Considering her accolades and athletic history, one might say that Cynthia Aguilar must have been raised in a swimming pool. The 28-year-old Miami, Florida native spent her formative years in the water: swim practices eventually led to swim meets and those soon gave way to water polo matches. Her apparent attachment to all things water-related led her to her current profession.
She began her career with Miami Beach Ocean Rescue at 19. During her first few months of work, one of her supervisors introduced her to the prone paddleboard. Given that Aguilar is known for being up for a challenge, she took to it naturally and began competing shortly thereafter.
In the years since that first paddle off the beach, Cynthia’s entire outlook on life has changed. It is the challenge that inspires her — standing up to face anything head-on that comes her way, overcoming every battle. Her never-give-up attitude led her to paddle a little farther each time in the water, and she soon found herself crossing the 58 miles of water that separated Bimini from Miami, in record time.
That first crossing has since given way to her passion for tackling any body of water that is (or perhaps is not) paddle-able… for fun. Cynthia’s passion for paddling has come to be a metaphor for her perspective on life and one she wishes to inspire others to live, as well.
The idea of facing challenges and never giving up, regardless of the odds, led her to crossover into the non-profit realm. In 2007, Aguilar teamed up with Care Resource, an organization that improves the quality of life of individuals in need. Aguilar’s Bimini crossing inspired others to help her raise over $2,000 for this benevolent non-profit. Cynthia continues to work with Care Resource today.
Soon after finding the link between her passions for paddling and helping others in need, Aguilar founded her own non-profit, Keep Paddlin’. Through this new outlet, Cynthia began to really DREAM BIG: Why not prone paddle across the Florida Straits from Cuba to Key West? In the process of doing so, she would raise money and awareness for the Make A Wish Foundation of Southern Florida. She would also become the first individual, male or female, to successfully complete the journey solo. It took two attempts, but Aguilar completed her 103.2-mile epic journey in June of 2011. For over 29 sleepless hours she never left her board — she simply kept paddling to prove that anything is truly possible and to inspire others to always DREAM BIG.
Aguilar’s vision continues to expand as Keep Paddlin’ hosts paddle races, such as the Annual Kommona Paddle, in support of various charitable causes. Furthermore, the non-profit recently joined ECOMB’s Adopt A Beach program in Miami Beach, is in the process of starting a rehabilitative paddle program, and is constantly seeking new ways to do small things with great love.
Cynthia Aguilar continues to race as a prone paddler, traveling the country to share her vision one paddle at a time. She was recently named Lifeguard of the Year for the entire State of Florida, thanks to her dedication as a professional rescuer, innate athletic gifts, contributions to the community, and inspirational way of life.
Written By Lindsay Dare Shoop, Olympic Gold Medalist