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Kiteboarding with Diabetes
Kiteboarding with Diabetes

Kiteboarding with Diabetes

Kiteboarding with Diabetes

Kiteboarding with diabetes (Type-1/T1D) can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Hopefully this post will help someone with diabetes planning their next kite session. I have been living with diabetes for over 25 years, if I can kite-surf so can you.

Kiteboarding Defined: “Kiteboarding is the sport of riding on a small surfboard that is propelled across water by a large kite to which the rider is harnessed. Called also kitesurfing.”

Merriam-Webster Definition

Diabetes Defined: “Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.”

World Health Organization Definition


Kiteboarding with Diabetes in Tahiti
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T1D and Kiteboarding

Juvenile Diabetes or Type-1 Diabetes (often abbreviated T1D) is a disease where an autoimmune response to an unknown environmental trigger or genetic predisposition that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin that would otherwise breakdown sugar.

This means that a person with T1D needs to take insulin to treat high blood sugars and to eat food/snacks to treat low blood sugars. The current cause of the disease is unknown, but I can tell you that I never had enough pixy sticks as a kid to cause diabetes. This disease can turn your whole childhood and the rest of your life upside down.

Overall, this means that extra planning is required before beginning a kiteboarding session with diabetes.

Thankfully, kiteboarding can lift you up when you are down.

Fun Fact- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is one of the leading advocates for Type-1 Diabetes in the United States. There is a lot of helpful information regarding diabetes here.

Planning Ahead with your Blood Sugar for Kiteboarding

Predicting what your blood sugar will do and determining what the wind will be like tomorrow go hand in hand. Ironically, they are very similar; can be completely unpredictable. Technology can help, but there are no absolutes. Being prepared is your best bet.

Blood Sugar Check Before Kite-Surfing
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Checking out my Blood Sugar before a Kite Session

The trick is making sure that your blood sugar is where you want it to be before you even launch your kite. Also, you will want to do some extra planning in place just in case.

Kite Buddy

Of course having someone with you that know’s you are Diabetic is also helpful. Preferably someone who is good at helping you launch and land a kite. You know… a Kite Buddy. Never be ashamed to let someone know that you are diabetic!

Kiteboarding Diabetes Kit

Having a diabetes kit together before you head out onto the water is always beneficial. That way you are staying ahead of diabetes, not just reacting to it.

Here’s what I take with me kiteboarding:

  • CGM
  • Blood Glucose Checker
  • Insulin Pen
  • Identification
  • Glucagon Kit
  • Juice
  • Granola Bars
  • Water
  • Beach Bag, Dry-Bag or Waterproof Cooler to hold all of your diabetes sh*t! (I mean diabetes stuff)
Kiteboarding Diabetes Kit
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Diabetes Stuff

Below are some things to consider when preparing for your next kite session.

Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on the Water

The CGM!!! The latest innovation in diabetes technology to help diabetics determine there blood glucose nearly in real-time (with a 5-minute lag time) that generally seems to work most of the time (75% of the time for me). Some CGMs can also be setup to notify friends and family if you are in trouble with your blood sugar. This nifty tech is really helpful before and after kiteboarding.

Dexcom CGM Glucose Reading
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Dexcom CGM Reading

However, once you leave your phone/receiver on the beach (or in the boat) and you are out of range of your phone, a CGM does not do much for you on the water during a session. You could risk putting your smart phone into a dry-bag to get blood glucose readings while you ride via a watch or something, but this is extra weight and another thing to worry about.

The other downside to kiteboarding with CGMs is that wearing a waist harness often rubs up against where you would normally wear a CGM sensor on your abdomen. Ultimately, I end up wearing a seat harness a lot more than I would like because of this problem.

CGMs and Kiteboarding
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CGM barely hanging on after a Kite Session

Further, consider that any blood glucose readings you do get become wildly inaccurate when you add in the interference of water and a thick wetsuit. Often when you take a wetsuit off, the CGM Sensor comes off along with it. Adhesive patches that go around your CGM can really help solve this problem.

Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
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Dexcom G6 CGM Sensor and Receiver with an Adhesive Patch

Blood Glucose Checker for Kiteboarding

For diabetics the blood glucose checker is generally a more reliable piece of equipment and a good back-up to have in addition to a CGM. If you don’t have a CGM just do a couple of checks before you head out onto the water and limit the length of time for your kite session so that you can do a check after riding to see where you are at. Moreover, just head back to shore and land the kite if you have even a tiny feeling that you may be having low blood sugar.

Do a blood sugar check before and after kiteboarding!

GLUCOSE TIP- I usually just keep my kite session to around 45 minutes or less to prevent blood sugar problems. Even if my blood sugar is perfect before riding, I will eat a granola bar in anticipation that my glucose will start to fall as I ride (similar to expending energy during a long run or workout). Kiteboarding is often a highly active sport. Plan ahead.

Beware of Sharks when doing blood sugar checks near the water! Seriously.

Check your Blood Sugar Before and After Kiteboarding
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Blood Glucose Checker

Considering Insulin and Pumps for Kiters

I know that some people have insulin pumps, insulin pods, and other kinds of closed loop systems out there that work well with CGMs. However, it can be tough to troubleshoot what is wrong with your insulin pump quickly on the water (hose? bent cannula? insulin itself? battery life?, etc.). Also after the thousandth time of catching an insulin pump hose on a door knob or kitchen cabinet I decided to swear off insulin pumps over five years ago.

Now, I use a CGM in combination with insulin pens (short acting and long acting). This method is simple, effective, and reliable even though it means more shots. Approximately, 2,000 insulin shots a year (that’s 50,000 insulin shots in 25 years!!!).

Waterproof Insulin Pumps???

If you do any activity around the water, just make sure your insulin pump is waterproof first and that it is safely secured to your body. This is risky. It reminds me of the time that my uncle went waterskiing and lost his wallet in the lake because he forgot to take it out of his swim trunks first. This is kind of like that.

When is the last time you decided to risk losing an expensive insulin pump in the water? It may be better to temporarily take your insulin pump off first for a short kite session instead.

Identification and Glucose Kit

Always wear your medical identification while kiteboarding, no matter how unstylish it is this could save your life some day. There are a ton of medical identification options out there. Just make sure it will stay secure while on the water. The glucagon kit is also something that I routinely take with me just in case, even though I have never used one and the needle inside this thing is terrifying.

Juice, Granola Bars, and Water

Having some juice boxes and granola bars on hand are great for treating low blood sugars. However, these are mostly made up of more simple carbohydrates. Sometimes adding in some form of protein (in the form of a protein shake or otherwise) can help stabilize your blood sugar for longer periods of time.

Extra drinking water will also help keep you hydrated out there and can help cleanse excess sugar from your system during high blood sugars.

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Bring Water

Diabetes Beach Bag

There are a variety of bags to hold all of your diabetic necessities (beach bags, dry bags, waterproof coolers, etc.) Personally, I really prefer a cooler bag that has extra pockets on the outside for your blood glucose checker and other items you need to keep dry. While the space inside the cooler helps keep your insulin cool and lets you bring cold refreshments for those hot days at the beach.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it holds all of your stuff.

Beach Bag Ready for Kiteboarding with Diabetes
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My Beach Bag
Diabetes and Kiteboarding
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Kiteboarding in Texas

Don’t let diabetes discourage you from trying new and exciting adventures, like kiteboarding. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Type-1 Diabetes (T1D) at age nine in the summer of 1994. Since then, I have run seven marathons, learned to SCUBA dive, bungee jumped the Bloukrans bridge, skydived, and learned to kiteboard… ALL WITH DIABETES.

Diabetes doesn’t have to be a drag, use a kite to lift yourself up!

Thanks for reading! ~ KiteBikeVan

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical health expert. The information and views expressed, including but not limited to text, data, images, and material on this website is for information purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always consult your own doctor or medical health expert first regarding your own health and health planning for diabetes.

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