Surfing with Type 1 Diabetes: Riding the Wave
I’m excited to share that I tried something that was on my bucket list for so long- surfing!
I took a trip to Sayulita, Mexico last month, and even before getting to the airport, I thought to myself: “This is it; this is my chance and opportunity to cross it off my list! I am going to try surfing!”
After arriving at my beautiful and sunny destination I found a cute little surf shop where I booked my first surfing lesson.
Excited about this new experience, multiple thoughts began to fill my head: How am I going to manage my blood sugar? What if I go extremely low? Where will I store my supplies? What if I need to inject insulin?
I was feeling so many emotions all at once. I was happy because I was finally going to do something I’d dreamed about for so long. I was anxious and sad because of my many diabetes-related worries. And finally, I was feeling mad because I felt that once again, diabetes took over.
Thankfully, I was on vacation with my cousin so together we brainstormed how I could make this work and still have a terrific time. I remember telling her: “I will not let my diabetes limit me. I refuse to think that diabetes will be the reason why I don’t get in the water and surf.”
Diabuddies, I did NOT let diabetes win and I got on that surfboard and rode those waves!
HOW I PREPARED
I had a choice to either take a morning lesson or one in the early afternoon. I chose the latter because I knew that I needed to eat breakfast to get energized, and I tend to sometimes go low (or close) after my first meal of the day. For me, an afternoon lesson meant I was going into the activity with more stabilized blood glucose numbers and less insulin on board (IOB).
I also set a temporary basal of -20% before getting into the water and extended it a couple of hours. I would rather have higher glucose levels than having in-target glucose levels because this would mean more chances of going low. This worked for me, and you should decide what works best for you and your diabetes with the help of your healthcare professional.
I also ate a predictable breakfast and brought snacks with me just in case.
I notified my instructor that I have type 1 diabetes and that I might have to take some breaks and get out of the water from time to time to make sure I was feeling all right. He was really understanding and very patient.
HYPO UNAWARENESS + ANXIETY
I would also like to mention that my experience may have been different because I am hypo unaware.
What is hypoglycemia unawareness? It occurs when someone doesn’t experience or perceive the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
I have had type 1 diabetes for 22 years and developed hypo unawareness a couple of years ago. As you can imagine, going in the water, away from my Dexcom was a big source of anxiety for me*.
Not being able to feel my lows was a real stress factor for me, but again, I didn’t want this to stop me from living my life.
My cousin was kind enough to switch her lesson so that she could stay at the shore and watch my Dexcom. She would wave me down if my glucose levels were dropping or rising too quickly. Having her there was incredible and really allowed me to enjoy the experience and be in the moment.
She would even wave her arms to let me know if my Dexcom went out of range for a long time. I would then come a little closer to the shore.
Sure, it was not the ideal first lesson that I had in mind, but it did not stop me from having a smile on my face for the duration of the class. I felt very proud that I kept going and that I decided that diabetes was not an obstacle.
Hypo unaware or not, it can still be stressful to experience a low in the water, so it’s important to be vigilant, to listen to your body, and to always have snacks close by.
SURFING WITH AN INSULIN PUMP
If you’re on an insulin pump, you may be unsure where you will put it while you’re in the water.
Some people decide to take it in with them by placing it in a waterproof pouch. Some are not comfortable doing so and decide to leave it at the shore. However, it is important to remember that a disconnected pump means that no insulin is being delivered.
In my case, I felt very relieved because that was one less thing to worry about. I wear Omnipod DASH®, which is a tubeless, waterproof insulin pump†. I wear the Pod directly on my body. I felt safe knowing that my insulin was still being delivered while I was in the water. My Pod stuck securely on me the whole lesson. Being hypo unaware is already so exhausting so I was really happy not having to think about my insulin pump as well.
Related: No tubes, no more multiple daily injections and no commitment to tie you down. Get started with a 90-day money-back guarantee**.
Surfing also includes lots of falling. My instructor described me as a pelican for the way I would fall off my board and hit the water. Even with all my pelican plunging, my Pod stayed in place!
All I had to focus on was timing my position with the wave and getting up on that board!
I would love to surf again and will definitely do so at the next opportunity. This experience reminded me that diabetes can’t stop me, and I will always work hard to ensure I do the things I love and on my terms!
If you too live with type 1 diabetes and are considering trying out a new sport, just remember that you can! You may just need more time to prepare for it. Now it’s your turn to tackle that bucket list!
*The Omnipod® System is not integrated with the Dexcom G6 CGM System
†The Pod has an IP28 rating for up to 7.6 metres (25 feet) for 60 minutes. The Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM) is not waterproof.
** Pod Promise Program 90-day money-back guarantee is subject to the following terms and conditions:
• Only product(s) from your first Omnipod® System starter kit shipment after enrolment are eligible for the Pod Promise Program 90-day money-back guarantee
• Requests for a refund must be made within 90 days after the user’s initial training
• The product must be returned within 14 days of the refund request date
• Refunds will be issued to you and your health insurance provider according to the amount actually paid for the product
Choosing an insulin pump is a big commitment, so make sure you discuss in advance with your healthcare professional whether Omnipod® is a suitable option for you.
Refer to the Ominpod DASH® Insulin Management System User Guide for complete safety information including indications, contraindications, warnings, cautions, and instructions.