April Zilg

World’s Vice-Champion of Stand Up Paddling

North Carolina


Born and raised in inland North Carolina, April “found” paddling for the first time in 2011 while completing her Masters of Science in Deep Sea Coral Reef Ecology at The University of North Carolina – Wilmington. She had previously worked as a seahorse breeder and received her undergraduate degrees in Marine Biology and Environmental Science. While she didn’t love the world of academia, it was clear that an ocean-oriented career was definitely in the cards for her. Her love for paddling was swift, entering a SUP race mere weeks after hopping on a board for the first time. Her success in the sport, however, was less swift, and she didn’t finish that first race she entered, but that didn’t deter her one bit. After another year of practice, she went back to face the 6 mile Money Island course at the Carolina Cup. Not only did she finish the race, she placed second. A decade later, in 2021 April achieved the goal she set out for all along winning the Women’s 13.1 mile Graveyard Race at the Carolina Cup, becoming a paddling poster child for dedication and persistence.

Her first real notable success in the sport came after signing with Hobie and Salt Life to compete on the European race tour in 2016. After a move to California in 2017, she committed herself entirely to training, and began her coaching business, hoping to help others who shared her love for the water.

From 2018 to 2019, April shifted her training focus from high intensity days on the water, and began emphasizing recovery, aerobic base work, and nutrition. The shift worked! In 2018-2019, she won Gold at Pan American Surfing Games, placed 2nd at the Carolina Cup, Women’s Graveyard SUP 2019, was the 2019 Gorge Downwind OC1 Women’s Champion, placed 1st at Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, Women’s Technical race, and was the New York SUP Open Overall Women’s Champion. Finally, she was the APP World Tour, World Vice-Champion 2019.

Training came in puzzle-like pieces for April. Some years she used more than others, trying different combinations of work and training and recovery until the whole picture started coming together and the successes started rolling in. She says, “Every time I fall short, I find a way I can improve and I see where it may all just work out in the end… if I focus and work hard enough.” Her discipline is nearly bar-none. If there is an area of herself she can work on, she goes out and does it with ferocity.

While she has had many accomplishments on the water in recent years, she feels her biggest and most important achievements can’t be 100% attributed to on the water training. “Training” is so much more than working out. April preaches intentionality above all else. She applies it in her own training and is one of the first lessons she teaches as a coach. It can be so easy to fall into the ‘all or nothing’ fallacy, but if April has learned anything these past five years, it’s that the little things add up and small actions pay big dividends. When faced with the choice to skip a workout in favor of doubling up the next day because she’s short on time, April says she’d rather do air squats while cooking dinner because it’s the daily discipline that matters most.

April has overcome massive training obstacles on her way to becoming the world’s vice-champion of stand up paddling. Among these was a severe case of Aerobic Deficiency Syndrome and Overtraining. Turns out, she is far from alone. In addition to learning everything she can about paddling technique, stroke mechanics, surfing techniques, which equipment works best and why, she is also well versed in all things related to training physiology. She is largely self-taught (and if you’re ever curious about how she got started, she can recommend a book… or twelve) bringing the same vigor she used to obtain her Masters of Science to reach her paddling goals.

Her knowledge of exercise science & physiology, as well as nutrition, is 10 years in the making. She has helped many others correct cases of Aerobic Deficiency Syndrome to lead healthier lives while improving their paddle abilities (partly by convincing people that more food during a training cycle is almost never a bad thing)! In addition, she’s a certified instructor through both the American Canoe Association and World Paddle Association.

Recent Accomplishments



  • Winner Gold at Pan American Surfing Games 
  • Placed 2nd at the Carolina Cup, Women’s Graveyard SUP Champion Gorge Downwind OC1 
  • Placed 1st at Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge & Women’s Technical race 
  • Overall Women’s Champion at the New York SUP Open  
  • World Vice-Champion at the APP World Tour
Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from the best!  Join April in San Diego, California just prior to the 27th Annual Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge! Register quickly! Limited Space!

January 24, 25 & 26, 2021

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