But let’s go back a little here, because when I first heard of Fiona she was a 17 year old Girl charging Hookipa, and almost winning the infamous Aloha classic event while hitting the biggest lips like it was nothing. When I saw her live a few years later at Hookipa she was hitting those same lips on her SUP board and it all made sense to me - without further research I decided that she must be one of those lucky kids who grow up on Maui and that this explains her talent and level… But later I found out that in fact she grew up in Oregon - let’s catch up with this impressive young lady and see what we can learn from her.
First things first, how did you start to windsurf and why did you decide to choose a professional SUP career over a professional windsurfing career, since you obviously had the talent for both?
I grew up windsurfing with my family! My mom taught my dad to windsurf when they started dating and when I came along, windsurfing became our family sport. My parents owned a seasonal marine canvas business, so they worked really hard 9 months out of the year and took 3 months off and we went down to Baja, Mexico. So I grew up playing in the Sea with my parents learning to windsurf every day after school. I fell in love with the sport. I didn’t grow up with waves, where we live there weren’t any waves, so I learned to slalom sail. I started racing in the local Gorge Cup race series in Hood River in the summers when I was 11.
When the American Windsurf Tour restarting in 2010, I was 12 and wanted to be part of it! However, I had never wave sailed. That didn’t matter to me, I loved windsurfing and I wanted to learn a new side of the sport, even if it meant during a heat. Through the AWT, now called the IWT, I was introduced to the waves. I went to Maui for the first time when I was 15 and fell in love with the waves. I learned to windsurf wave sail and stand up paddle surf.
When I was 16 I was competing in all of it- sup surfing, windsurf wave sailing, slalom sailing and stand up paddle racing.
I kinda accidentally ended up in a career of stand up paddle racing.
I obviously loved both windsurfing and stand up very well. When I was 17 the first World Ranking for stand up paddle racing was published and I was #5 on the list. I couldn’t believe I was sitting so high up on the world scale amongst the water-women i had looked up to for years. The announcement of the World Rankings was made in October after I’d raced at Battle of the Paddle, the most competitive race at the time, and I made the podium. Two weeks after that race I sailed in my first PWA event.
"It was like one dream after another was happening. In my first PWA event at Ho’okipa I got second place to Iballa Moreno.. I was stunned! And so excited! And happy! "
The following week I got an email from Starboard and they said they wanted to sponsor me. I was over the moon with excitement but when I took a look at the contract it was all Stand Up Paddle Races and Surf events, no windsurf events. They wanted to sponsor me as a Stand Up Paddler. Ironically when I first got the email from them, I thought it was for a windsurfing contract.
I was not going to pass up a chance to travel the world and compete at a world level so of course I signed the contract. My goal was to still compete as much in windsurfing as I was in stand up paddling, but over the years, I started winning more races and competing more in stand up than in windsurfing. Windsurfing is still as big a passion for me as paddling is. However most of my time these days is filled with paddling events.
You are living with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac disease, so you need to take special care of what you eat. What can we imagine you eating in a day? Are you able to eat any sugar at all or do you have to stay away all together? What would be your top tips for travelling with a restrictive diet?
Type 1 diabetes takes constant monitoring. My pancreases doesn’t produce insulin like most people do, so I have to inject insulin multiple times a day depending on my blood sugar levels. Exercise drops my blood sugar and carbohydrates raise my blood sugar.
I can eat sugary foods, but it means that I need to give myself more insulin. However for me, event fruit is a very sugary food. I can pretty much eat anything as long as it is gluten free but I choose to be careful with what I eat and make sure I’m feeding my body with healthy food.
Sometimes it’s hard to find gluten free foods while traveling so I normally bring a lot of gluten free foods with me. If I know I can buy gluten free foods in the country then I bring less stuff with me, but it’s always good to plan ahead.
You’ve been competing in so many places around the world, which was your favourite event you’ve ever been to and why? Outside of competition what has been your favourite place to visit and why?
I’ve been very fortunate to travel the world competing in races and surf events. Thanks to stand up paddling and windsurfing, I’ve met some of my closest friends and seen so many incredible places. For me, my favorite trip is whenever there’s good company and good conditions! It doesn’t really matter where, and actually, even if there’s good company, we can have fun even without epic conditions!
If you could go on any trip tomorrow where would you go?
For now, I’m trying to make the most of enjoying home. I haven’t been home for a long time and there are a lot of really cool places close by so I’m trying to make the most of it.
You compete in waves and racing which one do you train more for and what do the different trainings for these disciplines look like? Do you work with a coach?
They’re both very different. Surfing and racing need different kinds of strength and different skills, but the skills for one helps me with the skills for another. I’ve worked with a coach to improve my sup surfing and with many different people for stand up racing.
You are a Hood River local, whats windsurfing there like and is it your favourite spot in the US?
Windsurfing in the Gorge is epic! The wind and the current go against each other so you get really fun, steep sweeps! It’s awesome cause you can foil on light days and bump and jump sail when it’s windy. Recently it’s been biking!! I’ve been sailing consistently in 40knot+ conditions. It’s been a complete blast!
You are studying at the moment? What are you studying? Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years from now?
I took time off between high school and college for focus on competing, but a head and a half ago I started online university. I go to Oregon State University E-Campus and I’m studying Geography and Geospatial Science. I’m loving my degree because it’s so pertinent to daily life. I hope to work with an environmentally minded company working with GIS technology to conduct research. Preferable, I like to work in hydrology.
What would be your top advice for girls who want to improve their wavesailing?
HAVE FUN!!! Every type of condition helps you improve, even if they’re not epic! Get out there and have fun!