Founded in 2009, Empire Dragons NYC is New York City’s first and only breast cancer survivor team of dragon boaters.
The team of cancer survivors competes in international competitions, promotes dragon boating as part of a healthy lifestyle, and advocates for the environment.
Exter, who also goes by “Scout,” is a seven-year breast cancer survivor. She joined the team five years ago.
“I had never been part of an athletic team before,” she said. “The camaraderie among team members, having coaching, people really make an investment in you and your physical health.
“Even though we’re not a support group, being with a group of people who have been through similar journeys has made a tremendous difference,” Exter added.
Scout joined Empire Dragons NYC after coming across dragon boat racing one day while bike riding through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. A longtime fan of canoeing and kayaking, she learned about the team after doing some research.
“It’s been an extraordinary experience,” she said.
Scout said team members show up for one another, whether they’re going through physical ailments or celebrating a family member’s big day. She said she loves seeing the growth of the team and the level of physical fitness members achieve.
Although she’s among the team’s recreational paddlers, Empire Dragons NYC participates in an international paddling competition among breast cancer survivors. Last summer in Italy, the team placed sixth in an event with over 130 teams.
This year, the team has already been winning gold in races. Scout said they hope to represent the United States next year when the competition heads to France.
“We’re two boats, but we’re one team,” she said. “That’s pretty amazing.”