HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — A Hernando County woman who lost over 200 pounds by eating healthier and by kayaking for exercise is now helping others to lose weight. 

  • Jennie Dudziak weighed 410 pounds when she started kayaking
  • Fell in love with the sport, wanted to get stronger, faster
  • Dudziak set new course record in 3rd Annual Mermaid Chase Paddling Race Saturday
  • More Hernando County stories

Jennie Dudziak first started kayaking when she moved to Hernando County three years ago. 

“I was living in Weeki Wachee and it seemed like the thing to do,” Dudziak said. 

She fell in love with the sport, and started pushing herself to get faster and stronger. 

“It’s not about relaxation for me, so I’m not the funnest person to paddle with,” she explained. 

But it wasn’t easy for her when she first started. At 410 pounds, she could barely paddle forward. 

“I didn’t like who I was," she said. "I was very sick. I had very bad diabetes."

“It was time for me to change, or honestly I don’t think I would have made it to 50,” she added. 

Hard work pays off

By eating healthier and kayaking for exercise, Dudziak lost 240 pounds. 

Now she’s coaching others on their weight loss journeys. 

“I’m not going to say I don’t have slip ups — I do," Dudziak said. "But it’s just a matter of waking up that next day and knowing today is a new day."

And that work has paid off on the water, too. 

Dudziak ended up winning the women’s single kayaking division, along with the overall race, at Saturday's 3rd Annual Mermaid Chase Paddling Race at Linda Pederson Park, setting a new course record. 

“I actually get to live my life now," she told us. "You can’t live your life and you can’t surround yourself with the things that aren’t healthy — you have to change your lifestyle."

While this was a beginner kayak race, Dudziak is looking to compete in more advanced races in the future.