Pro Activity | Fiona Wylde, A Teenage Champ Coping With Diabetes

Fiona Wylde. Photo: Seth Warren

Fiona Wylde. Photo: Seth Warren

Pro Activity | Fiona Wylde

The Life of an 18-year-old SUP Superstar Coping With Diabetes

"As an athlete, you're responsible for taking care of your body," says Fiona Wylde, the 18-year-old from Hood River who's currently fourth in the SUP world rankings.

This self-reliant philosophy was tested this past spring, when Wylde discovered that she had Type I diabetes. "For a few weeks I couldn't train hard while my doctor tried to dial in my insulin levels, and that was really frustrating," Wylde told SUP mag. "But after three weeks my body adjusted and I got right back into my usual routine."

Wylde's definition of "usual" differs from most paddlers', and involves a rigorous combination of SUP river surfing and downwinders, windsurfing, cycling, running and whitewater slalom windsurfing (note: Wylde would be competing on the pro windsurfing tour if many events didn't clash with SUP races). But once the young waterwoman got her diabetes under control, there was no way she was going to let it hold her back. The only difference between her 2014 routine and this year's regimen is that now each day is bookended with blood sugar tests and insulin injections.

Wylde's typical day begins between 6:00 and 7:00 am. First things first, she does a finger prick test to measure her blood sugar level. Then comes the morning's dose of insulin, along with a blood sugar assessment to plan an appropriate breakfast that will top up her blood sugar without sending it soaring. Her usual morning meal is either a protein shake or toast with peanut butter and a banana.

For the rest of the day, Wylde relies on a blood sugar monitor she sticks to her abdomen, which means "I don't have to mess up my fingers by pricking them all day." After breakfast, she takes a trail run or climbs a monstrous set of stairs that involves almost a mile of quick footsteps up and down. She then adds in some weight training and core stability work before checking her blood sugar again.

Depending on the reading, Wylde's afternoon nutrition plan involves a second protein shake or some orange juice to boost her blood sugar levels, followed by a meal. Lunch typically consists of eggs and vegetables or a rice bowl "because it gives me plenty of slow-burning fuel."

Once her lunch has settled and she has administered another insulin shot, Wylde loads up her gear and board and heads to the Columbia River for a downwinder. After her first run, she takes a brief break for a Clif Bar ("peanut butter-chocolate and chocolate chip are my favorites") or, depending on the latest blood sugar readout, another rice bowl to refuel. From there, it's back out onto the water for a second downwind run.

After her daily paddles, Wylde winds down with an "easy" 10- to 16-mile cycle. Then it's off to the store to load up on fresh veggies and lean protein. Evenings often involve grilling out with friends and getting to bed early. "I like to watch movies but some days I'm just too tired to even do that," Wylde says.

Wylde's exhausting routine has paid off, big time. In addition to winning the Celtic Cup in England and finishing second at the Payette River Games, Wylde also overcame the lack of wind at this year's Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge to finish third in the course race and second in what was supposed to be a downwinder but ended up being an upriver slog in flatwater. "I was disappointed that the Double Downwind event didn't happen because my training times were fast going into the event," Wylde said. "But I was pleasantly surprised to finish second going upriver in flat conditions."

For all her success on the river, it was at The Pacific Paddle Games presented by Salt Life that Wylde truly made her mark as one of the world's best paddlers. She finished fifth in the elite distance race and third in the elite technical course for a well deserved third-place overall podium finish.

"When I walked down to the beach on the first day of racing (at #PPG2015), I felt like it was game time," Wylde said. "So many people were watching, the competition was the fiercest, and conditions made the race so unpredictable. If there was ever a race to put everything on the line, this was it. I'm so happy with my third-place finish and can't wait for next year's PPG."

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Fiona Wylde with the determined look of a true champion. Photo: Greg Panas

Fiona Wylde with the determined look of a true champion. Photo: Greg Panas