In the relentless pursuit of the next killer story to report back about the sport of stand-up paddleboarding to pause and dive deeper, below the surface of our sport may seem like the ultimate extravagance. When it happens, you take the leap and simply tune in to the story as it unfolds, revealing “a tangled mess”of our inherently conflicted-selves, our passions, hardships and dreams. TotalSUP caught up with Infinity SUP Rider Bernd Roediger to chat about life “fully enveloped by the sea” and balancing that pure passion for watersports and the becoming-pro aspects. This is a story about deciding, “whether you will forever hover over the precipice as a weekend warrior or dive into this life”.
Photo credit: “Fish Bowl Diaries”
Windsurfer, SUP rider, Waterman – What comes first? What’s the first passion? Has it changed over time?
I can’t say that there’s a tier list of passions but each one informs the next in a chain of connection, like a group of friends. I found SUP through windsurfing, so I’ll always associate meeting one with knowing the other so well. And finding that waterman lifestyle is so holistic in undertaking that it can’t stem from just one point, it’s a tangled mess and every sport ties together in a meaningful way.
Photo credit: “Fish Bowl Diaries”
Influencer culture accelerated by social media has touched every realm of our lives… What are your thoughts on this phenomenon (which has proven to be both inspiring and right on the contrary) Do you think there’s still room for some depth in what we’re doing?
It’s hard getting invested in a platform that has proven to be so problematic in society. But surfing is the wholesome content we need! At least in our community there’s an emphasis on the proper functioning of the body towards the end of finding joy, on cultivating harmonious relationships within nature and hallowing the breath.
There’s an understanding that meaning is subjective, the perfect day is personal and posting about yours doesn’t devalue some one else’s. In that way it’s a continuation of the consciousness revolution and I feel like the message of surfing should be shouted from rooftops. A lack of depth in social media stands in contrast to the extreme depth of the surfing experience, so I think there’s a lot of space for us to dig into.
Photo credit: “Fish Bowl Diaries”
You mentioned the “slippery slope” of sports… Could you elaborate on that?
For me, the slippery slope of sports is an infinite hill. It begins at a gentle grade but gets progressively more sheer over the course of time, until it is so infinitely steep that it gives way to free fall. Like stars falling into singularities we loose ourselves to our passions, slowly at first then all at once. Slowly because a sport like SUP surfing takes a lot of effort to begin and there’s a lot of friction there without much help from gravity; both literally and figuratively speaking. You’ve got your body, which doesn’t cooperate with you, doesn’t help you balance on a surfing platform, doesn’t have the stamina to paddle out through oncoming sets, can’t work out the mechanics of turning and negotiating a breaking wave; learning these skills is time consuming and humbling.
Gear is expensive and sometimes unintuitive to buy. SUP surfing also puts you into an outlying zone within the surfing community that reeks with stigma, something you must use a lot of willpower to overcome. In fact it all requires a tremendous amount of willpower to push yourself through those beginning phases, and the rewards are minute at first. But they do come, feelings of progressing, of gaining momentum; your first time actually paddling yourself into a wave, joyous acceleration! Or the first time you successfully mantle oncoming white water!
These nodes of progression incrementally accelerate your learning curve, makes it easier to learn new skills based on experience, a routine forms. Soon, it’s as if the ocean pulls you in, beckons, the board in your garage is never dry. It starts to become more clear to you why some people might want to work part-time jobs and live in their vans with nothing but a camp-stove and a quiver of SUP boards. You glimpse a kind of precarious edge into a deeper world, where your next steps determine whether you will forever hover over the precipice as a weekend warrior, or dive into this life.
The next steps are going to Infinity and snagging a custom B-Line, attending contests, meeting local pros and picking up on their cues. Pretty soon you’re fully invested, you still have your life, but one foot is always in the water; always you have a mind to centre your time around surf, friends and family lose you a little.
But the body functions in unison with your will, riding, mantling, paddling and balancing with easy familiarity. Gear is an extension of that natural understanding, not a treacherous jungle of information, but a cloud of possibilities to play with and muse over.
