Riding the Waves with Sugar Surfing

Did I ever mention I organized a Sugar Surfing workshop for Dr. Stephen Ponder? No? Okay, well, let me start at the beginning.

I started following the Sugar Surfing page a couple of years ago (like most things, I have no idea how I found it), and I eventually started occasionally interacting with Steve via his Facebook page. Early last year, I interviewed Steve for an article, which sadly never got published, but it was an enlightening conversation that really shifted a lot of my expectations for how diabetes management could actually work.

Then earlier this year, a few parents on one of the local diabetes Facebook groups started discussing Sugar Surfing, and someone suggested trying to get Steve to come to Minneapolis for one of his workshops. Well, by the point, I had already had a few discussion with Steve, so I emailed him and asked him how it worked to get one of his Sugar Surfing workshops to a new city. He told me that they were entirely organized by local volunteers, and that he would be happy to come to Minneapolis if someone could find a venue, recruit vendors, and promote it to get attendees.

So I said sure, sign me up. Okay, it was a little more complicated than that, but we ended up realizing the working with JDRF and ADA wouldn’t work out as well as doing it on our own.

After doing quite a bit of research and emailing, I had secured a location at Open Book, a non-profit organization dedicated to literacy arts, for Saturday, September 24. Perfect for a workshop that inspired a book, right? I was also thrilled to secure three sponsors, Dexcom, Medtronic and Insulet (I had a fourth, Novo Nordisk, but they ended up not being able to attend).

The day finally arrived this last weekend! Because of the timing of flights and when the workshop was going to be, it was easiest for Steve to fly into Minneapolis Friday night and fly out on Sunday morning and stay at our house. My husband and I went out with Steve for breakfast on Saturday morning, where we talked about growing up with type 1 diabetes (he was diagnosed 50 years ago at age 9, I was diagnosed 22 years ago at age 8) and our experiences at diabetes camp.


Steve wears hats. It’s his thing.

After breakfast, we drove to downtown Minneapolis to the venue so we could start setting up. The venue coordinator, Joe, was there to assist Steve in getting the A/V system set up with his presentation, and I worked with one of the parent volunteers to rearrange a conference room to make room for the vendors who were coming. Not too long after we finished setting things up, folks started arriving — nearly 30 minutes before we were even scheduled to start check-in! That’s how excited everyone was! When I finally counted up all the check-ins, we had almost 80 attendees at the event.

img_7443The Sugar Surfing workshop was an excellent overview of Steve’s main principles for managing diabetes “in the moment.” He coined the term “dynamic diabetes management” because he believes that we rely too heavily on just “static diabetes management” (basal rates and bolus ratios) to manage our diabetes. Sugar Surfing focuses on analyzing our CGM graphs (or frequent blood sugar testing) to understand what is really going on in the moment with our blood sugars, our food and our insulin so that we can be aggressive and flexible to keep our blood sugars in a tighter range. Although Sugar Surfing uses the surfing metaphor, Steve also use the analogy of driving to with concept of “nudging” or making small changes just like we make small changes so we don’t drift out of our lane. In diabetes, we use “microdoses” or “microcarbing” to keep blood sugars stable instead of waiting for a significant high or significant low to happen.


“Sugar Surfing is a process, not a recipe.”

Obviously there is a lot to share with Sugar Surfing, and I don’t want to take away by sharing too much in this post, so I will just encourage you to order Sugar Surfing, or visit the Sugar Surfing Facebook page or website to learn more!

The workshop last three hours and Steve covered so much information, and went into really in-depth detail about how to make our diabetes technology work for us, rather than just letting them run on autopilot and then wonder why we have so many problems. The workshop also included some book giveaways, one to the person who had diabetes the shortest time (I wasn’t in the room for this, whoops), one to the person who had diabetes the longer (43 years!) and the person who traveled the furthest to attend the workshop (Bloomington, Illinois! We also had folks from Wisconsin and North Dakota).


Left side from the back: Renee, Doug, Stacey Cynthia. Right side from the back: Steve, Mari, me, and Laddie

After the workshop wrapped up, we had a small social media influencer dinner at a local Minneapolis restaurant. We were joined by Laddie from Test, Guess and Go, Cynthia from Diabetes Light, Mari who founded TeamWILD and the ADA Red Rider Program, Doug who is active on Twitter, as well as two mothers of children with diabetes who helped me with the greeting and registration. (If you’re wondering where Scott Johnson was, he was in Vienna on a silly business trip. Sad face.) The dinner was a great opportunity to catch up with some local friend and of course, continue the Sugar Surfing conversation!

The workshop was a great success, and I definitely encourage you to attend a Sugar Surfing workshop if you get the chance! You won’t regret it!



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