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Gulf Stream ChallengeMens TeamWomans Team2002 Press Release2003 Press Release
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World Record Breaking Event 
2003 Women's Team. 
Paddlers featured from left to right. Christine "Seadog" McCrady, Tracie Moll, Michelle Davidson, Kelly Helt. April Noon is the fifth paddler, shown in photo below.
This photo taken in Cuba in 2002 April Noon, "VIVA CUBA" 
24, Deerfield Beach, Fl., Ocean Lifeguard, Swim Coach, Began swimming at the age of one and made the U.S. NRG swim team at 9. After a lengthy swimming career was thrilled to discover paddle boarding. "I no longer have to view the tiles of the bottom of a pool, but I now have the luxury of paddling year-round," April says.  

"Paddling has awakened muscles in me I never knew I had and what a wake-up call that is; Advil and ice have become my new best friends." "My life now consists of training for the national lifeguard championships. I currently coach the city swim team, and the kids have opened my eyes to a whole new life.  

I enjoy being on the other side now, being able to share my experiences and swimming skills with them. In return they lift my spirits and make me laugh - a lot! They range in age from five to 18. I'm proud of every single one of them." "I'm also a college student working on an Associates degree, but I don't plan on ever changing careers. The beach is my life and it's great. The guys I work with are my family. I get paid to stare at the beautiful ocean, save lives, and work with my best friends--who act more like my brothers and sisters. Can't beat that!" 

Cuba !!!!!  It was like nothing I've ever experienced before, a real learning experience. Before we cleared customs we hopped into the water offshore for a quick swim and even that was different. When I dove down I opened my eyes and the water was royal blue and it looked like the sun was shining from below. It was beautiful color unlike any place I have ever seen in Hawaii, the Bahamas or Florida.

I found the schooling system most interesting. The kids were so calm and well behaved. They had nothing on the walls. No pictures, drawings or toys anywhere. It was just gray. Even though the families have to stay together to survive, it was so heartwarming to see such tight family community ties. The restaurants were run by families literally in their own homes. Their living rooms and balconies were for the tables and chairs and in the next room was the family watching TV. Weird, but cool.

The paddle was something else. I was an alternate. It was so scary to watch, let alone paddle. I was really nervous when Kelly was paddling right before the first storm and lightning. She got so far away from the boat at one point; she couldn't hear us and we couldn't see if she was on the board or not. We kept hitting her with the spotlight but we couldn't keep the light on her because it would've attracted sharks. We got her in the boat just in time. I am back this year to finish what we started. I have a drive and determination to get across he Gulf Stream.

I had a blast with Hawaiian Tropic after last years paddle from Cuba, I got to go to their beauty contest in Hawaii for FREE. Can't beat that! Then I got invited to a Trim Spa photo shoot and flown to the Bahamas for an appearance in a new TV show and then did an infomercial and all that was pretty cool. Different.! I'll still choose life guarding over all that and having my life at the sea.

April Noon
Kelly Jo Helt,
26, Ft. Lauderdale Fl, High School Math Teacher, Ocean Lifeguard, Athlete . A competitive swimmer since age four, graduated Penn State, member of the university swim team. A regular  winner or top-place finisher in numerous national and regional paddleboard events, represented the U.S. at the 2002 World Lifesaving Competition.  "I train extremely hard," says Kelley Jo. "I have competed and coached my entire life and understand the type of workouts necessary to compete in different activities.  

My regimens vary from two to five hours a day, and I paddle six days a week." "I started paddling because it is much more fun than swimming and I was tired of swimming in pools all of the time. When you are doing a paddle workout, you can talk to your training partner and look at all the beautiful scenery around you. Everything about paddling is fun. Surfing waves on the paddleboard is my favorite part. You even get a workout in, but it does not seem like it because it all feels like play." 
"When I go for a long paddle, I usually have a partner so I am chatting away with the people I'm with. I have a lot of endurance, so I have to do sprints to get winded. For several months we paddled Mon/ Wed/ Fri at 6:30 in the morning and every morning we got to see the sun rise over the ocean.  I never once regretted having to wake up early for the view and the morning workout. It's the best way to start your day."

