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Flowers on the Water

Flowers on the Water® is possibly one of the most emotional and important traditions within dragon boat paddling for breast cancer survivors.

Flowers on the Water® is an important tradition in breast cancer survivor dragon boat racing. It is meaningful for both paddlers and spectators who are family and friends of breast cancer survivors.

This very special ceremony highlights the unique bond and mutual support and love amongst breast cancer paddlers.

Flowers on the Water ® is a very special ceremony conducted by members of Dragons Abreast Australia to honour those who have, and are continuing to travel, the path of a breast cancer diagnosis, as well as remembering those who have lost their battle. The ceremony is trademarked to maintain its significance and to protect the dignity and respect to all.

A Flowers on the Water Ceremony in Peterborough, Canada, 2010

The Ceremony

The ceremony usually occurs after the final the breast cancer survivor races in a regatta.

Dragon boats carrying breast cancer survivors raft to join together, usually at a place on the water where spectators on shore can participate in the ceremony. Each paddler will be holding a flower.

The race caller, or another commentator, will offer some heartfelt comments about breast cancer awareness. It is preferred that this person is a breast cancer survivor. These comments are generally aimed at:

  • The importance of celebrating the lives of breast cancer survivors
  • The need to provide hope to those who currently battle breast cancer
  • The role of ceremony in honouring those who have tragically lost their battle with breast cancer

Following these comments, music will begin to play.

In Australia, Flowers on the Water® is traditionally accompanied by the classic John Williamson’s song “Flower On The Water”

With the commencement of music, paddlers will raise their flower above their head, while holding hands with those around them in the boat.

They may sway to the music. If spectators on shore have flowers, they will raise their flowers and sway in time with the music also.

When signaled, the flowers will be tossed into the water. This action is to celebrate survival and to remember those who have not survived.

Boats rafting in formation, Darling Harbour, 2011
To hear your voice, to see you smile
To sit and talk to you awhile
To be together the same old way
That would be our greatest wish today
To hear you laugh, to hear you cry
Or just a chance to say 'goodbye'
To say the things we didn't say
That would be our greatest wish today
But all we can do is throw a flower on the water
Look for the sun through the rain
Lay a little frangipani gentle on the water
Remember how we loved you
To comb your hair, to lace your shoes
Buy some flowers, let you choose
A phone call when you're away
Just to see if you're okay

Flower on The Water

Songwriters: John Williamson

The Spiritual Significance of Flowers On The Water®

There is no cure for breast cancer, and most treatment regimens are invasive and grueling with uncomfortable side effects. The breast cancer journey is one that others may try to understand but can never fully appreciate until they have traveled it themselves.


This very important ceremony unites all breast cancer racing teams and recognises the unique bond breast cancer survivors the world over share.


It is a ceremony that not only honours those who have lost their battle to breast cancer, but also acknowledges and celebrates the wonderful gift of life while reflecting on the journey of so many amongst us living with breast cancer who continue to fight the disease every day.

Holding A Flowers On The Water® Ceremony

Within Australia, any dragon boat club wishing to conduct a Flowers on the Water® Ceremony must apply to Dragons Abreast Australia and have that application endorsed. To apply to hold a ceremony, please follow this link.