NORWAY — An ancient watercraft sport and pastime will soon come to Lake Pennesseewassee and be available for individuals, families, school groups and other community organizations to participate in.

Maine’s first dragon boat club is coming to Norway and will be based at Lakeside Norway. The new dragon boat will be delivered as soon as the ‘ice is out,’ according to Maine Dragon Boat Club President Sherri Otterson. Supplied photo

With the help of family and associates including Jason Shires of Lakeside Norway, Sherri Otterson of Norway, has spent several years – including COVID interruptions – working on her vision to introduce the paddling tradition to Oxford Hills. Her initial inspiration came from working and volunteering at the Cancer Resource Center, where she learned that the sport can make a difference in quality of life and strength-building for breast cancer patients.

“It was Dr. (Peter) Rubin, an oncologist who comes to the hospital once a week, who told me about dragon boating,” Otterson told the Advertiser Democrat. “It helps them rebuild themselves during treatment and recovery.”

Challenging the upper body is a relatively new concept in the fight against breast cancer. Until the mid-nineties it was believed that too much physical exertion could result in lymphedema. Sports medicine specialists in British Columbia made it a mission to debunk the theory while also researching ways for cancer patients to get exercise in safe and collaborative environments.

While canoeing is ubiquitous throughout Canada and the United States, it was deemed to be unsuitable for patients who may not have the strength to operate a tippy watercraft. The search led to dragon boats, which are much more stable and have space for up to 20 paddlers per boat, and provide the means for people of all skill sets and abilities to paddle collaboratively.

The sport blossomed in Canada and has since spread to the United States and other countries.  Dragon boating may be new to Oxford Hills, but Otterson has been acquainted with it for years, having worked and lived in Japan and Korea with her husband Brian for almost 30 years. Stateside, she already has coordinated group kayak programs for cancer patients through her work at the Cancer Resource Center.


She has attended dragon boat festivals in other states and trained for the operational aspects of running not just a sporting club but also to organize it as part of cancer recovery and therapy.

Now, Otterson and her team have established Maine’s first dragon boating club. She is so committed to the concept and to recovery for breast cancer survivors that she has purchased the vessel, which was manufactured in Montreal and will be delivered to Lakeside Norway as soon as Pennesseewassee is free of ice. Having established the club as a 501 c3 charitable organization, the board is now fundraising to reimburse the start-up costs and establish a fund to maintain, insure and store the dragon boat.

A core group of club founders has spent the last few months meeting to get non-profit status established and now their attention is turning to fundraising campaigns and organizing the club to welcome new members as well as people interested in trying it out.

A dragon boat closely resembling this one will soon become a staple on Lake Pennesseewassee in Norway. Supplied photo

“Our headquarters will be in the yellow trolley house, across from Lakeside Norway,” Otterson said. “If an individual wishes to try dragon boating, we will have scheduled paddling sessions they can sign up for. We will have sessions dedicated for cancer survivors to paddle during dedicated intervals. But we want as many to participate as possible, so family groups, student groups and  community support organizations are welcome. It is a great way for businesses to support employee teambuilding.

“We are doing it for fun, for all ages and abilities. But if some people want to develop competitive teams for racing, we will organize athletic events to accommodate them.”

The dragon boat will hold up to 20 paddlers. A steerer works at the back of the boat and a drummer sits in the front, using a drum’s rhythm to set the pace for the paddling crew. It can be effectively operated by as few as eight paddlers so a “full boat” is not required to participate.

Otterson says they are in the process of building a website and social media accounts. Donations to help cover the purchase and delivery of the dragon boat to Norway can be made at the club’s GoFundMe web page at: Supporters may also send tax-deductible donations to Maine Dragon Boat Club, PO Box 551, Norway, ME 04268. Email inquiries can be made to And anyone who wants to talk with her to find out more information and become involved should call 890-7367.

With delivery of Lake Pennessewassee’s first dragon boat expected within the next few weeks, Otterson says details for membership, participation and support will coincide with the boat’s initial launch date.

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