Going to Cuba last year on the first paddleboard challenge was one of the best culture experiences I ever had. There are many places around the world you can go experience the different ways of living, but it is not too easy to get into Cuba. That is why I felt so fortunate to apart of paddle from Cuba to Key West. Not only did I get the chance to go experience a great time in Cuba, but I got to swim in the middle of the blue Atlantic. The ocean is so incredible out there. To get a chance to see for miles through the ocean and see nothing but cobalt blue was absolutely beautiful.  
The only upsetting part was the storm coming and not allowing us to finish our paddle across. Now I am given the chance to do the entire trip over and to actually reach the record time for paddling. It is amazing opportunity. I feel extremely fortunate. I want to go on my paddle board everyday to train for the paddle.  
I could not believe how interested the press was for the story paddling from Cuba. There are Cubans trying to make this crossing all the time, and we are Americans experiencing their journey. At some points during the crossing last year, I thought about what it was like for the Cubans without the boat crew that we had at our sides. They would not have had the option to go to a safe boat like we did during the storm. 

Before I left for Cuba, I never told my family that I was going. I mentioned it once about six months to my Mom before the trip, and she freaked out. She told me I am not allowed to go, although being 25 I am allowed to make my own choices obviously. I told her I would be out of town surfing.. She did not want me to go because she thought I was going to get eaten by a shark. When I got back, I called her to say hi. Her living in Pennsylvania, I was not sure if she heard about the trip. When I called my step brother answered the phone, I heard my Mom say in the background,  "Don't tell her that we know." Well, that gave the answer that I had to tell her. Other members of my family and friends saw it on CNN and called my Mom to tell her to turn on the TV because it was showing me in Cuba. Everything went okay with my Mom from there. I made it without any shark bites.

The scariest part of the trip last that would make me a little nervous for this year was paddling in the middle of the night. That was the only time I got to paddle last year because of the storm, so I got the best part of the paddle to still to come. When I was paddling everyone was tired and falling asleep on the boat. I had to paddle behind the boat because it was dark, and I could no find anything in the sky to guide me.  I needed the boat ahead of me for guidance. At one point the boat got pretty far away, and I was wondering if they could even see me anymore. The good thing for me was the boat is big, so I could always still see the boat. I just remembered the captain saying if anyone ever got lost out there, that they would never be able to find you. 

I was also the fortunate one to be out paddling for the first storm to come in. I just remember the wind picking up and the surf getting a little bigger. Then all of a sudden the temperature felt like it dropped ten degrees. That is when I I knew it was time to get off the board and to get into the boat. I was really sick from a combination of a sore throat and sea sickness that I went down into the cabin and passed out during the storm. A couple hours later they woke me up, and told me it was time to get back to paddling. I went in and finished my shift, then the next girl got in after me only to get hit by another big storm. 

After the storm difficulties from last year, it makes me even more determined to do the paddle this year. There are so many things to look forward to and finishing the paddle will be the number one priority. There will be no mistakes.

Tracy Moll,
39, Ft Lauderdale, FL, Ocean Lifeguard, oldest woman in history to qualify for U.S. Olympic Trials for 50-meter freestyle, set 12 world records in two age groups in butterfly and freestyle. "Training for the Olympic Trials was my whole life," she says. " I put 100 percent into every workout and, eating properly. "If someone puts a challenge out there, I have to do it," she says. She doesn't want to get beat by anybody---male of female, young or old.  

She swims 5 days a week at 6:00 AM and runs on the beach,  doing wind sprints, running stairs and plyometrics -including the medicine ball. Competed in USA's Swimming Senior Nationals and the US Open - placing her with the best swimmers in the World in any age group.

