The Folly Beach Wahines -- a bunch of surfers who once a year race Chinese-style dragon boats -- have participated in all three previous Dragon Boat Charleston festival events, but on Saturday, coming together meant a lot more.
In 2008, the Wahines formed to race in honor of Vicky Horres, a long-time "surf mom" who first developed breast cancer when she was pregnant nearly 30 years ago. She loved coming to the festival, but this year, she didn't make it.
On Easter weekend, the 62-year-old lost her battle to cancer.
"Vicky was our ya-ya," said Hale Horstman. "She didn't surf, but she raised surfers."
Horres' son, Dixson Horres, and others on the Wahines team described Saturday's event as "kind of hard" and particularly emotional.
"It (the festival) meant a lot to my mom," he said. "She was trying so hard to make it to this. It was what she really wanted to do. This was her favorite thing to do of the year, coming to Dragon Boat. It would have been her fourth year. We've always paddled for her."
That sums up the depth of the festival. And that's just one story among 2,000 people.
While the Dragon Boat festival is a day-long party and competition -- both in racing and raising money for cancer survivor programs -- it's even more about remembering those who have lost their lives to cancer and celebrating those who have won the battle.
At the joyful and tearful mid-morning Survivor's Ceremony, Dragon Boat Charleston Director Sterling Hannah asked for everyone gathered to "send a blessing up" to lost loved ones during a moment of silence. Immediately after, she honored survivors. She asked them to raise their hands, and dozens of hands, all gripping flowers, shot up across the crowd.
To them, Hannah said -- "Let me tell you what it's like to surround yourself with amazing people like you. You keep the rest of us grounded ... We commoners thank you from the bottom of our hearts because you give us perspective and you help us remember what is important in life."
After the festival, Hannah reported that the festival raised an estimated $72,000 -- well over the goal of $60,000.
Among the 63 teams, the winners were the Charlotte Fury dragon boat team. Second place went to the American Dragons of Singapore -- which flew in from Asia for the contest. And third place was taken by the Wahines.