The always smiling and bubbly Fiona Wylde has been having a terrific season so far and has paddled herself to a 2019 SUP EuroTour victory. This was the Starboard Team Rider‘s first-ever overall EuroTour win, despite being among the women’s elite for some time and picking up several podium positions in prior years. After 5 long months of racing the EuroTour culminated this past weekend in Scharbeutz at the final Grand Slam event, the SUP World Cup, where the overall tour winners would be decided. After a comanding win at the weekends race, Fiona picked up those final crucial points needed to concende the overall win. Now that is exciting SUP racing for you!
Fiona has had a tremendous season and so from all of us Starboard – the crew, team and Tiki family around the world – we would like to say a massive well done and we’re so proud to be part of your story! Fiona is super excited to share her EuroTour recap, so here it is in her words:
Four years ago was my first Euro Tour Race. I was filled with excitement to be flying over to Europe to race in stand up paddling. I won a few of the smaller Euro Tour Events, but never the big 6 Star Races.. that was craziness, those races were for the real pros. If I could crack the top five, I was stoked!!
I loved racing over in Europe and my respect for the women at the top of the field, Sonni, Olivia, Angie, Susak, Laura, grew at every event I attended. Watching them train, prepare and consistently push the level of women’s sup racing in Europe was inspirational, and in-fact a measurable advancement in the sport.
This year, I went into the Euro Tour eager to do my best, but also to enjoy every aspect of the racing. There were new locations and everybody on the Euro Tour is so much fun to travel with. I remember waking up the morning of the first race, Azur Paddle Days in Ville Franche, France feeling nervous. No matter how much I race, the butterflies are there. I went out that day and won the first Euro Tour Race of the season. It took me by surprise, but I was so happy to start my season off that way. It showed me that my training was good enough to put me in a position to win and got my head in the game.
(photos Ellen Wylde)
The following race was the Vendee Gliss event on the Atlantic side of France. This race was a downwinder and the wind gods were in our favour. 20 knots and brilliant sunshine greeted us on race morning. All the athletes piled into inflatable James Bond-style ribs and drove 20km out to sea where the race started, so we could get the best downwind line back into the beach. If anybody knows me, then you could probably guess that this is practically my dream race. Big bumps, lots of wind and boats.. what could get much better?! I was absolutely loving it! I won Vendee and thought, “ok, this is a little nut, what’s next”. Out of two Euro Tour race, I had two wins.
(photos Ellen Wylde)
From there, I skipped a week of racing on the Euro Tour to race in London on the APP. I had a solid distance race where I came in third, but I slipped up in the sprints and came up 5th, so I finished the race 5th overall. I wasn’t too stoked on that and I was ready for a little break at home. I had been on the road since the first week of April competing in both races and surf events in South America before heading to Europe and I needed a little break at home.
(photo: Si Crowther/APP)
Three weeks flew by because it turned in to two. My original plan was to race in Azur Paddle Days, Vendee, come home, then race in the two events in Greece. However, with two wins, I was in a position to be on the top of the rankings and for that, you need five events, not the four I had planned on. So, I flew back to Spain and raced in Bilbao.
At the Bilbao SUP Challenge, I had troubles with my blood sugar and couldn’t get them high enough. I was going low most of the race and did my best to hang in there. Olivia, Susak and Laura were out in front for first through third and I was in a pack with Sey Chelle and Amadine sprinting for fourth. I was able to get fourth, but just by 2 seconds. That race hurt mentally. I am normally so good with managing my Type 1 Diabetes on race days, but that day it got the best of me and it affected my overall result. There were moments when my vision was really blurry and it was difficult to see where I was going and forget about focus, that went out the window.
The events are categorised with four stars being the smaller events and six stars being the biggest, most competitive events. A win at a four-star event would be about equal to a fourth at a six-star event. So now I had one first at a four-star event, one first at a five-star event and a fourth at a six-star event. Olivia, who had been racing the whole time I was home, was now carrying a third at a four-star event, a fourth at a five-star event, a 1st at the five-star event and two firsts at six-star events. Obviously Olivia was in the lead and she was on a roll. She had five really solid results and was way out in front of the rankings.
I now had three results with two more races in Greece to go. Greece felt like a surf trip. I went into the first event in Greece with no real plans, no travel partners and just wanted to see where I’d go and where I’d end up. I wanted a little adventure. Talking with Caterina Stetna, Chris Parker and Trevor Tunnington on Friday before Bilbao, they also didn’t have any plans for Greece yet but wanted to go. We decided to travel together and booked tickets to leave on Sunday. That’s how our trip started and that’s how it continued to be. We stayed in a gorgeous apartment in Corfu overlooking picturesque teal water with grapevines hanging around our balcony and drove scooters through the country-side. I had also been studying during the whole spring as I’m doing University through Oregon State University online and at the begging of the week I took all of my finals exams so it really felt like a true vacation.
