SUP International magazine take a walk on the Wylde side and chat with Fiona Wylde who is currently at home in Hood River, Oregon. We find out how she has been coping with the Corona situation and how she manages to succesfully compete in both race and wave competition whilst dealing with type 1 diabetes!
Photos: APP/ Carter and Starboard / Thouard
SUP INT: Tell us where you are now and what you have been up to over the last few months?
FW: Hi Everybody! Currently I am home in Hood River, Oregon and have been since the end of February. As with everybody else in the world, life is different. There have not been any events and there has been limited training availability, so daily life is drastically altered. Over the past year and a half, I have also been studying Geography and Geospatial Science online at Oregon State University part time while I’ve been competing. When it looked like I would be staying for a while, I decided to dive deeper into my studies. I have been studying full time the last two months and it’s been great! It means a lot of time on my computer every day, but it’s amazing to be studying Geospatial science at the moment because every day we see data about the Coronavirus spatially explained. It’s very interesting because every day I get to see something I’m studying being applied in the real world. It has been fun to focus on school for a while!
SUP INT: Are you still getting in the water?
FW: I have been getting on the water in a limited amount. I have not been able to paddle very much because access to the Columbia River has been very limited. In addition to that, I’ve had a broken thumb. Turns out you use your thumbs a bunch. Don’t break them!! But I have still had a few sessions and every moment in the water has felt really good! Access to the river is just opening up and I was able to go windsurf yesterday! That was a complete blast! My thumb is healing well, and I look forward to spending more days on the water soon.
SUP INT: How are you keeping fit and what training have you been doing?
FW: I am exercising every day! My exercise is less training specific and more exercising to feel good and have fun in the outdoors. In these moments I think it’s really important to keep our minds and bodies strong and exercise is the best way to do that. Since a lot of the recreational trails have been closed, I’ve been turning to the roads and running and road biking a lot. I ran my first half marathon the other day and that was really fun! And quite the challenge!
SUP INT: Do you follow any type of diet and what is it?
FW: Not exactly. I have Type 1 diabetes, so I have to be mindful of what I’m eating. The foods with less sugar and starchy carbohydrates feel better for my body because I don’t have to use as much insulin. On top of Type 1, I have Celiac Disease, so that means that I am allergic to wheat, barley, oats and rye. This gets tricky sometimes, but luckily there are so many Gluten Free options out there, that it’s not too difficult. So, I don’t follow an exact training nutritional plan, but within the foods that I can eat, I keep a balanced diet and enjoy almost everything, in moderation.
SUP INT: What side of SUP do you prefer Race or wave and why?
FW: Ha ha, this is the question I have the hardest time answering! To me, it’s the sport that I love, and the Stand-Up Paddling includes both surfing and racing. Throughout the year, I will spend more time racing. There are four times as many stand up paddle races throughout the year compared to sup surf contests, so the majority of my training is focused on racing. However, because I love sup surfing so much, I make sure to dedicate time to surf trips, competitions and day trips to the Oregon Coast when I’m home. I gets difficult to divide my time between surfing and racing, but this is a choice I make because I love both. Spending time in the waves takes away from my time race training and vice versa. However, the skills I learn on a sup surfboard help me on my race board and the strength I have from racing helps me in the sup surf competitions. It is this balance that I’ve created and the mindset I’ve chosen that allows me to be able to compete in both and at the highest level.
SUP INT: What was the high and low point for you on the APP tour last season?
FW: There were two high points on the APP World Tour last year. The first one was when I won the Sunset Beach Pro. Sunset is one of my favourite waves in the world. I’ve placed second at Sunset twice, but I’ve never won this event. Actually, I had never won a sup surf World Tour stop before. For me, winning Sunset was proving to myself that I can surf. I didn’t learn to surf until I was 15, so I didn’t grow up with the ocean in my backyard like most of my fellow competitors. Surfing is something I have to really had to work for. When I won Sunset, it felt like it cemented my passion for sup surfing and I proved to myself that I can surf, and I can surf well. I was not out there to prove it to anybody else other than myself.
The other best moment of the APP World Tour last year was that I won the Paris Crossing. This was the last race of the year, there were 925 people in the event, and I had not won an APP race yet last season. This was my first time in an entire season I hadn’t won an APP race yet. I had quite a few second and third place results, but no firsts, yet. About two kilometres before the finish I was in a pack of 5 girls. We all started pushing hard but I decided I wanted this race. I decided I wanted to win this race. I pushed as hard as I could and took the win. When you decide you want to do something, you can do anything. That’s what this year was about for me.
The hardest part of last year would have been losing my second place standing on the APP World Tour of Surfing. Coming into the last stop of the Tour, I was sitting second on the tour. In the quarter finals, I had a disastrous heat. On my second wave, I fell, my leash broke and got washed up into the rocks. It took me a while to swim in, have my other board thrown to me and paddle back out. From that point, there wasn’t much time left in the heat and no waves came through. Since I lost in the quarters, I ended up dropping from 2nd on the rankings to 4th. That was devastating. It was not the way I wanted to finish my season on tour. I had an amazing season. So many wins on both surfing and racing and a ton of fun. It took me a little bit, but I realized that I can’t put too much pressure on one result. I can’t let myself be bummed out because of one bad heat and let that take away from an amazing season I had. I can learn from it and move forward, get stronger and more excited to compete in the next event.
SUP INT: How many events do you normally compete at during a season?
