The SUP Lifestyle: World Champion SUP Racer Fiona Wylde
For 19-year-old SUP racing phenom Fiona Wylde, being on the water was never "just a hobby." It's her way of life, her identity, a fixture of her persona from which every other endeavor in her life takes root.
"For me, the lifestyle of standup paddling is my style," Fiona says. "It is competing, it is exploring, it is traveling and challenging yourself. It is doing the thing I care about with the people I love so much. And that's what makes my life what it is."
Born and raised in a family of windsurfers that split its time between Los Barriles, Baja and Hood River, Oregon—both areas renowned for having some of the best recreational wind on earth—Wylde was on a board and harnessing the wind as soon as she could swim. She began paddling after joining Hood's Big Winds Junior Team, which was originally a windsurfing club that morphed into a standup paddle group so more kids could be involved. She competed in her first race at age 14, and she's only sped up since, finding her competitive stride in SUP surfing and racing with big wins in Santa Cruz, Hood River and Lake Tahoe.
"I consider myself a creative competitor," Wylde says. "Competing isn't just about putting the paddle in the water and moving forward. It takes time, networking, planning and a lot of dedication. I try to remember that when I'm not on the water; my life is way more than just the race."
As of spring last year, Wylde's life also became about coping with disease. The same day she graduated high school and was finally ready to free to pursue SUP non-stop, she was diagnosed with Type-I Diabetes.
"It definitely threw a wrench in my works," Wylde says. "But thanks to all the support I have among my family, my boyfriend (Bernd Roediger) and friends, I'm still able to compete full-time. And that's been my goal all along." —MM