What makes riders, pro athletes and coaches stand out on today’s SUP scene? Infinite enthusiasm for the sport of stand-up paddleboarding backed by knowledge (that they’re willing to share with their communities), technical skills and an uncompromising approach to quality. Christian Taucher’s (aka Chris Diver) social media presence bursts with SUP stoke, dedication to the growth of the sport and know-how, so his affiliation with StandOut SUP Wear, a Slovenian watersport brand dedicated to the development of technical wear and SUP-specific designs, seems like a natural fit. TotalSUP caught up with the 15x Austrian SUP Champion and StandOut SUP Wear Team Rider , to chat about all-year-round aspects of the sport, the SUP wear and what it takes to take your local SUP racing scene to the next level and stand out on a global scale!
Hi Christian, welcome to TotalSUP! You’re a pro SUP athlete, 15x Austrian SUP Champion, Coach, Entrepreneur…How did your adventure with professional SUP start?
Hi, thanks for having me! I was a professional handball player for most of my life. When I retired, doctors told me I have to do some endurance sports. I really hated running or cycling at a basic endurance pace, so I tried stand-up paddleboarding and it was a sport which I was able to do for 1-2 hours with low heart rate and not getting bored too fast!
In 2016 I was helping my friend and SUP pioneer Peter Bartl to renovate his house in Fuerteventura. He was training every morning and evening, before and after work so I started joining him at his sessions ran with the likes of Teulade brothers, Belar Diaz, Branislav Sramek and other very strong paddlers.
When I got back to Austria, I asked the Fanatic distributor to rent me a hardboard so I could participate in my first SUP race… They actually gave it to me and I went with Peter to Croatia for a 18k SUP race down the coast with a lot of good athletes in the line-up including Paolo Marconi, Leo Nika, Davide Ionico, Sussak Molinero, Manca Notar.
After this first race I started doing structured training combined with my sports-science background at University of Graz and professional handball, volleyball and soccer experience.
Over the years more and more athletes I’ve worked with were SUP athletes. Working with them is super interesting and fun. I like to analyse the sport, develop new training plans from scratch but also base them on tested sport-scientific foundations from other sport disciplines. That’s the long story short, that’s how it all started.
What’s the SUP scene like in Graz, Austria?
My wife Dagi (Dagmar Taucher) and I started a non-profit stand-up paddleboarding club in our home town – SUP Sportclub Graz – back in 2017.
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We tried from the start to point out SUP as a serious sport which was pretty hard at the start because everyone was looking at SUP as something for kids to play with. This way of thinking has eventually changed in the community and we are now a well-known SUP sport club with more than 100 active members who train all year on River Mur which runs right through the city centre.
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You’re the President of the Austrian SUP Federation. What’s the focus of your work?
I am one of five people working (it’s a voluntary work) for the Austrian SUP Federation (ASF). My main focus is to work close with international federations such as ICF and ISA and build up the sport, political and economic structures as a foundation for the growth of SUP as a professional sport discipline in Austria in the coming. The ASF approves or runs all SUP events in the country and is responsible for the delivery of the ISA and ICF SUP instructor courses. Additionally the ASF nominates and organizes national teams for all European and world SUP championships.
You’re working with future pro SUP athletes… What’s the focus of your coaching programmes?
I believe that when you grow a sport from the ground up, you have to focus on different things as you would do in an any well-established discipline.
When you analyse how to become a professional athlete, there is a lot of basic work to do from the early years right up to when you’re 16 to get what I call a sportive base which includes coordination, balance, functional adaptation of joints, development of bones, internal organs and much more. The sport in which you want to become a professional is just one part of the training.
As a new sport, there are a lot of things missing. We don’t have SUP athletes in Austria who started at the age of 6 and are now 26. The age groups between 16 and 26 are completely missing in our sport.
But this age group is extremely important to grow the sport because those who will not become professional athletes, start to work as coaches for children or work at SUP clubs attracting young people to join the sport.
