Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Seychelle, Key Largo
I was born and raised in the Keys, and went to Plantation Key School and Coral Shores High School. I’ve always been active and played sports, and I thought when I was a kid that I would be a professional soccer player. I think I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I left the Keys when I was 18 and took off sailing for 8 years and working on yachts around the world. I came back to Key Largo a few years ago.
Stand Up Paddling is what brought me back full time. I had a Spring Break job at “PADDLE! The Florida Keys.” I would come down and teach paddle board lessons and do eco tours there. When I moved back to the Keys, I started working there full time. Scott, the owner, encouraged me to start training to race paddle boards. He was the one who initially showed me I had potential. I did my first race at the paddle shop there in Tavernier.
Currently I teach Standup Paddle (SUP) Yoga, SUP lessons and coaching, and SUP fitness classes in Islamorada and Key Largo, as well as a few studio Yoga classes. When I’m not teaching, I train and race competitively in the sport of SUP. I started racing a little over two years ago and I just took to the sport so quickly. Within one year I gained sponsorship. In two years, I am a fully sponsored professional athlete! It all happened really fast.
Last year I broke the Guinness World Record for longest distance paddled in 24 hours on SUP. I paddled 110 miles. The men’s record was 96 miles, and the women’s was 90, so I kind of blew that out of the water! Scott and I had done a 24 hour paddle just for fun, and I really broke the record then, “unofficially.” So, I decided to go ahead and make it official. We did it on a lake in Sarasota because it had to be in a contained water source. I spent almost a year planning and training for that. You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get Guinness to recognize it as a record, but it was worth it. I’m incredibly proud of myself for accomplishing that.
This year I started training more for speed and less for distance. My goal for 2016 was to be in the top 10 ranked female athletes in the World. And in May I accomplished that! I am currently ranked 7th female in the world rankings.
I just got back from Europe. I did 3 races over there on what’s called the SUP Euro-Tour. I placed 2nd on the Euro Tour leader board which is pretty great for a rookie. I also came in 1st in the sprint competition in Germany called the ‘Fastest Paddler On Earth!’ I really didn't see that one coming! I was in Europe to do the long distance events, but I just entered the sprints for fun. And I ended up winning! It’s incredible because I had thought in my head when I was getting ready for it, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if I won the Fastest Paddler on Earth after just achieving the World Record for distance?!” And then I did it! To have both the endurance and the speed titles in less than a year is really amazing.
I’ve been very successful, but it’s all really a testament to having a dream and setting goals. I work really hard, and I train really hard, but I think it’s having those goals, having that direction to be moving towards, that really has helped me to be so successful. Something that I like to share with people is that if you set your mind to something you can do it. Dream big, set goals and work hard and anything can happen. I really feel I’ve gotten where I am now by being determined and focused. It just takes training and the right mindset… And support. This community has been so supportive.
That’s something that I also want to share. I had Scott Baste of “PADDLE! The Florida Keys,” of course, as my original sponsor, and coach; he got me going in this sport. I also owe huge “Thank you’s” to CrossFit Key Largo for getting me in to shape when I first started paddling, Keys Mobile Chiropractic for keeping all my training injuries at bay, and Remedy’s Nutrition in Key Largo who does all my nutrition planning, consultations, and supplements every month to keep me healthy and strong.
Being born and raised here, and my mom having been a school teacher at PKS for 33 years, we know a lot of people in the community and I have gotten so much support from so many people. Just to have the encouragement, even if it’s not direct financial or product support; just to feel that, and to know that there are people behind me who believe in me and are following my story is a big motivation to keep pushing my limits. I like to think that I can help to inspire and motivate people in our community.
I’m home for most of the summer. Right now I am in the middle of a series called the Fastest in Florida. It started in January and ends in September. Currently I’m number one; we’ll see in September if I end up winning that series. Right now I have a pretty good lead! I’m also teaching my classes and trying to develop awareness and get more people interested in the sport of SUP, and building a water sports community. Teaching yoga helps keep me balanced, I think; after all the high intensity work and training, yoga helps me relax and unwind.
In August I start traveling again. I’m going to do the SEA Paddle in New York City; it’s a 25 mile paddle around the island of Manhattan. After that I leave for Europe again. I do the 11 City Tour, which I won last year. It’s a 130 mile paddle around the country of Holland, through the canals. It’s a stage race, done in 5 days. Last year I won every single stage and was the grand champion for the females, so I’m hoping this year I can do that again. Then I go to southern California in October for the biggest race in the U.S.
For the next few years at least, I want to keep focusing on my athletic career and achieve number one in the world. I have one disadvantage being from Florida, especially the Keys, because we don’t have any waves. A lot of the most competitive races are ocean races with waves. I have a lot of catching up to do on that side of the sport, but I want to do it, so I’ll be working on that. Eventually I would like to develop the business side of the sport and concentrate more on teaching SUP, yoga and leading retreats. I think growing my athletic career right now will help me with my credibility and desirability as a teacher and adviser.
My motto is ‘breathe and smile.’ I think that having gratitude can get you very far. Be grateful, not just for what you have but for every day, every moment. One of the things I love about SUP is that it connects me to nature so much; every day I’m out there paddling. I’m paddling and I’m training and I’m sweating, but I’m still enjoying being out on the water and doing what I love. When you are doing what you love, how can you not be happy?
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