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Bob Christian

Type 1 Diabetes

Date Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Bob Christian does not let Type 1 diabetes (T1D) slow him down.  He’s an avid kite surfer who uses wind to power a large kite that pulls him along bodies of water on a board and across fields of snow while wearing skies. 

His transition to life with T1D was easier than most because his daughter was diagnosed at 13 years old and had been successfully managing her diabetes for more than five years.  His stepfather also had T1D, and Bob remembers his mother boiling syringes on the kitchen stove, giving his stepfather multiple daily insulin injections, and boiling his urine on the stovetop to test blood sugar.

Bob and his daughter both wear Omnipod insulin pumps and Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitors (CGM).  “Today’s technology to manage diabetes is amazing compared to what I grew up watching,” he said.  “I consider myself technologically challenged, but I have no problem with these.”

He uses his CGM while on the water and the snow to monitor his blood sugars.  Both activities burn lots of energy, so he always makes sure he starts with a blood glucose above 200 mg/dL.  On the water he carries his phone in a waterproof case and tucks it into his wet suit to monitor his blood sugar.  “When I’m out there, I suspend the insulin pump and can last for hours,” he said.  “On the water I keep gummies tucked into the wet suit just in case.  On the snow I keep snacks in my jacket pockets.”

He compares it to keeping a wood stove going.  “My body burns a lot of sugar when I’m out there,” he said.  “I am always prepared to stoke that fire and feed the blood sugar.  When I get down to 90 [mg/dL], I can feel it and eat a snack.  Put that wood in the stove and continue.”

The kites Bob flies to pull him across the water or snow are about 30 feet long by 8 feet wide.  In addition to kite surfing throughout Central Massachusetts and on Cape Cod, other favorite locations include New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesauke and the Outer Banks in North Carolina.


“Bob is wonderful example of utilizing the available technology and always being prepared to manage type 1 diabetes, even in the most extreme situations,” said Dr. Samir Malkani, Endocrinologist at the UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence.  “He’s an inspiration because he proves that diabetes should not hold anyone back from doing anything.”  

“Dr. Malkani has been taking care of me since I was diagnosed in 2007,” said Bob.  “He’s easy to talk to and never makes me feel rushed.  We talk about any issues I’m having, and he always has a solution.”

Bob has a helpful support system between his care team and family.  His wife monitors his blood sugars from a distance on her phone while he performs stunts on the water or snow.  Bob has met another kite surfer with Type 1 diabetes.  “When we see each other, we always compare numbers,” he said.

Growing up on a lake, Bob enjoyed water skiing and tubing.  He started snow skiing when he was three.  Living near Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, he began working there in 1979.  His wife was instrumental in bringing the annual Riding on Insulin event to Wachusett Mountain.  His daughter attended as a student, transitioned to a counselor, and has worked at Riding on Insulin events in Utah and the Canadian Rockies. 



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