ESF’s ENDURING ATHLETE OF THE MONTH – SEPTEMBER
By Pete Williams
Watching Helga Goebel race a stand-up paddleboard, it’s hard to believe she never stepped foot on a board until two years ago.
Before a race, the 5-foot-4, 34-year-old Brazilian can be found tinkering on her 12-foot-6 Riviera Ron House model, executing one textbook pivot turn after another. She’s quickly emerged as the top female racer in Florida, easily identifiable between her Carolina-blue bikini and a board that’s a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows.
SUP has proven a safer endeavor for her than kiteboarding. Two years ago, she was in a head-on collision that tore a deep gash in her left leg, requiring 19 stitches, including five internal. (If you have a strong stomach, search for “Helga’s Gash” on YouTube.)
Goebel came to South Florida to study English in 1998 and ended up staying. She now lives in Fort Lauderdale, where she works for ACR Electronics, which produces emergency beacons and other life-saving marine equipment. She also serves as a rep for Riviera, traveling the state and racing for Team Riviera.
She generally wins events within the state unless out-of-towners arrive for the big-money races. Goebel finished third at Brody Welte’s Gulf Coast SUP Championship in May at Madeira Beach behind Candice Appleby (Hawaii) and Heather Baus (Puerto Rico) and fifth last weekend at the U.S. Open of SUP in Miami behind Appleby, Annabel Anderson (New Zealand), Baus, and Gillian Gibree (San Diego).
Endurance Sports Florida recently caught up with Goebel to discuss her SUP career.
Q: How did you get involved in stand-up paddleboarding?
A: I was always active on my bicycle, swimming, a little bit of running. I did three sprint triathlons and a lot of diving, fishing, scuba, snorkeling, and wakeboarding. I’ve always been active, but never in the gym. I like being outside and this is the perfect sport.
Q: What do you love about this sport?
A: I love the fitness part of this sport, working out. It hits everything from the toes to the tip of your hair; you’re moving every muscle of your body. It’s all core exercise and it’s just nice to be on the water. Before I would drive around Florida and see two feet of water and say, “I wish to could put a board in there.” Now I can. It’s an easy sport you can do by yourself. You don’t need a lot of gear like windsurfing. It’s just one board and one paddle and you’re out on the water. No gasoline, no cleanup, and not much maintenance.
Q: Is this sport catching on in Brazil?
A: It is but more the surf style. They’re starting to pick up the race board, though.
Q: Do you teach stand-up paddleboarding?
A: I used to and I’m getting back into it. I did a clinic in St. Petersburg for five girls and that’s always a lot of fun. I enjoy teaching it and hope to do more.
Q: What are your goals with this?
A: I want to be one of the top 10 in the paddlers in the world. That’s kind of hard when you have a full-time job, but I try to get out three or four times a week. I’m coming off being sick for a month. I had some mold-related allergies that affected me for six months and it got really bad for that one month. My respiratory tract was affected almost like I had bad asthma and I lost 10 pounds. For a while I was afraid to go 100 percent but now I’m back and ready to make a run at the top 10 again.
Q: Tiger Woods has his red shirt for Sundays. Is the blue bikini your signature race look?
A: (Laughing) I never thought about it. No, it’s not my signature look, just my favorite.