working out at the gym one day and my gym coach was saying that she was now coaching the dragon boat team, here in Morro Bay. I knew that it was a cancer survivor team so I thought I would bring my girlfriend, Jacqueline, out on the boat (Jacqueline is a breast cancer survivor). Although I am a cancer survivor myself, I free much more passionate about others who had gone through more difficult journey’s, which includes my younger sister who died from breast cancer at age 48.

My intention was to take Jacqueline out and introduce her to dragon boating but not continue myself. Once I got out on the boat, however, my heart soared! I immediately knew that it was something I wanted to do from now on. Since that time, about 5 years ago, I have competed all over the country and internationally in Vancouver, BC and Szeged, Hungary.

I am still driving up to Berkeley but my heart is with the SurviveOars. I love dragon boat!!!


Jacqueline whitesides

About 16 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my left breast.  It was a devastating diagnosis.  It was frightening and what made it worse was looking at my children’s eyes and seeing how this was affecting them. 

I was lucky, my cancer was found very early and I had lots of options.  I also had my son Travis, daughter Tiffany, my many friends and family members helping me through all of it.  It is so important to have all these people help you with the doctors, the appointments, the hospital and the confusion!  I learned always have someone with me because in my state of mind I could not remember anything and I needed so much help. I did not know about Central Coast Survivors at the time.

 Around 2015, my very great friend Patrice took me to a Saturday Dragon Boat paddle. 


There were mostly women there and they were friendly and helpful.  I managed to listen to the instructions and do an hour of paddling!  Yes I was sore using all those muscles!  We started going every Saturday morning, improving and not so sore anymore.  I even added some Monday morning paddles.

Unfortunately the most horrible event in my life happened January 6, 2017, my son Travis passed away.  I was catatonic for months and months, barely able to get up out of bed and only doing the minimum each day.  I quit paddling.   I received a beautiful card from the SurviveOARS and a couple of these acquaintances kept in touch.  Perhaps a year later Coach Tara and Patrice arranged for me, my daughter and sister-in-law to come to Morro Bay for a paddle in honor of Travis.  It was beautiful.  We paddled to the Rock, we talked about Travis and then we all put long stemmed peach roses in the bay.  I was so moved by the support and love from this group of people! 


lynn watkins

Outside, that’s where I wanted to be. Growing up I could roam in the pasture or down in the oaks, or hit tennis balls against the garage. Recess and P.E. were my favorite school periods. My husband and I cycled every weekend and took the kids skiing and backpacking every year. It’s not surprising that I love the dragon boat.

In 2010 cancer and chemo slowed me down a bit. The resources in our county put me back on my feet. I immediately started the Cancer Well Fit strengthening program. Wellness Kitchen gave me food for healthy eating. Hearst Cancer and Resource Center offered me unlimited support and a variety of classes. All this free of charge!

In 2015 the cancer returned. Once it was wiped out, I finally got on the boat with SurviveOars.


 It took several starts and stops but I eventually started to paddle again. I am so grateful for everyone’s support.first ten strokes, I blurted out, “You guys don’t mess around!” With all paddlers in sync that boat moved fast, cutting through the still waters of the bay.

The fresh air, seeing the big rock and the little otters, being with like-minded, outdoorsy people is wonderful. The team work required pulls the crew together. Listening to the coach and steersperson focuses attention. Trying to improve the techniques of the stroke is engaging. The strength built physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually is most certainly empowering.

I enjoy the recreational aspects, the technical aspects, the physical aspects, and the social aspects of paddling in the boat. Every aspect challenges me to better myself. It’s the power of the paddle….the lure of the dragon.


sandy mitchell and bill raver

We started paddling with the SurviveOars in 2012, as supporters.

We love the teamwork aspect of dragon boating. Everyone has to work together, the same movement at the same time, to make the boat move. When the timing is perfect, there is no better feeling on the water!

The team power extends to off-the-water aspects of life as well. Since joining, both of us have had close relatives experience very difficult cancer journeys. The encouragement and information we received from our teammates was invaluable.

We love paddling with this amazing group!!