An Interview with boot SUP Wave Masters winner Fiona Wylde
Hi Fiona, thank you for taking the time to talk to us on occasion of the International Women’s Day about your experience as a professional female stand up paddler and your current activities after winning the SUP Wave Masters at boot Düsseldorf 2019 for the third time in a row.
Fiona Wylde: Thank you for inviting me!
THE WAVE at boot Düsseldorf seems to work just perfect for you, doesn’t it?
It’s a pretty fun phenomenon! The environment around The Wave at boot Düsseldorf gets me so excited to surf, and the wave itself is a really fun challenge! I love it!
Do you enjoy coming to Düsseldorf for the boat show?
Absolutely! I don’t get the chance to compete in many indoor events during the year, so this event is really unique. I really enjoy seeing all of the new gear the brands are showcasing for the upcoming season. It’s so cool to see how the sports progress from year to year!
What makes boot Düsseldorf special for you?
For me, the people make boot Dusseldorf show so special. Starboard Germany has extended the warmest welcome to me over the last few years and I love returning to the show and working with them. By now, we’re all such great friends it’s like a family reunion every year I return.
How does indoor SUP surfing on a stationary wave compare to the real thing at the beach?
It’s very different, but my favorite part is how much I get to practice and improve during a short time on THE WAVE. Because it’s stationary, you get to try new maneuvers and work on your turns, most likely getting more chances to practice than in a surf session out in the ocean. This is really fun, because you can see real improvement in my surfing and I feel that I really improve in a short period of time.
Although you are just in your early twenties, you already have an impressive record of titles and awards: top three in the World Paddle League, podium places in various World Cup races, SUP Racing World Champion in 2016, Windsurfer of the Year in the US when you were just 15, to name but a few. What’s the secret of your success?
Thank you! I think the most important piece of the puzzle is to enjoy the process. I love what I do and have always enjoyed it. The more fun that I am having the more successful I am. I try not to force it, but enjoy it and work hard towards my goals!
Your story is special in a way. You have always been very open about your Diabetes condition diagnosed in 2015. How did this affect your SUP and surfing career? Did you have to change plans?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2015 when I was 18 years old. It came as a huge shock to me and my family. At the time, I was just graduating high school and had signed with Starboard. It was my dream to become a professional athlete, and right when my dreams were coming true, Type 1 Diabetes came on the table. I wasn’t going to give up my dreams just because I had a disease. Lucky for me, Type 1 Diabetes is manageable through insulin and healthy lifestyle. It’s not easy by any means, but I love what I do too much to give it up. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up things when you have Type 1 Diabetes, you just have to plan better.
Now when I travel, I travel with back up insulin, always travel with food, wear a Dexcom which continuously monitors my blood glucose, and try to balance training with proper rest. I have actually learned a lot more about my body because of Type 1 Diabetes.
What is your experience of the world of surfing as a girl and a young woman? Does it make a difference for you whether you go surfing or SUP paddling with women or men?
What a unique question, thank you for asking. My initial response is that it doesn’t make a difference, but in reality, being a woman out on the water is different. I’ve had so many sessions when I am the only female out in the line-up. For the most part, everybody is cool and doesn’t look at me differently. Every now and then there is one guy who doesn’t think I’ll make a wave and drops in on me. And yeah, that will really annoy me! But after I catch a few waves and they see that I can surf everybody is relaxed.
That is the one part of surfing that is interesting to me, having to prove yourself. I didn’t grow up surfing because I didn’t learn to surf until I was 15. I started surfing because I love riding waves and sharing time on the water with friends. I think that is why a lot of people surf, and I believe that when people are in the water having a good time, sharing waves, and being respectful to others, it shouldn’t matter what your skill level is or what gender you are because we are all out there doing something we love.
What do you think, how does your experience as a female professional surfer compare to that of your male colleagues?
I wouldn’t wish to be any different than I am. I am really happy where I am in my career and what my hard worked has yielded. Fortunately, the majority of the SUP Races and Surf contest I enter now have equal prize money for men and women. This has been a huge improvement since I started competing and I am happy that women are getting the recognition that hard work deserves.
On the sponsorship side, there is room for improvement. I know that I don’t get equally paid as a female professional stand up paddler as some of my male colleagues, but I am positive that this will change in the future. In our sports, men and women are equally as important for promoting brands, winning competitions and in photoshoots.
Is surfing and/or SUP a sport you would recommend young girls to enter? Do we have enough female surfers / SUP paddlers or do you want to see more of them?
Absolutely! Surfing and Stand Up Paddling is a perfect sport for girls and women of all ages to get into! One of the best parts about ocean sports is the healthy lifestyle that surrounds it. Being on the water keeps you fit, healthy and you are always learning something new and challenging yourself in new ways. Sometimes beyond surfing, I just love watching the water and weather move through an area. This teaches me patience and awareness for my surroundings which translate into my everyday life. I think the more girls that want to learn to surf, the better!
What would be your advice to a young girl dreaming of becoming a professional surfer / SUPer?
You can do it! I didn’t have anything more than a dream when I started my career. The most important thing is to not give up. No matter what barriers come in your way, if you want something, you can work hard and get it.
Tell us a bit about your plans for the summer of 2019? Where can we see you on your board?
My season is going to be a busy one but I am so excited for every part of it! I will be competing in all of the APP World Tour stops, which are in Hawaii, London, Japan, California, New York, Barbados and Canary Islands. In addition to that you will see me racing in Europe, my hometown of Hood River, Oregon, Brazil, and again in California. I will be competing in both SUP Races and SUP Surf events, so I will be busy training as much as I can be. The most unique part about stand up paddling has been all of the amazing people I’ve met from different parts of the world. I love traveling, and feel so fortunate to travel with my sports!
Will you be back in Düsseldorf in January 2020 to defend your title?