In ancient mythology, the phoenix is a brilliant bird with a fire spirit, colorful feathers and a tail of gold and scarlet.
Near the end of its life, after living at least 500 years, the phoenix builds itself a nest of twigs. Then, the nest ignites. Both the nest and the bird burn fiercely.
But from the ashes, a new, young phoenix arises — reborn and destined to live as long as its old self.
The women of the Pink Phoenix dragon boat team consider the mythical bird’s triumphant return to life to be symbolic of their own rebirth. All 85 women who paddle with the team have at one time been given a breast cancer diagnosis.
Like the phoenix, they’ve risen from the ashes to embark on a new life, a renewed commitment to life after surviving cancer.
Hard to miss
The women of the Pink Phoenix dragon boat team are hard to miss.
They wear pink life jackets. They carry paddles emblazoned with pink-colored “Pink Phoenix” stickers. And many wear pink clothing — hats, shirts, tank tops and gloves in various hues of the color.
As the summer sun begins to set in Portland, two boats full of pink pull away from the dock at the RiverPlace Marina. After navigating through the moored boats in the marina, the paddlers propel the boat into the Willamette River.
“Take it away,” the caller in the front of the boat hollers.
At that, the 20 women on board drive the blades of their paddles into the water. After each stroke, they lean forward, their shoulders over their hips, and drive their paddles into the water again. Their bodies snap back as they use their cores to muscle the paddle through the river’s water.
The women spend the next hour practicing various aspects of dragon boat racing. They perform a series of power sets, paddling at full speed and strength for 30 seconds. They practice their race starts, making sure everyone is moving in unison to get the boat off to a strong start.