Italian waterwoman Caterina Stenta is a force to be reckoned with on the SUP stage. Her dominance at the Italian Championships in Rome this autumn proves it. Becoming a Starboard Dream Team rider this year feels like the tip of the iceberg for this all-round athlete, who is versed in paddling, windsurfing, skiing, surfing, and sailing… just to name a few. Now, Caterina blends her newly-found passion for trail running with her talent for paddling as she sits down with TotalSUP to discuss her Starboard partnership, the highs, and lows of her season and how her love for mountain running helps her on the water.
How did your sponsorship with Starboard happen and how are you enjoying becoming a Dream Team Rider?
I’ve been competing in SUP racing for 5 years now, alongside the PWA in Windsurf Wave since 2014. In 2020 I had a challenging year, with lots of uncertainty like many others. I came in to contact with Starboard and I signed a contract at the beginning of 2021. To join Starboard has been a great push for my SUP career. I am happy to have joined the best team, both with boards and products, but also with riders and the people from the company.
I am regularly in contact with Starboard and exchange race reports, product feedback, plans and projects. I really like the Starboard brand, so I try to give my best to support them, and I think that’s what Sponsorship is about, that both are happy to work together and push the sport we love.
What is your favourite Starboard gear to use and how does this help you on the water?
I have been using the Allstar 2021 14x 22’5” and the Sprint 20’75”. I recently got the new Sprint in Hungary, so I haven’t used it a lot in races, but I am training on it to get to know the board better. I love the Allstar for most conditions, especially in bumpy waters. It really feels smooth and allows me to go fast through the bumps. It feels light to paddle and floats over chops easily, it’s probably my favourite board although I am now getting to know my Sprint board better and I love it for flat water. I also love the Lima prepreg carbon paddles.
Congratulations on your first-place finish in the 12km at the Italian Championships. How did it feel to win by such a big margin?
Thank you! The level is going up in Italy so it’s not an easy job to win races. I raced hard in the long-distance because I really wanted to win that race and get the title. The wind and swell picked up during the race and I enjoyed the conditions, I even enjoyed the upwind part where you really need to fight against the wind and dig deep. For these conditions I try to move along the board in the downwind and choose the best fin and fin position. Coming from a windsurfing background, I like this type of sea. When it is rough, windy, and bumpy I feel like I am playing with the ocean.
The Italian SUP scene is growing and now some young girls are training hard, and I am happy to see they want to beat me and reach my level. That is great not just for the sport, but for the Italian SUP scene and the athletes, too!
In the technical, I came second to Cecilia Pampinella, who is getting stronger, and I hope she will continue to push forward. Some other girls are pushing as well, and I hope I can inspire them to train hard and have fun on the water.
You are clearly an avid trail runner. How do the challenges of trail running differ to the challenges of Stand Up Paddling?
Yes, I love running, particularly trail running. I am so happy I discovered it! It helps my endurance but above all it gives me the motivation and inspiration to keep training. I find most of my motivation in life when running in the mountains. I’ve started running during the lockdowns in Italy, a time I could not go out in the water, and then in the summer of 2020, when almost all SUP races got cancelled.
I started competing in trail running and haven’t looked back since. I just love running and the endorphins it gives me and since I’ve started competing there, I’ve been travelling and had some unexpected results that gave me more motivation to continue. Recently I was invited by Salomon to the Azores at the Golden Trail National Series Final (it’s like the Eurotour in trail running, more or less) and I’ve loved every aspect of the experience.
It differs from SUP because there’s no gear involved, just your body and the shoes. In mountain running there’s a lot of effort in the uphill part, but what I really like is the view you get when you are up, which is different than SUP, where you are always at sea level. Some mountain running races I did were a bit longer than the normal SUP races, a bit more than 4 hours, so in these types of races there’s a lot of energy management and mindset involved. I’m in the learning process, and just discovering this new world, new distances, and new challenges.
Now that your SUP season is over, how do you reflect on it and what will you do to relax and recover?
Overall, I have had a good season. In some races, I would have liked to have done better and was a bit disappointed with myself. But overall, I must say I am happy with my racing, I had consistent results and I raced well.
The low point for me was the ICF World Championships in Hungary, where I didn’t compete well, I was sick the week before and I was not in my best shape.
For my high points, I enjoyed the races in France, both the Pornichet Paddle Trophy and the Vendée Gliss Event with ocean conditions. Another high was the SUP Clinics I did, one in Barcelona and one in Lake Garda. People were happy and enthusiastic, and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with them. In 2022, I’ll definitely keep doing them. Overall, I enjoyed being able to race, travel and paddle with strong athletes from the Eurotour.
Now, I am taking some time off and then I’ll slowly start again, both my running and SUP. I loved my last winter in the mountains, so I’ll spend lots of time there, which helps me with my SUP and general motivation. I love training so I am really looking forward for a long winter doing my sports, both in the mountains and on my SUP. I will also try to do some windsurfing, too!
Total SUP: It’s clear that Caterina Stenta is a true athlete. Whether arriving at the start line in her running shoes, or entering the water with her Starboard, Caterina turns up with a winning mentality.
We wish Caterina all the best for next season, and we are excited to see what the future beholds for this Italian waterwoman.