So we decided to focus on young adults, athletes between 16 and 26 who are dropping out from other sports. Those athletes can still become SUP pros because they can adapt their skills fast. On top of that they can contribute to our club, earn money and continue studying or finish their education and still have time and resources to train and go to SUP races.
I strongly believe that the next best Austrian stand-up paddler at the 2028 Olimpics will be an athlete who dropped out of other sports such as cross-country skiing, triathlon, athletics or other sport disciplines where they set a good sportive base which they can use later in SUP.
As a professional Coach, I plan training and support every SUP athlete who wants to become better and faster. I do not have one coaching programme that fits-them-all. I create it for every athlete on weekly basis, prepare tailor-made training plans including strength training and alternative sport trainings to SUP that fit exactly their needs. This is how my athletes get the most out of their invested time for training.
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SUP is increasingly turning into a year-round discipline where the right apparel is paramount when it comes to water safety especially in Winter. What’s your take on that?
SUP is one of a very few sports which you can do in cold temperatures and all types of weather! One of the reasons is that speed on a SUP is relatively slow compared to cycling for example. SUP is also a full-body sport warming up all parts of your body during exercise.
There is also SUP specific clothing on the market such as StandOut SUP Wear that keeps you warm and safe. Drysuits and Airprene long johns, combined with good warm neoprene shoes make training in sub-zero temperatures safe and cosy.
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Could you tell us more about your collaboration with StandOut SUP Wear?
StandOut is a well-known brand coming from the canoe clothing mother company Sandyline. They manufacture close to Graz, just over the border in Slovenia.
They were looking for someone who would use their clothes every day and could provide fast feedback on new materials and new products. I use the new products they develop for a while before I give feedback, send it back to them so they can check and test used materials. They then decide whether extra layers should be added or any changes should be applied to make it perfect.
What’s your Standout SUP Wear gear of choice?
My most used item is the StandOut SUP Wear Airprene long john. It is extremely versatile with base layers and fits perfectly for the long Fall and Spring season in Austria. The airprene material (one with small holes in neoprene to make it breathable) makes me sweat less and feels super comfortable.
During the cold days and when its windy, I love to use the StandOut SUP Wear Fjord Drysuit! The new material is not only breathable but stretchy too. This makes the Fjord, in combination with the outstanding production quality, the best drysuit on the market! I use it with the StandOut SUP Wear neoprene boots which are super warm and can be worn with socks.
Your top three tips for aspiring SUP racers?
Don’t be shy, just go and enter SUP events and races. The SUP racing community is still extremely friendly and helpful. This is a surprise for many athletes who come from other sports and I hope we can keep this vibe up forever.
For the first race take the most stable board you can find! It can be surprising for the newbies how choppy the water is when there are a lot of paddlers on the start line.
Be ready in the line-up and start when others start even if you don’t hear the start signal. I missed the start in my first two 200m sprints heats at the ICF Worlds 2019 in China and a good friend of mine and a world class SUP athlete, told me something I will remember forever: It doesn’t matter when the start signal goes off, just be the second guy who crosses the start line. I learned it fast and ended up in the big 200m sprint final which was my best result there.
How do you think the sport of stand-up paddleboarding will grow and evolve?
It will become more professional at the top (with all the positive and negative sides of it). I also strongly believe that SUP will become an established recreational sport, similar to cross-country skiing, but being practiced all-year-round and worldwide.
What are your 2022 SUP plans?
I will do all 3 SUP Alpstrophy Tourstops in Austria (on beautiful lakes in the Austrian Alps). I will alco compete in the ICF races in Austria, Hungary and Prague. I will go to the EuroTour race in Croatia and maybe another one if I find time. I’ll try to compete in the ISA European Championships in Denmark and the Worlds in Puerto Rico.
I’m looking forward to seeing you all at the ICF World Championships in Gdynia, Poland too!
Thank you for your time and good luck with the 2022 season!
Explore StandOut SUP Wear sustainable Drysuit collection and follow them on Instagram and Facebook
Connect with Christian on Instagram and follow his training programmes at www.sup.training
*All images courtesy of Christian Taucher