Paddleboarder Successfully Completes Solo Cuba to Key West Crossing

A South Florida lifeguard landed on a Key West beach Thursday, completing a historic paddleboard crossing of the Florida Straits from near Cuba to the island city.

Cynthia Aguilar finished the 103.2-mile journey in 29 hours and 12 minutes, after beginning Wednesday morning about 14 miles off northern Cuba. She is the first solo prone paddleboarder (propelling the board with her arms) to cross the Florida Straits and, when verified, should set a record for the longest nonstop prone paddle.

Aguilar dragged her paddleboard onto the beach as crowds cheered her accomplishment, then hugged her parents. When a supporter uncorked a bottle of celebratory champagne, Aguilar grabbed it and doused her board.

“Everybody here kept me going to prove that anything is possible no matter what,” said a jubilant Aguilar. “You’re knocked down, you get up, you keep fighting — you keep paddling no matter what.”

Aguilar first attempted a Florida Straits crossing in September 2010, but encountered strong currents and suffered Portuguese Man o’ War stings forcing her to end the effort.

“This year the gods, the ocean {and} mother nature were on our side,” said Aguilar, who gave much of the credit to her team. “We made it hours before we were even expected. We were planning to be here by 5:00 and it’s not even 1:00.”

Her effort, along with a documentary, are to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, a non-profit that grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

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