Meet Ben – he competes in domestic and international surfing competitions, all while studying at university!
Ben loves being outdoors but more than anything else, he loves surfing! Some of his happiest memories are from when he was just 5 years old, catching his first waves at Byron Bay with his family. Surfing became a bit of a tradition for Ben and his dad, who would hit the surf before school. Ben even started competing in surfing contests when he was 11 years old.
Around the same time, Ben was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) – a diagnosis that he says was quite tough at the beginning, however with his positive outlook and the support system around him, he felt it was manageable. Nowadays, to further support his diabetes management, Ben uses the t:slim X2™ insulin pump – with the multiple profiles allowing Ben to fine-tune his levels whether surfing, studying or day-to-day.
We wanted to talk to Ben about his journey with diabetes and his outlook on managing his diabetes, competing in surfing contests and balancing study.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your diabetes journey?
I was diagnosed with T1D at 11 years old. In the very beginning, it was tough and I struggled with the shift in identity to now being a ‘diabetic’ as it took a while for me to wrap my head around what that meant. Initially, I feared this would end competing in surfing contests as I was told I should only “play around in the shallows for a bit.” Luckily, this wasn’t the case, as my family and I realised that for me, as long as I maintained good control, there would be no limitations with my surfing.
My levels were really good when I was younger, largely due to my mum and dad who were very diligent with making sure I was on top of things. However, growing up it was hard to understand all the variables that could cause my levels to fluctuate. Now, I’m very interested in how these variables come into play so I can take measures to limit factors that fluctuate my levels. For me, I’ve found resistance training and cardio can balance my sugar levels nicely as well as eating the right foods within a restricted time-frame.
Q: How do you think your active lifestyle influences your diabetes?
I was very into sports as a kid playing footy, basketball and tennis as well as numerous other hobbies such as skating, soccer and of course, surfing. These kept me outdoors most of the time. Since then, I have really developed a passion for active living as well; working out how to optimise my T1D with this and how different variables such as food, sleep, different forms of exercise and fasting can also impact my diabetes. This desire for an active lifestyle was also the main reason I wanted to study Physiotherapy, as I assumed it would facilitate an active/healthy lifestyle.
With my surfing, whether I’m competing or training, I need to stay on top of my levels at all times. I’ve been competing since I was 11 years old. At age 12 or 13, I was competing at the Victorian State titles and won the junior division, which probably sparked my drive and desire to get better. From then on, I have been lucky enough to compete all around Australia, becoming National Champion twice. More recently, I’ve spent much of the last 2 years travelling the world competing on the WSL World Longboard Tour, alongside many other logging/longboarding events across Europe and the United States.
Q: WOW, that’s incredible! It sounds like you’ve travelled a lot recently. How do you balance study and competing as a professional longboarder?
My university has a great ‘Elite Athlete Program’ which allowed me to go part-time last year as I travelled to numerous contests all over the world. In saying that, there are difficult instances such as missing practical lessons and financing my travel to competitions, however I recognise how lucky I am to be able to have the opportunity to study something I am passionate about, which will provide me a fulfilling career, as well as allow me to chase my goals and ambitions.
Whether surfing or studying, the t:slim X2 allows me keep a close eye on my levels and so, is extremely helpful to me without a doubt. The different profiles I run can keep my sugar levels balanced, whether I am surfing for 4 hours, surfing a few heats or studying all day. This is a luxury that I am very grateful for and makes my life much easier. Being able to keep my levels balanced and fine-tune things around an event is also extremely important to me as otherwise this can really negatively impact upon my performance.
Q: Why did you choose the t:slim X2 insulin pump?
I chose this pump because it was paramount to be able to have real-time feedback of my sugar levels, not only for my everyday life but for competitions where adrenaline can play a big part in fluctuating levels. In the lead-up to a heat, going low or being too high can definitely put me off at a time where I need to be mentally ready to go.
At first, I was a little cautious of the touchscreen as none of my previous pumps had this feature. But it didn’t take long for me to love it! It’s so easy to access my personal profiles. I have a mildly active and very active profile setting which has been great for reducing the guess work with temporary basal’s during the day and overnight. It works well with my varying activity levels going from training to competing and then studying.
Q: What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?
I can fine-tune everything in a way that just wasn’t possible without the t:slim X2. It just makes things easy for me to keep tighter control of my levels.
As for everyday life, it has been great to further my own interests in how my sugar levels vary. It is also very interesting to see how high intensity exercise increases my levels afterwards and that moderate cardio brings my sugar levels down, slowly but steadily. Having a good grasp on which foods spike my sugar levels the most and require a larger amount of insulin has also been a key feature that has enabled me to understand which foods work best for me.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking into pumping with the t:slim X2 insulin pump?
Do it. The benefits outweigh the cons by a million! For me, I was hesitant as I didn’t want something attached to me all the time however this was very quickly surpassed by realising that it ultimately gives me more freedom and the ability to control my diabetes in a way that I can continue to live an active and healthy life.
Also, I’ve found keeping records of my levels useful in being able to see what variables cause my sugar levels to go high or low. Glooko Diasend was useful here as it allowed my endocrinologist to keep a steady look over my levels – which has been great for optimising my insulin doses.
Q: Why did you choose AMSL Diabetes?
A while back, I chatted to representatives from two different companies and I liked the pump features that AMSL Diabetes were able to offer. For me, it was crucial that it was lightweight, small in size and easy to use.
Editor note: Ben is passionate about living an active lifestyle with T1D. He knows that whether in or out of the water, the t:slim X2 insulin pump allows him to fine-tune his levels so he can perform at best. Whether competing at a longboard event, studying for an exam or speaking at the ‘Sports & Exercise Weekend’ – he knows he has a profile for that!
Always read the label and use only as directed. Read the warnings available on www.amsldiabetes.com.au/resources before purchasing. Consult your healthcare professional to see which product is right for you.
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“The different profiles I run can keep my sugar levels balanced, whether I am surfing for 4 hours, surfing a few heats or studying all day.”
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