FW: Last year was the busiest season yet! In total, I competed in 29 events from the beginning of January to the end of February. I only spent seven and a half weeks at home last year.
SUP INT: How are you dealing with the Corona situation mentally?
FW: Like I mentioned earlier, I have been focusing on my university studies. This has been helping me mentally. It’s sad to think of how many people who have been sick or passes away from the Corona Virus. My heart goes out to those families and individuals. I am doing my best to stay home and stay safe.
SUP INT: Does it worry you?
FW: Absolutely! Especially because I have Type 1 Diabetes. Having an autoimmune disease makes me more susceptible to any illness, especially this pandemic that is so contagious. My family has been really helpful since we all live in the same town. My family has been helping me by going to the grocery store for me and to the pharmacy to pick up my insulin. The few times I’ve gone out to the store, I’ve worn a mask and I’ve made sure that I thoroughly wash my hands before and after going to the store.
SUP INT: Do you miss the travel right now?
FW: I miss traveling, but it’s hard to imagine traveling right now when so many people are ill and struggling. I think there are more important things to focus on the moment. Worldwide, our health is the number one priority. I respect that and do not want to push my wishes to travel and compete again too soon. Those wishes simply need to be patient. The time will come when people are healthy, and the spread of the virus is limited, and we can start traveling again. Until then, I’m being patient.
SUP INT: What would be your idea of the perfect wave SUP session?
FW: Big peeling point break just with my friends!
SUP INT: what is the high and low point of your career so far?
FW: There have been quite a lot of high points like, individual events I’ve won, the sponsorship’s I have, the lifestyle I live and the friends I’ve made. To be completely honest, I haven’t had a ‘low point. I have had difficulties in my career no doubt! But I choose to look at those momentarily setback or difficult moments as building blocks. You are not going to improve unless you mess up. As an athlete, I can learn from anything, and it’s important to keep a positive mindset. A positive mindset can keep you moving forward, a negative one can hold you back.
SUP INT: Did your windsurfing career lead into the career into SUP?
FW: Yes, it did! Windsurfing introduced me to all of the ways that you can enjoy the water. Steve Gates, the former owner of Big Winds, created a junior windsurf team that quickly morphed in the Big Winds Junior Elite Team of Stand-Up Paddling. The introduction Steve gave me to stand up paddling, changed my life. He taught me sport that I learned to love. Windsurfing was my first introduction to surfing. I learned how to wave sail before I learned how to surf. I quickly realized how much fun wave sailing was and started competing on the then AWT (American Windsurfing Tour). This was a pure windsurf wave sailing tour with some of the best windsurf wave sailing locations in the Americas, including San Carlos, Mexico, Pacasmayo, Peru and Ho’okipa, Maui, USA. Because I was competing in wave sailing and a lot of times the wind doesn’t pick up until mid-morning, this is how I learned to stand up surf. There would always be a few sups sitting around on the beach, so I picked one up and tried to catch waves. That was when I was about 15/16 years old. Stand up surfing helped my windsurfing because I was spending so much time in the water. When I was 18, I won the PWA (Professional Windsurfing Association) Youth Wave Sailing World Title and got second to multiple windsurf world champion, Iballa Moreno. About two weeks after that event, I signed a contract with Starboard SUP. Having so much competition experience from a young age helped my stand-up paddling career take off.
SUP INT: Do you think you will be competing again this season?
FW: I think I will. I am not sure how far I will be able to travel internationally, but I at least will be able to compete locally. The Gorge Paddle Challenge is still on the schedule which is the 15th-16th of August. I think this will be my first race of the season, but I hope that everything is safe enough for us to travel around that time. In addition, the APP fall schedule hasn’t changed yet and the Euro Tour just announced it is schedule for the end of the summer. I really hope to be competing this year, but the reality is that we will know if it’s possible closer to the events.
SUP INT: Has dealing with Type 1 diabetes made you s stronger more determined person?
FW: I think it has. I would never wish anybody to have type 1 diabetes, but it’s made me stronger. I’ve become more aware of my body and I’ve learned to listen to my body more than I used to. I have also learned to mentally be stronger because diabetes is not a perfect thing. It’s actually about the furthest thing from perfect. Controlling diabetes is like trying to hit a moving target in the dark, not impossible, but extremely difficult. Sometimes I have bad days, that’s ok. I’ve learned to not get hung-up on the bad days but try to learn from my mistakes and move forward.
SUP INT: What tips do you have for any up and coming female SUP riders who want to race professionally?
FW: HAVE FUN! The best way you are going to improve is to enjoy your time out on the water! Also, if you have any questions, reach out to the pros! Young, old, fast, slow, it does not matter. I would love to chat with you about stand up paddling and I know that a bunch of other pros would like to as well.
SUP INT: What ambitions do you have left as a SUP athlete?
FW: Left?! I am just getting started lol!
SUP INT: Why do you love SUP?
FW: It’s easy, the community. I remember when I was just learning to paddle, I looked up to the pros in the sport. They were so kind, so encouraging and so welcoming. As I started competing and traveling further, my friendship in the sport grew. Now, I’m close friends with most of the people I used to look up to, which is really cool. But cooler than that, are all of the people I’ve met along the way. Stand Up Paddling has taken me to some of the most amazing places in the world and introduced me to my best friends. So, that’s why I love stand up paddling!
SUP INT: Three Words to Live by?
FW: NEVER GIVE UP!