Red Bull Gives You Wings: Casper Steinfath Flies High, With a Heavy Water Win and an Impressive 2017

“Viking” SUP rider Casper Steinfath has had an incredible 2017 season, and adding to his long list of exceptional results, the Dane placed first at the recent Red Bull Heavy Water 2017 in California, a race that many independent observers have claimed was the most intense and challenging they have ever witnessed. While many a top-ranked rider was reduced to little more than a rag doll and tossed aside by the oppressive currents in San Francisco Bay, Steinfath persevered and ultimately emerged victorious, with a hardy Ryan Funk and a tenacious Travis Grant hot on his heels and hungry for victory. For TotalSUP, Steinfath tells us about this invigorating experience, how he managed to keep going in face of tough conditions and how his achievements in 2017 have left him that little bit eager for more as of early next year.

Casper Steinfath celebrates his win on the podium at the Red Bull Heavy Water 2017 in San Francisco, California

Casper Steinfath, you recently took home the Red Bull Heavy Water trophy (along with $20,000 in prize money). How do you feel?

A little time has gone now but I still feel completely over the moon! I still have to pinch myself when I wake up in the mornings and ask myself, “did this really happen?”

Winning a crazy event like the Red Bull Heavy Water is definitely one of the highlights of my career so far and I’m beyond stoked, I must say! I feel like the happiest viking in the world right now.

Casper Steinfath heads towards the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, on a practice session before the 2017 Red Bull Heavy Water competition

You were up against some stiff competition on the 11km course, with young paddler Ryan Funk demonstrating some serious prowess to achieve second and Travis Grant putting you through your paces to land in 3rd position. What clinched it for you?

The one in San Francisco was not your average SUP race course! I think the big waves and treacherous currents were equally, if not more, challenging than the other competitors in the race.

All the athletes pushed themselves to the limit, but to be honest I think what clinched it for me was that I treated the race more like an endurance test or a survival session for myself.

It was only when I got close to the finish line that it really dawned on me once again that it was a race and that things were at stake!

Ryan Funk battles the heavy waves alone at the Red Bull Heavy Water 2017 event in San Francisco, California, on 20 October

The race has been described as “the craziest ever” by some observers, with many riders losing their boards or crashing up on the shore. Did such challenging conditions make victory all the more thrilling? 

There is absolutely no doubt about it. This was hands down the craziest and wildest SUP race I have ever been a part of or seen anywhere! The challenging conditions pushed us all beyond our comfort zones and it was truly victory at sea just finishing the race.

After dodging massive waves and being thrown around in the big “washing machine”, I felt so much adrenaline pumping through me as I crossed the finish line.

I guess the feeling of victory was sweet, but in some ways, it was the sensation of being truly alive that was so exhilarating!

A number of competitors fend off the mighty waves at the Red Bull Heavy Water 2017 in San Francisco, California

Just how big were the waves out on San Francisco Bay on 20 October?

I feel it’s hard to put an exact number on how big the waves were that day, but let’s just say they were BIG!

On one of my laps through the surf I was out the back next to Kai Lenny and Zane Schweitzer and we almost got caught by a set that easily had a 15 foot face.

It was powerful! All I could think of was escaping that huge white water avalanche coming towards me!

Positively crazy wind and wave conditions at the 2017 Red Bull Heavy Water

Have you faced such adverse swell conditions many times before in your career to date? 

I feel that I have surfed bigger waves in my life, but never in an actual race environment like this one. The crazy part about the Red Bull Heavy Water event was that it combined two very extreme things, which is racing and big wave surfing.

I honestly couldn’t figure out if I was in a race out there or just negotiating a chaotic big wave surf session. It was pretty intense trying to hold my breath under 15 foot waves while my heart rate was at 195 BPM.

Casper Steinfath pauses to answer questions from the local press at the 2017 ISA World Championship in Denmark earlier this year

Going into the race you were ranked number 3 in the world, according to the APP World Championship rankings, just behind Connor Baxter and Mo Freitas. Are you eager to climb to the top of that ranking? 

I am super motivated to climb further up the APP Rankings! I love racing with Connor, Mo and all the boys, as it pushes my own level upwards. Finishing the 2017 season in 3rd place is a good thing, most people would say, but I feel hungry for more.

After winning 4 ISA World Championship titles, I definitely feel one of my next goals is to win the tour. I feel I have learned a lot these past years and especially from 2016 where I finished the tour in 2nd place overall.

I can’t wait to give it my best shot next year and go for gold!

Casper Steinfath poses with his Quickblade paddle following a win at the 2017 ISA World Championship in Denmark earlier this year

What’s up next for you now that Heavy Water is over?

My race season has pretty much come to an end now. I feel super proud looking back at a very successful 2017 with victories at the European and World Championships, as well as Heavy Water.

It has been an amazing season and I will finish it off completely in France for the legendary Paris Crossing in December.

Until then, you will find me kitesurfing and foil surfing in Hawaii, and when 2018 begins, I will be looking for a rematch on the Viking Crossing back home in Scandinavia, so stay tuned!

Photos credits: Red Bull Heavy Water / ISA World SUP Championship / Long Nguyen Photography / Brian Bielmann / Casper Steinfath

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