How to power through the Red Bull Midsummer Vikings Challenge? Yster SUP riders share their hacks

The Red Bull Midsummer Vikings challenge is one of the most talked about events in the SUP calendar offering a unique and inclusive SUP experience for paddlers to race as a team for 24 hours in a row – both night and day – around the Amager Island in Copenhagen.

Photo by Jakob Gjerluff Ager

The person behind this venture is Casper Steinfath, the charismatic six-time World SUP Champion with an itch for extreme endeavours – his 147km Skagerrak SUP Crossing in arctic conditions completed in 18 hours and 26 minutes is now part of the SUP history and one of the most remarkable SUP achievements to date.

Combing competitive and social aspects of the sport, Casper has turned the Red Bull Midsummer Vikings challenge into a festival experience with camping, food, live music and a cool after-party. What do teams have to do to fully enjoy it? Survive those 24 hours!

Photo by Jakob Gjerluff Ager

With 500 paddlers of all levels expected in the line-up on Saturday, 18 June in Copenhagen, TotalSUP caught up with a few who actually completed the challenge. Per Vallbo, Founder and CEO of Yster SUP, a premium Swedish SUP brand, was joined by Maya Persson, Yster SUP Team Rider and Swedish SUP Champ, and Peter Martensson to chat about the Viking Challenge experience and share their top SUP hacks for the teams to make it to the finish line.

Could you share your experience of the event?

Per Vallbo: My backyard waters are in Malmö just across the Öresund channel. Being a narrow channel connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea the conditions are notoriously unpredictable. At the Red Bull Midsummer Vikings challenge you have to be prepared for strong currents, winds and chop that can go in multiple directions. On top of that, the Öresund is a busy waterway so even if it’s absolutely glassy, there might still be some wake from the passing ships.

The race course goes around an island so half of it is protected by an island and half is open water. You really need to think through of your choice of board or boards as you may shift boards during the race. I would recommend a 14’ hard touring or race board. People who do the race on all-round iSUPs will occasionally have a hard time in the shifting conditions.

Maya Persson: The Red Bull Midsummer Vikings is a VERY WELL run event. You get plenty of information and everything runs on schedule. The 5km course around Amager island is ”easy” since half of the course goes on the inside and gives you time to relax if it’s really windy. And the 2 km of head or sidewind is manageable no matter what conditions you are in. Also, my general experience of the SUP-people globally is that they’re super-inviting and friendly. If you start a conversation or have a question, you’ll get a new friend while chatting.

Photo by Jakob Gjerluff Ager

Peter Martensson: Echoing what Maya said, Red Bull Midsummer Vikings challenge is cool and well-arranged event and a party for SUP paddlers with food and live music instilling a sense of community spirit for riders. It’s also at the beginning of Summer after a long Winter bringing a good flow.

How do you prepare for this challenge?

Per: Obviously, you need to be prepared to keep going for 24 hours both physically and mentally. Get as much sleep you can the days before the race and also think through how to best get some sleep during the race. Only a short nap every now and then will make a huge difference as your balance gets affected when you get tired.

Maya: Before I entered the challenge I had a proper training routine preparing me to compete in SUP races. (After my pregnancy and now with a baby I can’t say that anymore!) so I was prepared by doing technical exercises on the board to make sure I was confident, getting lots of sleep, since you don’t sleep for those 24 hours and I was eating all the carbs that were there!

Photo by Emil Sergel

When I return to competing again I will be preparing by doing many long paddles, preferably 15-20km. Both for the physical training but also for the mind. A big part of these kind of races is dealing with your own thoughts and keeping your motivation up. The only way to know how you will react is to put yourself in a similar situation in a safe environment and then evaluate. What will I need when I get these thoughts? How can I convince myself to just keep going? Music, food, a good friend or a few minutes of sleep often helps.

Photo by Jakob Gjerluff Ager

There’s this weird thing about me where I kind of enjoy the pain. So that’s my best tip: embrace the process and all the sore muscles that will kick in around three o’clock in the morning.

Peter: In terms of preparations there’s a lot of paddling in different conditions, not only in the sun. You can expect it all from headwind to crosswind and tailwind. It’s good to experience everything and also paddle in the dark. Bear in mind that conditions can turn quickly on Öresund.

Why do you think this event is a unique offering in the current SUP event calendar?

Per: There is nothing quite like it. Although it is a race it is very friendly, inclusive and very well organised. At night you paddle through an alley of massive torches and a gospel choir greets you at dawn – it just has to be experienced.

Maya: This is the only event that I know of that just keeps on going and going and going for more than a short stretch besides the SUP11 City Tour. You really get sucked into that bubble. It’s also a little bit like being on a festival.

Peter: It’s a great feeling to compete and have fun at the same time with so many people who are interested in the same thing. It’s also great to meet at the sea and on land with the same goal – to be able to paddle as a team and have fun pepping each other up and learning a lot in the meantime.

Photo by Jakob Gjerluff Ager

What are your top tips for the participating teams?

Work out a strategy and a fallback plan: Each team member needs to know in advance when it is a good time to get some sleep. But, if something does not go as planned, you need to be prepared to revise the plan and let the other team members know about it

Prepare for all kinds of conditions. Obviously, the weather forecasts will give you a hint of what to expect a few days in advance, but it is a good idea to prep with sunscreen 50 as well as warm clothing and waterproofs

• Bring a power bank for your smartphone because you want to keep track of your team mates on TracTrac and it drains your battery

• Bring snacks and drinks to have at hand between the regular meals

• Last year Maya recommended to take magnesium to reduce fatigue and the risk of cramps. We had loads of those and it worked!

Photo by Jakob Gjerluff Ager

Maya: Bring your best friends and your best snacks, stay hydrated even if you don’t feel thirsty! Cramps are a real mood-killer and enjoy the ride – Just embrace the pain!


• First of all, think about your nutrition especially high energy carbohydrates and water, and have your favourite food, candy or fruit in a safe place and at hand. Don’t forget your cap, sunglasses and magnesium!

• Secondly, come up with an approximate schedule that you plan with your team. Support each other and take power naps. Also, have plan B in place

• And finally – Meditate while on the water

Thank you for your time and good luck with the 2022 Viking Challenge!

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About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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