Behind her beautiful smile you will find the heart of a tiger, a mind that never quits, a very competitive personality, and the willingness to put in the hard work necessary to reach her swimming goals. Eats almost every hour , morning glass of orange juice then right before workout the supplement "GU. After workout a bowl of oatmeal with raisins, cup of coffee and multivitamins including extra antioxidants and the supplement Creatine. Other favorite foods include dry cereal, chicken or fish sandwich, black beans and rice or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, lots of fruit, and for more protein a White Chocolate Mousse Pure Protein Bar. 

I look forward to the expedition to Cuba, as it will be the experience of a lifetime to be able to travel to and visit there. Not very many people are given this opportunity. I look forward to seeing the culture and people, as I have never been out of the U.S. 
I have been preparing and am dedicated to accomplish the crossing no matter what it brings me. It is a goal because it's going to be a first for the female paddlers called the "Gulfstream Girls", hopefully we get the record and the fastest time and longest paddle and whatever other records we can break. 

I am not worried about my legs of the paddle. Of course before the race I have thoughts running through my head of what's going to be out, I really don't know. I can do everything to prepare for this paddle but there's one thing I can not predict and have no control over and that's the ocean and the weather.  

The ocean is like women you never know what she's going to do. Once I jump over board and begin this journey I will not be thinking of what's in the water and what's going to get me, I will be thinking on finishing the task at hand and having fun and enjoying myself to reach this goal. It's a goal that will take all 4 of the women Paddlers to accomplish because if one or more can't finish there legs we can not succeed for a record.

We are only as good as our weakest link so we will have to pull together and be a team and we will finish our journey. It's a strong team of great women. It doesn't matter how old you are age is in your mind I know that in this coming October will be 40 years because that's what my birth certificate says, but I absolutely don't feel it or act like it. It's great to still be getting carded and having new guys start on the beach patrol who think I'm 25,  you gotta love that!

I think being on the beach also helps in totally keeping one young and alive in a certain lifestyle that easy to get use to. You don't pick a career like Ocean life guarding for the money; you do it because you love it. Being an Ocean Lifeguard is the only thing I wanted to since I was 7 years old. How lucky am I that I live my goals and dreams everyday. I will be on my 16th year on the beach with 14 more to go before I can retire. I live in Ft .Lauderdale and work on the best beach. It's where I have always wanted to work (and still love coming to work). I get to swim here I always wanted to train, at the Swimming Hall of Fame (and for the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team under Coach Jack Nelson). I was honored to wear FL ST at Olympic Trials in 2000. So how many kids get to grow up and live their dream? "I have it made."

One thing I have learned since joining United States Masters Swimming is that your never to old to do anything. You can take anything at your own pace; baby steps, and make the most of it that you choose. When I'm on a paddleboard out in the ocean it's just a different kind of training altogether. I use paddling to help out my swimming. Paddling is great cross training for swimming. Any one can buy a board from 10' 6" to unlimited 18' 0" and use it in the ocean, lake or inter-coastal river and just use it for a new way to be in the water and have fun. 

When your one with the ocean and riding a wave it just makes you smile and giggle to yourself. It makes one really appreciate how good we have it. My playground every day is the ocean; my office is tower on the beach that office overlooks the ocean! 
Thanks to Ron Rice of Hawaiian Tropic and all the sponsors, Oakley, THE VICTOR, for without them the trip wouldn't be possible. We will be traveling on a beautiful sailboat called the Princess Sterling. We have a great crew that will be looking out for us and for that I am thankful. Also a special thanks to  Bikini Bob and all he's done for the Cuba paddle and the Ft. Lauderdale lifeguards along with all other lifeguards in the state.

Someone who has worked hard and gets no recognition is the women's team Coach & Captain Lt. James McCrady V.  He has put a lot of hard work into making this trip possible and he will also be keeping a lookout for us while we're in the ocean.
So if one is wondering why someone would want to paddle from Cuba to Key West it's simple; it's something new and exciting to do, it's something I asked to be part of and it's something no women have yet accomplished. It's throwing out a challenge and I'm going to accept it and do the best I can.

