Cynthia Aguilar tried to do something that no other paddleboarder has been able to accomplish. On Sept. 10th, this 26-year-old ocean lifeguard from Miami Beach attempted the first solo paddle from Cuba to Key West to see if she could set a world’s record and raise $100,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
READ ABOUT HER VALIANT EFFORT AT KEEP PADDLIN’. FOLLOW HER ON FACEBOOK. UPDATE: HER WEBSITE SAYS THE ATTEMPT WAS ENDED AGAINST HER WILL AFTER 17 HOURS FIGHTING THE GULFSTREAM… SHE SAYS SHE WILL TRY AGAIN…MORE INFORMATION ON WHY SHE HAD TO STOP IS ON HER WEBSITE…IT SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS AN AMAZING ADVENTURE.
A film about her experience “Dream Big” is scheduled to be released in May, 2011.
When I heard about Cynthia’s tremendous determination and her love of paddleboarding, I knew I needed to learn more. The sport seems particularly strenuous to me and especially tough in the deepest waters of the Gulf Stream. What is it that makes a person set an amazing goal like this and how does she prepare for it?
” I do it by paddling 45 miles, running, spinning and doing weights. I believe I have been training for this day my whole life.”
Cynthia explained why she’s taken on this unique challenge and what KEEP PADDLIN’ is all about…
THE WOMEN’S EYE: You’ll be paddling more than 130 miles to raise money for charity. You may break a world’s record. Why is this trek so important to you?
CYNTHIA: Its hard to explain. I want to prove to everyone no matter who you are or where you come from…your age, sex, anything…that with heart, soul, and hope, anything is possible. It doesn’t matter if people say “You can’t do it” or “It’s impossible.” If your head says this is right, just keep paddlin’ and push until you do it. I want to be the proof.
EYE: How do you train for a physically demanding event like this?
CYNTHIA: Not having a life! Being dedicated, getting up on those days when all I want to do is stay in my cozy bed when is cold or raining. I do it by paddling 45 miles, running, spinning and doing weights. I believe I have been training for this day my whole life.
EYE: You paddled almost half this distance from Bimini to Florida in 2007 for 19 hours and 33 minutes and thru the darkness of night. That sounds a bit terrifying. What was that experience like?
CYNTHIA: The main challenge was getting the support to do it. We ended up using a 15′ boat with almost no food in it. When it came to the paddle itself, I hit the wall in the middle of the night. I thought my body couldn’t go any further. But somehow my angel pushed me through that split second of doubt. Then I just kept paddlin’. I did get stung by jellyfish a lot.
“The ocean is home and my church. I do not worry about wildlife at all. But I am worried about seeing any signs of oil out there.”
EYE: What’s the biggest fear you have about being in the water for 36 hours or do you have any fears?
CYNTHIA: To be honest and not to sound cocky, I have no fears. The ocean is home and my church. I do not worry about wildlife at all. But I am worried about seeing any signs of oil out there.
EYE: Your parents started you swimming when you were very young. Is that why you have the confidence to do this?
CYNTHIA: Yes, I’ve been swimming since I was 2. My confidence comes from knowing that anything is possible. I put in the time. I put my personal life on hold and put my training and my non-profit Keep Paddlin’ first.
EYE: Tell me about your parents and their influence on you. You’ve said they’ve been extremely supportive.
CYNTHIA: They came to this country from Nicaragua with nothing. I saw them work so hard. Even when they were rejected they just kept working and providing for my brother and myself. At the same time I would see my mother give to friends and to people that didn’t have anything to eat or clothes to put on. She gave whatever she had to them while not having much for herself.
EYE: You were introduced to water-polo at age 11. You became a top player and wanted to be in the Olympics. Why did you switch to paddleboarding?
CYNTHIA: Life! It was my passion! Things didn’t go as I wished when I graduated from high school. I was a lost soul. I didn’t know what to do with my life. Somehow I discovered my career as an ocean lifeguard and was introduced to paddleboarding and it saved me.
It’s what I always tell people. When there’s a bad, there’s a good and when there’s a good, there’s a bad. I been able to help so many people with paddleboarding.
CYNTHIA: More women are starting to paddle. They could kick my butt out of the water. But now they are switching to SUP or stand-up paddle-boarding. If you’re a swimmer, paddleboarding is so easy.
EYE: Are you trying to inspire women to take up paddleboarding?
CYNTHIA: YES! 100%! It’s for everyone! It’s starting to disappear because of SUP. But paddleboarding is very traditional and there’s so much history to it.
” I have had down times but never near to giving up, not even a thought. Once I ever think like that, everything is over. I can’t and I won’t!”
EYE: Your non-profit is Keep Paddlin’. What does that name mean to you?
CYNTHIA: To push, keep going, don’t give up and keep paddlin’. It’s all about heart and hope. You can use it in your everyday life.
EYE: Are there times when you’ve felt like giving up?
CYNTHIA: I have had down times but never near to giving up, not even a thought. Once I ever think like that, everything is over. I should just stop, but I’m not and I won’t.
EYE: What motivates you to walk the walk or “paddle the paddle” as you say?
CYNTHIA: The kids, my crew that’s been working so hard, friends, all the supporters, the emails, messages on Facebook and knowing this is my calling and my heart.
EYE: You raise money for a variety of charities thru your non-profit. When did this become important to you and why?
CYNTHIA: I began to notice so many human and natural disasters around the world. People say that we need to do this and do that, but nothing is being done. I don’t have much to give. I am not very smart. I was never good at school, but one thing I knew was that I had the endurance to take my body to the limits where someone else might not be able to. I always say use what ever talent that was given to you to make a change and to inspire others.
EYE: Why did you choose “Make-A-Wish” for this upcoming paddle?
CYNTHIA: I have worked with many different organizations before. But I want to do something with kids because they are our future. Most of the MAW kids have life-threatening diseases. I want to give them hope and show them that anything is possible if you just “Keep Paddlin’.”
“I try to live by doing small things with great love that could really make a difference in this world.”
EYE: You quote Mother Theresa on your website: “Do small things with great love.” Is she a special person in your life?
CYNTHIA: Yes, she’s been a role model to me. I don’t think anyone could take her place in this world. The stuff she did was amazing and she never wanted anything in return. I try to live by doing small things with great love that could really make a difference in this world.
EYE: What gives you your tremendous competitive spirit?
CYNTHIA: I really don’t know this part of me. It just comes so natural. I get fired up and pump so easily. I think it’s just mental. Life is a mental game. You’ve really got to be strong mentally and tell yourself anything is possible with no doubts.
EYE: Do you have other paddling events in mind for the future? What advice could you offer people about reaching for their own goals?
CYNTHIA: Ummmmm…. There’s so much possibilty after this. But I want to be able to support other “crazy” people like me that haven’t been sponsored by anyone because they are unknown, other athletes, artists, extreme people that were told NO. At the same time I want to raise money for different local and national charities.
Advice? KEEP PADDLIN’ !!! Never stop! When things are going bad, there’s something good to come. It’s all about how you handle it. That’s what makes you.
EYE: How big a challenge is this paddle?
CYNTHIA: One word— EPIC !!!
GOOD LUCK CYNTHIA!!!!!
QUESTION: Do you have a KEEP PADDLIN’ way of looking at life?