The mere act of listening to Victoria Burgess describe a typical day in her life is, well, exhausting. It starts when her alarm goes off at 5 a.m., giving her just enough time to eat, walk her dogs and stretch before she starts work at 7 a.m. The 34-year-old fire inspector and graduate student works on the road, so she typically eats in her car, freeing up her lunch break for a run, CrossFit or yoga. Back at home around 4 p.m., it’s only in between chores, dinner and studying when she’s able to squeeze in a standup paddleboard session. And this doesn’t even include a week when she has other things on the go, like coaching fellow paddleboarders, or organizing the RK Sunshine SUP Series, which she runs with her boyfriend.
Victoria Burgess Paddleboards For Women
I am used to juggling a lot at once, but this was on a whole other level,” says Burgess.
This refers to the training she completed for Chica Libre, a SUP crossing of the Straits of Florida, the 100-mile-wide channel of water between Cuba and Florida, done to raise the profile of women in sports.
In 2016, Burgess completed her first open-ocean crossing in Hawaii, paddling 33 miles across the Kaiwi channel in the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championship (M20).
She came in sixth and fell in love with navigational races—later placing third in 2017’s Maui 2 Molokai (M2M) race—but she felt at a disadvantage.
“Hawaii waters are a bit different, and I can’t train for months like most people who live there,” she explains. “So I thought, ‘I have plenty of water around here—let’s see if there are any channels I can cross.’”
Weekends are when she got in her longest training sessions, paddling for up to 12 hours at a time.
But managing the demands of a full-time job, studying and training wasn’t her only challenge. Midway through preparation, she was knocked off course when both her godmother and 17-year-old dog passed away within a short period of time.
“There were days I was just over it,” says Burgess. “The preparation was more challenging than the crossing itself in many ways.”
That’s not to say the crossing was easy. Accompanied by a crew boat, she started in Cuba, heading toward Key West, Florida, but a wind storm meant choppy waters and constant wind coming from her right side. She was so focused on the nose of her board she didn’t even notice when the sun went down—but she did notice when darkness set in.
“I wanted to quit at that point,” she says. True to character, Burgess pushed through, talking herself through the blackest hours of the night. “I asked myself, ‘Are you dying? No. So keep going.’ There was no reason for me to stop.”
It was after 27 hours, 48 minutes and 115 miles Burgess reached land, making her the first woman to successfully cross the Straits of Florida on a standup paddleboard.
I learned you can pretty much do anything you put your mind to as long as you plan and push through anything that comes your way.
Now, working with the Women’s Sports Foundation—who she dedicated the proceeds of Chica Libre to—she’s sharing this message with girls in local schools.
Burgess believes the accessibility of paddleboarding, much like running, provides a gate- way activity for girls and women to get involved in competitive sports.
“I hope I can spread motivation to even just one person to go out and conquer her goals,” she says.