Michele Davidson,
   32, Ocean Grove, New Jersey, Seventh Grade Math Teacher, Ocean Lifeguard, Swimming coach, Volunteer firefighter,  '00 American IronWoman, '97 1st place "IronWoman" Lifeguard International,  Marathon swimmer  2003:  28 miles around Manhattan: 8:16 with a 3rd place female, 6th overall.  All-American Swimmer- 50m backstroke 2002, the only Academic All-American in college. Ran the Philadelphia 28 mile Marathon in 3:47. Record holder in Lifeguard Nationals: Surf Ski-2nd in '94-'98, Paddleboard 2nd in '98,  3rd in '02,   Rowing 2nd '98 & '00, 1st Surf Ski, Paddle Board, International Ironwoman, 2000. 

On "Paddling":  

I started paddling in '86 because I wanted to learn every aspect of being a lifeguard. I was not becoming a lifeguard to get a tan, As a swimmer, I had the upper body strength for paddling but I had to learn how to deal with the surf. I know my paddling improved a great deal from my experience in Australia. I had the big surf to learn in and many very experienced teachers to help me with technique this is went I went from a prone paddler to a knee paddler. This makes a great deal of difference in negotiating the surf. It is much easier to transfer your body weight in order to pop over, through, or catch a wave. 
I enjoy paddling because it is great cross training for swimming and other sports one can compete in. The best part is the "surfing" part of paddling. I practice "out and ins." I start from land, just like a race start, and paddle out 60 or 100 strokes. Next, I return to shore. Sometimes I make a quick turn and paddle and hope a wave comes. Other times I wait for a good wave. In training I try to go out through the biggest sets. It feels good to pop through a wave that is about to crash on you. 

It also is a rush when you can drop in on a wave last minute. These skills make or break you in a race. I push it to the edge in training to make myself better for competitions. It also means there are some major wipe outs! The younger lifeguards on the beach love when they see me wipe out. 

Training has been hard this year. The weather has not cooperated; we had snow in April and I was paddling in 48 degrees in May. I have been training without a wet suit at these temperatures. This still means putting the heater on high on the car ride home and long hot showers to get your core body temperature back to normal. 

"The Gulfstream Challenge Race" : 

 I am excited about it, as its my kind of a race. I am best when a team is depending on me. The dark will be a new experience. I have very little experience paddle racing at night. Will the moon and the stars light my way? Can you see the chop and if you cant will this throw my balance off? Will the boat and other boats be able to see me?

I do have experience racing near a boat. I would expect that I will stay behind the boat, but I have the diesel fumes to deal with. Yet, at times I would be next to it or may even try to go in front of it. I do have reservations and only during the race will I know the most comfortable position especially since the seas will play a role in this decision. 

The exchange in transitions to another paddler is another concern of mine. I am use to getting in and out of boats, but never a sail boat. This adds another obstacle to overcome. Even with practice, this can become difficult especially if the surf and seas don't  cooperate.

The length of the race in time and distance is longer than I have attempted so far. I have done 8-9 hour swims, but this was all at one session. Will it be difficult to get back in the water after being out for a while? Will I get seasick on the boat? How can I help my teammates during there legs? A large aspect of long distance racing is the mental preparation, as well as the physical preparation. The bottom line is to accomplish our goal of completing this challenge as fast as we can and getting the world record.

"The Island of Cuba":

I am very excited to go to Cuba. One of my friends played water polo against the Cuban National team. He had many positive things to say about the people and countryside there. I am always excited to go to another country and meet people from another culture however I have never been to a communist country. I dont know many people who have been to Cuba and I feel this is an opportunity of a lifetime. 

As a teacher, I enjoy meeting youth from all over. I went to Japan where the students wore uniforms and had leather backpacks. In Australia the children played the same pranks as my students. They showed me cricket and I helped them with baseball. I was a teacher at a camp for Nippers (junior lifeguards). I am excited to see if there are the similarities and differences in children from Cuba.

