She’s one of the fastest women on the East Coast, dominating the southeast racing scene for the past three years. Continuing our series on influential women in standup, Helga Goebel, a Fort Lauderdale resident but Brazilian born and bred, tells us why she started standup paddling and what exotic island is on the top of her travel list for the upcoming year. –Shari Coble

Tell us about your athletic background.
I was always a very active kid; I really loved sports and playing outdoors. I did Gymnastics, volleyball, basketball and swimming classes. My first ocean sport was windsurfing when I was 15 years old–-so for two years I did it pretty much every day after high school.

When I went to college in Rio de Janeiro, I had to put water sports on the side, or I would've never graduated. I had moved to the U.S. in 1998 and in 2001 I slowly started to get back in the water, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, fishing and diving.

Why do you SUP?
Standup paddling is good not only for your whole body, but for the mind too. It’s so nice to be so close to nature and especially the water. In 2006 I started kite surfing and fell in love with it, but in April 2009, I had a really bad kite boarding accident. I couldn’t do anything, but stand on the board, so I decided to paddle 2 miles every day. A lifeguard saw me paddling everyday, so he asked if I wanted to race at the South Florida Lifeguard Association Ocean Series and from that point on I haven’t stopped. Now, two and a half years later, I’m the top female paddler in Florida and placed 14th in the Battle of the Paddle, in 2009 and 2010.

Tell us about your year.
2011 has been great, but I got really sick in June with a bad respiratory tract infection, so I've lost a lot of weight because of that. It was scary and I couldn’t do much, so I've had to put my goals on the side to take care of my health, but I’m feeling better now.

What was your favorite event of 2011?
There are so many great places and events that I have been to, but Paddle Royal in Puerto Rico was one of my favorite places and one of my hardest races. I liked the race course, which is around the old San Juan Town, a gorgeous old town with a lot of history. And the weather is just perfect- not (too) hot, not (too) cold.

Do you have any plans for 2012?
I’m just going to try to be healthy and have some fun in the water, but Bali is calling me…

Helga, pumped and tossin’ a shaka at the start of the Hinano Surf Race to Victory in Huntington Beach. Photo courtesy Mike Muir.

Click here to read about Brandi Cumin Baksic.