Female SUP prodigy Fiona Wylde is beating more than the competition

At age 17, world champion standup paddler Fiona Wylde was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It was the type of news with potential to devastate a young paddler's career.

Three years later and the Hood River, Oregon native's SUP career has only accelerated.

"There's the saying, 'If it doesn't kill you, it'll make you stronger,'" Wylde says. "I believe that having diabetes has kept me on my toes. It keeps me in tune with my body and makes me appreciate the things I can do."

Hood River local Fiona Wylde on her way to victory in the Double Downwinder at the Columbia Paddle Challenge.  Photo: Lorenzo Menendez/Flux Photography

Since the diagnosis, Wylde went on to win an overall APP World Championship title last year, an honor recognizing her combined victories in international SUP surfing and racing. She's mounted podiums at some of the biggest elite events around the world, and she's won the Columbia Paddle Challenge downwind race the past two years running.

At just 20 years old, Wylde is unanimously considered among the best female SUP athletes in the world, a reputation she earned all while wearing a glucose monitor during races and maintaining a stringent diet throughout her travels.

"Honestly, having diabetes hasn't changed my life drastically," Wylde says. "I still live my life as I did before. There are some days when I wake up with really high blood sugar and I feel like I've been hit by a truck, but those are the days when it's most important to get up and do something active. Exercise always makes me feel better."

With close monitoring of her blood sugar levels, Wylde continues her active lifestyle unfazed. She still paddles, rides bikes, eats healthy and competes. She travels as much now as she ever has, and the disease doesn't stop her from taking SUP trips halfway around the world at any given opportunity. Wylde says now, the biggest difference is in the planning.

"In order to travel, train, or do really anything, I need to make sure I have all of the proper medication and food in order to be healthy enough to do what I want to."

20-year-old womens SUP star Fiona Wylde doesn’t let Type 1 Diabetes stop her from taking on life’s greatest thrills. Photo courtesy of APP World Tour

On the water and in races, that translates to packing fast-acting sugar supplements in her hydration pack and wearing a glucose monitor called a Dexcom, a device that checks her blood sugar and tells her the status through an app on her Apple Watch. When she travels, she brings along enough insulin, test strips, needles and lancets to last two or three times the length of each trip. The trickiest part about staying healthy, Wylde says, is in her diet because she needs to be extra careful about sugar intake, a measure made more difficult—especially when traveling—by her Celiac Disease.

"I've always tried to eat healthy and that hasn't changed other than regulating my sugar intake," Wylde says. "The biggest changes came when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease because now I need to stay away from wheat, barely, oats and rye like the plague. Luckily we live in a time where gluten-free products are readily available and I've found plenty of substitutes."

Wylde shows off her diabetic travel kit. Photo courtesy of Black Project SUP and Fiona Wylde

Wylde's battle with disease may be constant, but it's only fueled her fervor for doing the things she loves. Of all the challenges involved with diabetes, the will to give up or even slow down is not among them for the young champion.

"Paddling has proved to me that if you have a dream, you should follow it," Wylde says. "Type 1 diabetes has taught me to never give up on that dream. You might have to figure out a different way to do something, but don't ever give up on the things you love! "

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