DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — At 25 years old, Destin firefighter and EMT Holly Heidenreich loves the extreme life. Most recently paddling 80 miles from Bimini, Bahamas to mainland Florida with her bare hands.
With her teammate, Megan Scully from Lake Worth, Fla., the women made up the only prone board paddling team for the 2022 Crossing For Cystic Fibrosis challenge. The pair completed the 80 miles in 15 hours, 38 minutes and 41 seconds.
Prone paddling is different than paddleboard or kayaking. Heidenreich said the paddler is on their stomach or knees using only their arms to propel them forward.
“I went on my knees and it’s definitely faster, but it will wear yourself out a bit more,” said Heidenreich. “I laid on my stomach for most of it just hoping for the best and kept going”
Heidenreich has served as a Destin Firefighter and EMT for more than two years. Holly grew up on the water in North Carolina and said living on the water is where she thrives.
“I grew up on boats a lot. Worked at the beach for a little bit,” said Heidenreich.” I’m all about the ocean and conserving it and helping it. Also participating in events like this.”
Heidenreich competed in the crossing on a paddleboard in 2020. She said she started practicing prone paddling in 2021 and began training to prone paddle for the crossing event in January 2022.
The teams took off at midnight for the race. Heidenreich said the overnight hours of the race were peaceful and full of bioluminescent life.
“I think the wildest part was actually doing it, but I think the coolest was the bioluminescence at night and that was really epic to see ’cause you want to read about it and you see it, but like to actually experience it was wild. Like every time you put your hand in the water, it was like glow sticks all around you, it was super awesome to see.”Holly Heidenreich
Boats motored alongside the paddlers for safety over the 80 miles. The two women took turns paddling and resting on the boat until they got close to the mainland.
Heidenreich said her partner got overheated during one leg of the challenge. The boat captain gave Heidenreich a signed flag for her efforts to continue paddling so her partner could rest.
The crossing staff said Holly’s team has raised $1,518 for Piper’s Angels Foundation. The event total right now is $443,932 but donations are accepted until July 31.
“I would do it again,” said Heidenreich. “I’ve already talked about doing it next year again and if not, the following year’s show.”