After having watched Casper Steinfath move through the Sup World Tour and the ISA World Sup & Paddleboard Championships like a shark seeking it’s prey, we decided to move in a little closer and get inside the headset of such an inspirational athlete.
Casper is 23 years old, comes from the cold weather climate of Klitmøller in northern Denmark – aka ‘Cold Hawaii’ – and has one of the most impressive racing stats on the planet. How does that happen?
When did you start stand up paddling? Can you describe the experience?
Surfing was always a big part of my life, but nearly 10 years ago was the first time I set foot on a standup paddleboard. I remember, I was on the Portuguese island of Madeira together with my family. My uncle Tim had brought a sup board along. When the waves were small, it was the perfect tool to avoid going surf crazy and to still have fun on the water! I was hooked immediately. It was such an engaging feeling to be standing on the water. This experience definitely opened up a whole new world for me to explore!
Who is your (current) favorite sup athlete who inspires you the most?
Wow, it is hard to just list one because there are so many amazing sup guys and girls out there that inspire me to do my best and have fun on the water every day! Currently it definitely has to be Kai Lenny that inspires me the most. He proves again and again that there are so many amazing sides and facets of standup paddling. He rips in the waves, is a beast in the races and what he is doing with the Naish sup hydrofoil right now is just next level!
In the Sup World Series Tour you were very close to winning over Connor and taking the World Title. Can you tell us about your thoughts coming into the Red Bull Heavy Water final event? What was your focus?
Coming into the final event of the World Series, I was sitting in 2nd place overall. The ball was in my court. I needed to achieve a 3rd place or better at the Red Bull Heavy Water race in San Francisco in order to win the World Series Title. I had recently come off a solid result in Maui and I was honestly just stoked to be in striking position for the title. At this point, it had been a great season for me with a win at the World Cup in Japan and podium in Germany. My focus was entirely on the big prize and I went all in! The Red Bull Heavy water proved to be the craziest surf race any of us had ever done! It truly was victory at sea. I was pushed to my limit, but unfortunately I came up just short with a 4th place.
As a paddler from a cold weather climate, how does that impact your training and how do you modify to stay as strong as other athletes from warm weather places?
Many people look at it as a disadvantage coming from a cold climate. Though, in my opinion I view this as a huge advantage! Training at home in Denmark in the winter requires lots of preparation, motivation and determination. It forces one to harden up both physically and mentally. I feel much more satisfied after finishing a brutal session in the middle of snowstorm than on a tropical beach in Hawaii. With the right gear winter training is not that bad, and when I then go to warmer temperatures afterwards I feel more free and full of energy!
Which Naish race board do you ride in competition? What was your fin choice?
This year I have been riding the Naish Maliko 12’6” x 24” at most competitions. This has been my go-to weapon of choice both for the wave races but also the flat water venues. I like playing around with fins and keeping an open mind here. I have definitely graduated towards using smaller and smaller fins for racing!
How do you feel about racers adding a ventral fin box and/or twin fins to stabilize their 25″ or narrower race boards in heavy chop?
I think this is cool as it explores what works for standup paddleboards boards in different conditions. I believe it is good to keep experimenting with equipment and test the limits of what is possible in regards to board design and fins. Though, to me, there is something really nice and simple about a single fin and board shape. I like to think of it as a surfboard I am racing 🙂
What is one piece of technical knowledge that has helped YOU as a paddler?
I think one piece of knowledge that has been stuck in my head from early on was to always keep an open mind both in regards to equipment and paddling technique. The modern form of standup paddling has not existed for much more than 10 years, and in my opinion, we do not yet know what the optimal technique or board design is; or if such even exist! I love engaging in this progressive side of the sport, and I enjoy both developing new equipment with my sponsors (currently Naish, Red Bull and QuickBlade Paddles) and critically rethinking paddling techniques with my trainer. Without an open mind to try new things, you won’t progress much as an athlete or push the boundaries of the sport forwards.
Favorite Sup Surf board? Size/width/volume and fins?
For most sessions I love to ride the Naish Hokua 7’3” x 25” x 75 liters with the quad setup. When the waves get smaller – or I just feel like cruising – I like taking out the new Naish Nalu 10’0” Carbon Pro. I just love the simple elegance and pure feeling of glide across the water I get when riding this longboard shape!
As Vice-President of the International Surfing Association (ISA), can you tell us how the ISA stands out and apart from other organizations?
Well, basically the ISA stands out from other organizations, because it is sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the international governing body for Stand Up Paddling and Surfing. This means, that apart from organizing the World Championships, the ISA and its affiliated national federations are actively engaged in and responsible for the development of standup paddling on national levels. Examples of such activities in the countries are the planning of National Championships, educational programs and unifying the sport under a common voice to protect standup paddle interests.
I am really excited and honored to be working with a global federation like ISA to help shape the future of the sport of paddling that we all love.
Based upon your experience and involvement in the ISA, where do you see the sport of stand up paddling progressing in the future?
I think it is really amazing how standup paddling originated from surfing roots and now has spread to all kinds of waters and cultures across the globe!
The ISA and myself are committed to helping standup paddling establish a solid foundation as a sport that is here to stay. I believe there is so much potential for standup paddling to progress and to inspire many more people around the world. For example Sup Surfing and Racing have been included in the 2019 Pan American games in Peru. I also see a potential for standup paddling to be included in more regional multisports games and ultimately the Olympic Games at some point. Time will tell, but my main priority in my work with the ISA is to see the sport I love grow in a positive and sustainable way. I want to see the sport grow in a way that benefits both the athletes that love competing and also the millions of recreational paddlers that go paddling every day on lakes, rivers, fjords and oceans all over this planet.
Both in this year’s World SUP Tour and the ISA Stand up Paddleboard and Paddleboard Championships, you put the heat on in the sprint and technical events. What are you going to work on for 2017? What are your physical goals? What is one big audacious wish you’d like to see fulfilled?
Personally, I could not have asked for a much better 2016 season! I feel I reached my goals I set for the season, which were to step up my game in the sprints and short course races. I am especially happy with my ISA World Title in the Technical Race! For next year I want to work a bit more on my distance racing, but mostly continue developing my explosive paddling style. My main goal for next year will be to defend my ISA World Title on my home court in Denmark in September, when the world’s best standup paddle athletes will come to Denmark for the next edition of the ISA World Standup Paddle and Paddlboard Championship! To win next year at home would without a doubt be my biggest dream come true!!
Keep in TOUCH with Casper’s aspirations as well as the other Naish Team Riders by following them on our Naish Global Partners Hub here at Standup Journal.com!