The idea of being judged by others is laughable, the only judgement is that of sea and sky, and by them you are found evermore worthy. I feel like I’ve have sailed over this slope years ago as a teen, and find myself in free-fall now that I’m in my twenties! Way out over the void. My life is fully enveloped by the sea, surfing is a passion, it is -at this point- a means of income, but it will forever be my occupation; however it has to happen, whatever job I need to work nights, whatever van I end up carrying my camp stove and four boards in, I feel I don’t have a choice.
If it sounds as though I describe a fatalistic or dim world, it’s only because I’ve gone past the event horizon, and there’s so much of my world that can no longer be easily seen by the flatter, gentler world above. I think it’s a world we would all be familiar with, full of its ups and downs, but unique in its powerful anchoring to meaning. One omnipresent pull towards a singular passion. Infinitely falling in love. It would be my desire and I don’t think it is an uncommon one, to communicate; to be understood from my unique point in space by others in their respective places.
Investing everything in your passion and making it your occupation… There has been a shift in the industry with many pro riders becoming entrepreneurs along the way… What has been your journey so far?
I’ve been a Rob Machado fan for as long as I can remember. My dad bought me Waterman and I kind of cherished it as my sole surf-film favourite, savouring the surfing from Rob, Gerry Lopez, Laird and Dave Kalama. Each surfer seemed to have reached this common understanding, a retrospective appreciation of their more competitive-fiery- years.
As you said, they had all become entrepreneurial in their approach, creative rather than competitive, and that was so refreshing to me. But Rob especially seemed to be going through a change. It was something of a refresh and I loved to watch and follow. In some ways he expanded on what he had, who he was, but in other ways he showed a side of himself that had seemed to me like a Banyan. The Banyan seedling sprouts on the branches of old-growth canopy trees in the jungle where there’s still access to sunlight and its roots fall like hanging vines to the jungle floor, taking hold around the host tree. Slowly it envelops and kind of consumes the host until all that remains is a huge, prodigious Banyan with a tree-sized space in the middle.
Rob seemed like he grew tall and proud through his competitive years on tour and at the height of that journey he put down new roots in place of the old, expanding into something more complex and totally unique, like a Banyan. He wasn’t this prodigious legend of the sport monetizing his legacy but a kind of magical man in motion, bringing ubiquitous ideas and products to market that were challenging!
Could you tell us about your collaboration with Infinity? Why this particular brand? (They’re epic people, we know 😊)
My collaboration with Infinity is a pandemic-relationship still going strong! Dave Boehne hit me up while I was quarantining at home, just to send me a few boards and get a rapport going. Those boards were asymmetrical variations of v.2 and RNB models, both classics that I’d wanted to try for ages. Losing the “job” aspect of surfing for a year helped me to distill the fun, Infinity was really instrumental during that time. Now that I’m recombining those professional elements with the fun and freaky, Infinity has stepped seamlessly into that supportive role.
From left: Infinity’s boss Dave Boehne and Bernd Roediger
What’s your Infinity set up?
For downwind paddling I’ve been getting some of my best times on a flat-deck Blackfish. But this season I’m taking a dugout-Downtown to the Gorge. I’ve always been “dugout curious” and want to explore that with an expert race board designer like Dave.
In terms of surf, I have my staples: a 7’4” V.2 (23.5”x75liters) for competition, and the B-Line (which I like riding a bit smaller). Realistically though, I ride anything that reads: Have you seen Blur? Weather it’s a little tombstone twin fin EscapePod or a Hookrail, the funkier the better!
I’m a big fan of muscle confusion, using a lot of boards to shake the habits out, letting that spontaneous riding come out as a synthesis from many different styles. There will always be new methods to try, just roll with it.
Are we going to lose you to foiling any time soon?
Any plans to compete this year? APP World Tour looks rad!
I’m excited to see what events unfold this year! After qualifying to represent Team USA for SUP surfing, my mind is set on Pan-Am and ISA fun. I’ve yet to compete in any of those events, and I always like the opportunity to attend new events, see new faces.
Photo credit: “Fish Bowl Diaries”
Massive thank you for this talk and insights and good luck with the upcoming competitions!
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