I want to go to Cuba with a blank slate so I can paint a picture with my experiences. The hi-light of my trip will be paddling across the Gulf Stream under a full moon, trying to set a world record. 

Christine "Seadog" McCrady 
30, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl, Firefighter/Paramedic, city of Delray Beach, Ocean Lifeguard, Athlete,Marathon runner, Synchronized Swimmer, a synchronized swimming national champion in Canada three times. Appeared in Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday" for her swimming, featured in T.V. commercials, Martha Stewarts promotions for AK-Mart, was on MTV's "Road Rules" as the synchronized swimming coach for the Playboy Extreme. Awarded "Lifeguard of the Year" in the state of Florida in 2001, only lifeguard ever to place in the top 5 in 5 different events at USLA Lifeguard Nationals. Won the USLA Southeast Regional Lifeguard Championships, three-time East Coast Paddleboard Champion. Won the E.M.S. World Championships in the Basic Life Support - International Emergency Medical Services Championships.

"I love the medical aspects of both the life guarding and the fire fighting professions. Working at a fire department I am able to spend time at the beach on my days off, either working as a guard, (which I will always do), or paddling, swimming, surf-skiing, surfing or just hitting the beach for relaxation."  

"The sport has proven to me that I can endure a whole lot of pain! More than I could ever imagine. The first distance paddle I ever did was a 13-mile trip. I wanted to quit so badly- I was never going to make it. It took about five hours against the current the whole time. You stopped paddling for one minute and you'd go five feet back! But I stuck to it and finished." 

"The most enjoyable part of paddle boarding is the peace and tranquility. When you're out in the ocean a few miles from shore, there is a sense that you're the only one on the planet. Everything else is forgotten, and you're just tuned in to the ocean. One time, I was paddling off shore from Pompano Beach, FL, and I had a porpoise following me. He would go under my board, in front, and it was as though we were really connecting. He even looked at me- at least it seemed that way. It was something out of a Disney film!"  

"I'm really honored to be a part of this expedition. The other women paddlers are such tremendous athletes. I can't believe I was picked! I'm mostly nervous about the various 'sea creatures' we may or may not encounter- especially at night!"  I can't stop thinking about the very blue water we swam in the middle of the ocean. How exhilarating!  I loved the time we spent in Cuba. The people were wonderful, the nightlife vibrant. I remember taking mini cabs everywhere we went and really getting a feel for the city of Havana. There was a sensation I had, sort of like I was discovering a place that not many Americans had experienced. 

We had the unique opportunity to stay with some Cuban families while we were there. It was really neat, as there is no better way to learn about a culture than to actually live it. We had a terrific tour guide who took us all around Havana, bringing us to the museum, to the art shows and to different night spots where we danced with the locals. We were treated very well, and met some great people. We also discovered the Mojitos! Yum!

I was really amazed at how much publicity was generated during and after the event. When we arrived back in Key West, CNN got a hold of Kelley Helt and interviewed her on the phone. That aired on the television several times, and her mom was so impressed! The same clip played over and over again, showing us dancing on the street with some Cubans from Havana. It was so exciting to see! 

On the way home from Key West, I got a phone call from Zeta, a local radio station. Paul and Ron wanted to talk to us! So I went live on the air on their morning show for a good 5 or 6 minutes! It was a riot! It seemed as though everyone I knew heard that interview, because my phone just didn't stop ringing! Apparently Paul and Ron had been following the event from the beginning, and were even planning to meet us out in the ocean before we arrived at Key West. Hopefully the weather will be on our side this year, and all of this will become a reality!I am very excited about the team we have put together this year. All the women are strong and ready for the challenge!

This Years women's team !
Copyright 2003 GULF STREAM CHALLENGE. All Rights Reserved.
This is the 2003 women's paddleboard team ( missing from photo is April Noon). These are no ordinary athletes, they're raging lions that have the fire in them to complete their journey, paddling over 112 miles to set a WORLD RECORD.  They call themselves the "GULF STREAM GIRLS".
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