Don’t be fooled by the winsome smile and the cascade of long blond hair, Victoria Burgess – another East Coast Rock Star – is a competitor. She has strength, stamina and carries the true spirit of aloha in her heart. On the water, she is a force to be reckoned with and, on land, she is a career firefighter in South Florida. This young lady, coordinator for the Sunshine SUP Series in Florida, is both a fierce sup surfer and strong racer. Beyond that, she is unfailingly cheerful and ready to help others by sharing her passion of being on the water in any way she can.
When I met Victoria for the first time at the Rincon Beach Boy two years ago, I thought: “Who is she?” And then, WHAM! She crushed the competition at the Beach Boy -in a stacked field of veteran racers -and went on to train for and compete in the Molokai to Oahu challenge with both grit and determination. That year, she made the stand up paddling world sit up and take notice. Since then, she’s been a regular name on the forefront of winners in multiple events, continues to charge on many levels and across multiple fronts and has taken her rightful seat as an East Coast Rock Star here at Standup Journal.
East Coast Rock Stars: Who are they?
Meet Victoria Burgess from South Florida
“I learned so much about myself during the 6.5 hours in that channel. It showed me that life can throw at us all kinds of different situations. Sometimes it’s dark and gray and hairy and big and messy; but, there are ways to find good rides in all of that wind & waves…” – Victoria Burgess
Tell us about your experience as a lifetime water gal. When/how did you become a stand up paddler?
I’ve always been around the water growing up in Florida, fishing, free diving, etc., but was more of a land athlete. I fell in love with surfing when I was 19 and haven’t stopped since. If there are waves, good luck getting me out of the water! Of course, living in South Florida, we don’t get waves consistently so as the stand up paddle movement grew, as much as I resisted it. It was only a matter of time before I caved which was about four years ago. Lots of my friends started getting into paddling to do something on all the flat days, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. Once I did, I was hooked.
I was helping my (now) boyfriend Roray Kam at a clinic Labor Day weekend in 2013 when I first attempted to stand on a race sup. I just remember being so frustrated because I kept tipping over that I couldn’t stop until I got it. A week or two later, I entered my first 3-mile race and actually won the women’s short course. That’s when I got the racing bug. My favorite type of racing is ocean/downwind racing.
Tell us something unexpected we don’t know about you!
I am currently in school for my PhD in health and human performance and about 1/3 of the way finished. I’m hoping to work with athletes in the future, especially stand up paddle athletes 😊
I work a full time career (with the fire department for the last 13.5 years) so I am constantly juggling school and training in between. It’s been quite hectic these days, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!!
Tell us about your Sunshine SUP series in Florida. What is it? When does it run? Who comes?
Myself and Roray Kam put on a super fun two part stand up paddle race each year called the Sunshine SUP Series. It is a 3-mile and 6-mile stand up paddle race in the ocean. We also have it more of a technical in-and-out style with a run chicane in between laps. We do it each year in June and August. We have tons of vendors, board demos, free kids races, tandem races, live music, food and drinks, crossfit beach competitions, and just lots of fun!
The last few years we have had about 120 racers in each event coming from all over Florida, the states and Puerto Rico. I love holding this event and seeing everyone charging hard and then enjoying the rest of the day. There truly isn’t anything better! There is so much aloha that goes into this event from our local helper crew to the support from our community of racers and sponsors! It’s seriously a magical day! Also, our event benefits an organization called Broward Childrens Center, which helps some of the most physically and mentally dependent children in the country and last year we hit 20k raised for them over the years, so we are super stoked! You can see more at www.sunshinesupseries.com
Last year, you competed for the first time in the Molokai to Oahu downwinder. You trained hard and did well. What kind of lasting impression did this experience have on you?
“It showed me how crazy and different times can be and through it all, if you want to make it, you have to remain balanced and aware but also know how to just go with the flow, take some chances and trust yourself.”
Last year I was lucky enough to compete in the M2O and it was an amazing, powerful and humbling experience to say the least. I came into the race not really knowing what to expect and I got to experience all the conditions I could have possibly wanted that the channel has to offer. The semi-calm start, picking up to 10 ft seas and rain, going into Oahu and feeling the washing machine effect and reaching the last two-mile stretch of the infamous head winds. I trained pretty hard and felt strong going in.
I learned so much about myself during the 6.5 hours in that channel. It showed me that life can throw at us all kinds of different situations. Sometimes it’s dark and gray and hairy and big and messy; but, there are ways to find good rides in all of that wind & waves and the clouds can be great because then you don’t get burnt. Some things aren’t as good as they appeared because when the clouds went away, so did the wind, and so did the waves. So, while it looked much prettier, it was a lot more work. It showed me how crazy and different times can be and through it all, if you want to make it, you have to remain balanced and aware but also know how to just go with the flow, take some chances and trust yourself. But most of all, it taught me to be proud of myself, no matter where I place.
Being so competitive my entire life, often if I don’t place or do well in a race, I feel embarrassed or get down on myself. I even caught myself doing that after M2O, but then I remembered the day and my thoughts and struggles and saw all my friends’ support and said, “You know what? If they can be proud of me, why can’t I?!” I wrote a little about my experience on my blog www.aquaholicv.com
Who are some of the people who inspire and motivate you, paddlers or otherwise?
There are a lot of people who inspire me on a daily basis! I’d have to say pretty much every woman at every level in stand up paddling inspires me. I’m super inspired and motivated by girls such as Terrene Black, Sonni Hönscheid, Fiona Wylde and April Zilg for all their hard work, grit and overall water-woman skills. I’m also inspired by the completely new women that are trying out the sport, facing their fears and pushing themselves beyond what they ever imagined. Another inspiration I have is my friend and crossfit athlete Rachel Lim. She’s an all-around awesome person, amazing athlete and I’m frightened for the world if she learns how to paddle! 🙂
“I’m also inspired by the completely new women that are trying out the sport, facing their fears and pushing themselves beyond what they ever imagined.”
“I just signed on with ECS and am absolutely loving their boards! I’m riding a 12’6×24 Stealth. It’s awesome in the flats and catches waves like a beast.”
What are your goals for this year? What is your biggest wish?
One of my main goals for this year is to really focus on my sup surfing. I’d really like to compete sup surfing nationally in 2018.
Another goal is to finish strong in the two downwind races I have on my calendar for this year: Maui to Molokai and the Gorge.
My biggest wish? I just wish for myself and my family and friends (and my pups) to remain healthy, live it up and smile each day. We have so much to be grateful for!
What board are you currently riding (specs & deets, please!)
I just signed on with ECS and am absolutely loving their boards! I’m riding a 12’6×24 Stealth. It’s awesome in the flats and catches waves like a beast.
Where is your # 1 Bucket List place that you’d like to go visit?
Surf trip to Indo!
How would you like to see the stand up paddle industry evolve as we move forward? What is missing that would be a good addition beneficial to the industry overall?
There are definitely a few things I’d love to see in the industry:
More support for the expansion of stand up paddling here on the East Coast would be a major one. There are tons of great paddlers on this side, but the majority of the industry is on the West Coast so it makes it difficult to provide the same opportunities as out there.
Another thing I’d love to see is more support to promote the growth and equality of the women in stand up paddling. Lastly and most important with the evolution of the industry is to make sure the aloha doesn’t get lost. This is such a magical ride. Let’s make sure we all enjoy it!
Mahalo, Victoria! Thanks for all you do to help elevate the stand up paddling industry and, keeping women at the forefront of your mind, inspiring countless others both on the water and off!