Mary Anne Boyer, 46, Weston

Stand-Up Paddleboarding

For most people, a potentially fatal encounter with a five-foot barracuda would put the kibosh on using the ocean as a personal playground. Mary Anne Boyer, however — she's a bit of a badass. The onetime Olympic hopeful in sailing suffered a painful and life-threatening attack from the toothy predator in June 1997, when she was working in Coconut Grove at the Coral Reef Yacht Club, performing a routine maneuver as part of her hull-cleaning business. The barracuda mistook a metal tool in her hand for prey and lunged, sinking its teeth into her left arm. The bite severed the artery and effectively ended her sailing career.

Peter Miller
Christina Mendenhall
Peter Miller
David Hernandez
Christina Mendenhall
David Hernandez
Noah and Keenan Flegel
Christina Mendenhall
Noah and Keenan Flegel
Cheyne Cottrell
Christina Mendenhall
Cheyne Cottrell
Mary Anne Boyer
Christina Mendenhall
Mary Anne Boyer
Mandy Miller
Christina Mendenhall
Mandy Miller

"That took my sport away at 31," she says. But Boyer never lost her love for the ocean. "I grew up on the water," she explains. In July 2009 while visiting Siesta Key, she saw some people stand-up paddleboarding. She and a friend rented some boards, and "that was history": As a self-described "competitive-sport-type chick," she was instantly hooked. By September 2010, she had landed her first sponsor.

These days, Boyer is tearing up the booming stand-up paddleboard scene in Florida and beyond: She now counts six sponsors and routinely performs well at paddleboard races in Florida and elsewhere across the country. In May, she finished sixth overall in the women's division at the Carolina Cup. In April, she took third overall women's at the Florida State Paddleboard Championships in Cocoa. Mobility hasn't completely returned to her left arm, but paddleboarding doesn't require the fine-motor skills needed for sailing. "It's been a blessing," she says. "It gave me my water sport back."

Mandy Miller, 50, Fort Lauderdale

Ultra-Running and Ironman Triathlon

Things could have ended very badly in 2009, when Mandy Miller competed in the Marathon des Sables. It was her first go at a multiday ultramarathon in which racers are required to carry food and supplies for the duration of the race. The course consisted of 156 grueling miles through the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco. The six-day event went from hard as hell to goddamn near impossible when the region was hit with rains that Miller describes as "biblical flood" proportions, washing away course markers and resulting in a fourth-day stage that called for upward of 60 miles in one stretch.

With the course not "particularly well-marked," Miller found herself lost in the middle of the night with no water. In an attempt to get her bearings, she and some fellow racers scaled a sand dune. "What was sitting at the top? A donkey but no person. It was very surreal," she laughs.

Like most near misses, the unnerving episode became humorous after crisis was averted. "That was kind of an adventure," says the lawyer, who also holds a PhD in psychology. She'll compete this September in the Grand to Grand Ultra, in which participants hoof it 160 miles between the Grand Canyon and Utah's Grand Staircase.

Miller was an athlete in high school but struggled with weight gain in the early '80s. She tackled the issue with diet and exercise (running, in particular) and soon developed a passion for long-distance athletic endeavors. Drawn to the "extreme endurance" aspect of her sport, Miller has competed in marathons for 27 years and frequently participates in Ironman Triathlons. "It's overwhelming, the size of something [like this], but I'm very much the Everyman," she says. "If you find a way to break it down, it's a process, like anything else."

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