(Photo: Trevor Tunnington)
We had heard that it was supposed to be windy at the races in Greece, so everybody sent their downwind and all water boards without even looking at a wind forecast… oops! It was about the glassiest race I have ever padded in and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Luckily my Allstar still goes well in really flat conditions. I got a gap off of the start and was able to hold it for the remainder of the race. I knew that if I left up any little amount Caterina and Amadine would catch me. The race was about an hour and forty minutes long in thirty-eight degrees during the middle of the day. I looked like a giant tomato when I crossed the finish line, but I had a grin ear to ear, that was my third Euro Tour Win.
We spent the following week in Agios Nikolaos on Crete. That was amazing. Yet again, we had a gorgeous place right near the sea and we spent our days running, paddling or hanging out in the sea. This race was really cool. It was a 16km point-to-point race that started in the corner of a bay, entered the bay, then funnelled us through a canal into a bigger bay, then rounded a headland and zig-zagged down the coast to finish in the heart of Agios Nikolaos. It was a long-distance race with downwind at the beginning, a massive upwind and side wind section, and then a little more downwind to the finish.
I was excited for this race, really hoping that there was going to be a good downwind section. The only problem with there being a good downwind section means that there is an equally hard upwind/sidewind section that follows. The night before the race, rumour had it that Sonni was coming. We are really good friends and teammates and have travelled together for many events, so I was happy that she was making a big effort to come to this race and enjoy Greece. However, long-distance difficult races are her forté.
We started the race late in the afternoon so the wind built. I got an early lead as soon as we hit the bumps, but the ‘downwind’ was really a side wind and you’d have the catch the bumps at an angle and surf the throughs quartering the wind. I was still in the lead going into the upwind section but Amadine and Sonni were closing in quickly. If it made it to the next downwind section before they caught me, I knew I would be set, but that was 4km away. I dug so hard in that upwind leg and I held my gap and finished the race with about a minute lead. This race was the most exciting and most satisfying Euro Tour win I had this year, because it was the most challenging, not just physically, but mentally too. Now I had four Euro Tour wins and a 4th place and I was leading the Euro Tour.
After an amazing summer at home, I was about to head out to New York to compete in the APP World Tour SUP Surfing and Racing. My focus was on that, but I had an intense two weeks ahead of me. There was one last EuroTour event of the season, the finals. The finals were in Germany on Sunday, September 7th and the APP races concluded in New York on Saturday, September 6th. Originally, I didn’t think it was possible to make both, but then looking into flights, I had just enough time to race on Saturday, go straight to the airport, fly and land in time to race in Germany on Sunday. As the standings were, I was in first but Olivia was in second and only five points behind. If she got a third in Germany, I would win regardless if I was there or not, but anything better would have Olivia as the Euro Tour Champ.
I finished 9th in the SUP Surf and 3rd overall in the races at the APP. It wasn’t my best result ever, but I learned so much, both from my mistakes and from my fellow competitors.
(Photo: APP / John Carter)
Micheal Booth and Arthur Arutkin were in similar situation points wise on the Euro Tour and were also flying from New York to Germany. We wrapped up the awards in New York, drove straight to the airport and made it in time for our flights. We arrived in Germany at about 3 and a half hours before the race started. I didn’t have time to worry about the race or get nervous. It was going to be what it was, I was either going to have a great race or feel extremely tired.
It was a five-lap course race and every lap somebody else was leading. The lead constantly changed between me, Susak, Sonni and Olivia, but heading into the last lap I was sitting in second. Sonni was right in front of me and Olivia behind. Halfway through the lap, with three buoy turns to go, Sonni went wide on a turn and Olivia was behind me. I saw this golden opening and started sprinting as hard as I could. I came out of the turn with a 10-meter gap. I knew that I couldn’t let up otherwise both of them would be on me in a second. I rounded the next buoy still in the lead, two buoys to go. I rounded the last one and push as hard as I could all the way to the beach. I ripped off my leash and sprinted across the finish line, 3 seconds ahead of Sonni in second and Olivia in third. Wow, I had just one my 5th Euro Tour win and the Overall Euro Tour! I was shocked, amazed, and more-over, happy.
I had no idea how I would do coming into this last race, let alone the entire season, but I love racing and as a competitor, I always want to do my best. This year, I pushed myself harder than I’ve ever gone before and tested my limits. I don’t think I’ve found my breaking point, but I have found that when you put your mind to something, there is nothing that you can’t do. Winning the Euro Tour with five 1st place results is a complete dream!
(Photo: Kristi Dreiburgs)
Thank you to everybody who has helped me through this process, on and off the water, and to my close friends family for the constant support.
See you on the water,
Fiona with here Mom