Why I Paddle: Delaine Swearman

My name is Delaine Swearman and I am a paddler with the Pittsburgh Paddlefish Dragon Boat Team. I have been a member of TRRA and the Pittsburgh Paddlefish since 2017. My history with TRRA goes back to 2012 when I started paddling in the summer as part of the adaptive dragon boat team. I qualified as an adaptive paddler due to autism and various mental health disabilities, and my psychiatrist at the time suggested dragon boating as a therapeutic activity for me.

When I started, I was suffering from an eating disorder and paddling gave me something positive to focus on. Plus I needed to eat enough to have the energy for each practice. I wanted to be a strong and effective paddler more than I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to be healthy so I could race. Dragon boating was a motivation to recover.

Even though I only paddled in the summer months, I considered myself a “dragon boater” in the spring, fall, and winter too. I was fiercely loyal to the adaptive team and paddled with them for 5 summers. My eating disorder, overall mental health, and paddling all improved over time.

Sadly, the adaptive dragon boat team was discontinued, but in 2017 I was ready to move up to “bigger and better things”. I was, after all, an experienced “dragon boater.” I was up for the challenge of joining the Pittsburgh Paddlefish, a year-round, competitive team.

I am doing much better with my eating disorder, and paddling is still a big part of what keeps me healthy. I paddle to be around women who are focused on strength and performance, not appearance. I paddle for the mental health benefits: It feels good when I have a goal to work towards when I notice improvements in myself, when I belong to a team when I follow through on commitments, and when I achieve success. I paddle because I am a “dragon boater” and that’s what “dragon boaters” do.

-Delaine Swearman, Paddlefish

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