02-Aug-2013 07:22 p.m.

Paddling For Hope 2012

Breast Cancer is the leading cause of death in New Zealand women. Each year one in seven mothers, sisters, daughters, or wives will be diagnosed with this awful disease. But if they discover it early enough, most of these women will survive.  Raising awareness about how to look for changes in your breasts is what internationally-recognized “Breast Cancer Action Month” or Pink October is all about, and also why hundreds of kiwi Stand Up Paddlers dress up in crazy pink costumes and race around Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour in the Starboard Paddle For Hope every year.
 
“We care about our women, and we want to help save lives, says event organizer Victoria Stuart, of Starboard NZ.  “We also want to improve the lives of those who have had breast cancer, by fundraising for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation’s post-surgery rehabilitation programmes, and by developing a Stand Up Paddle board rehab programme for breast cancer survivors.”  
 
Together with a great team of volunteers, in 2011 Victoria and breast cancer survivor Karin Horen came up with the Starboard Paddle For Hope, an annual festival of Stand Up Paddle boarding, with a beginner’s SUP Clinic, a SUP Yoga session and a fun teams relay race.  
 
“The event is a celebration of life, highlighting the important role of health and exercise in our lives and in recovering from breast cancer, and it is also a brilliant day out on the water to launch of the New Zealand summer race season.
 
“From Olympic athletes to grandmas who have survived breast cancer, right through to school-children, we get a huge cross-section of the community entering the race.  This year Emirates Team NZ skipper Dean Barker entered with a couple of teams of sailors, and then a team of Olympic sailors got together and called themselves the “Real Sailors” for a bit of fun.  The Real Sailors proved themselves on the watery arena this time, placing first overall.  But the friendly competition happened off the water just as much as on, with teams and individuals competing to win the top fundraising prize, best costume prizes, or to bid the highest for the Nikki Gregg Fitness board donated by Starboard to auction. Everyone made such a huge effort,” says Victoria.
 
In its inaugural year the Paddle For Hope raised $35,000 for The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.  This year the event almost doubled in size, and raised $55,000 toward breast cancer rehab.  Karin’s message of early detection and looking after your self also came through strongly.
 
“Breast cancer touches everyone,” says Karin, “and everyone can touch breast cancer, even just a little.  Early detection saved my life, and I feel so blessed that I am now carrying the flag for awareness, for the friends I lost, and for the future of my three daughters.”
 
Drawn to stand up paddling just three years ago, after she had been given the “all clear” from the cancer that she was diagnosed with at the age of 26, Karin is hooked on both the physical and mental benefits of the sport.  
 
“I love the motion, the fitness side of it, the challenge, the fresh air and smell of the ocean, the meditation and the hope!  Riding on a board, riding on water is an amazing feeling and after a race I feel a huge sense of achievement.  It takes me back twelve years to when I was challenging fear.  Also my core has improved, my right side has strengthened, and the fact that it’s social makes me happy!
 
“There are various ways to heal yourself after breast cancer and stand up can have so many benefits, especially when you go through surgery under the arm (axillary).  If stand up paddling was around twelve years ago in Israel when I had my surgery (a lumpectomy, followed by chemo and radiotherapy) I’m sure I would not have had to struggle as much with my right arm rotation and my balance.  It’s a shock after treatment and after surgery – both mental and physical.  I went swimming then worked out at the gym for twelve years, but now I combine yoga on board, bikram yoga and SUP for rotations, core and stamina, but most importantly, for my soul.  This combination is freeing, it’s so healing.”
 
One of the highlights for Karin at the Paddle For Hope was during the yoga on water session led by Lululemon Yoga Ambassador Ange Gervan.  “All I could see was pink all around, more than 100 people practicing yoga on the viaduct steps and the sun blazing.  It was just surreal, such a strong, happy moment of victory.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to reach so many good souls around the globe.
Following the success of Paddle For Hope in NZ, Karin now has plans underway for an event in her native Israel in June 2013, and also in Sydney, where she worked as an ambassador for the Breast Cancer Foundation before moving to New Zealand with her partner in 2009.  
 
“My vision is global, international. This disease does not discriminate by continent or religion, gender or age. It's everywhere.  
 
“I want to say thank you to all of the amazing people who helped us to make this happen, and to start something new that will be like a wave of hope.”
 
To find out more, make a donation, or buy one of the limited edition Starboard Painted Warrior charity fundraising boards please visit www.paddleforhope.co.nz


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