What makes a pro SUP athlete? Indiana’s own Claudio Laible challenges pro SUP racer Manuel Lauble to find out

‘What makes a pro SUP athlete’ is really a question about the difference between a professional and recreational paddler, and a valid one (!) in our ever-evolving sport of stand-up paddleboarding. This article stems from a really cool experiment – “SUP is not equal” – conducted by Indiana Paddle & Surf Co. -own Claudio Laible, Marcomms Manager, avid waterman and “amateur” SUP racer, who decided to take on a pro SUP athlete & Indiana Team Rider Manuel Lauble to show the difference.

Going back to the question… As elusive as any answer can be, there seems to be a common denominator: “Both want the same – having a good time on the water, be active and enjoy the nature.”* TotalSUP caught up with Indiana’s Claudio Laible to learn more about the Laible vs Lauble SUP duel experiment and draw some interesting conclusions!

Hi Claudio, welcome to TotalSUP! What was the key idea behind this Laible vs Lauble SUP duel experiment?

I would describe myself as a sporty and competitive waterman but I just started paddling this year. In the meanwhile, I tested the whole SUP range of Indiana boards and had the most fun on the race hardboards. Out of personal motivation I wanted to see how big the performance gap between an amateur and professional actually is. That’s how the duel with Manuel evolved. And I got to say, it is impressive and instructive.

Photo credit: Tomm Gadient / Indiana Paddle Surf & Co.

So the idea was to bring the leisure paddler closer to SUP as a “professional“ sport, as SUP racing is still quite niche. To show the differences and the potential of stand-up paddleboarding and there’s probably no easier way to do that than by comparison.

Based on the duel and your experience – In your opinion, how long can it take to “catch up” with a pro SUP athlete such as Manuel?

As SUP racing is still not the most known and wide-spread sport, with some commitment, ambition and training on and off the water a hobby paddler can join events such as SUP Suisse Tour in only a few months of training, I’d say. But joining the tour and winning are two totally different things. Speaking for myself, I think I would need full commitment and professional training to catch up and it’s really hard to tell how long that would take.

There’s also one thing that you can never catch up on – which is experience, but it’s the same in all sports. But I believe that young talented and ambitious paddlers have the opportunity to enter the relatively niche sport early and become quite successful in a short time.

Is transition to SUP racing a natural process in the sport of stand-up paddleboarding? Do riders crave for more? Just as pro athletes move to foil for example?

Not necessarily, as stand-up paddling has evolved to become a leisure activity and is well wide-spread in society, most paddlers will probably stick to their Sunday fun paddle. But I think if the broader paddler community knew that SUP is more than just that Sunday fun paddle and the entry point to the competitive SUP-world is comparably low to other sports, there might be a chance that it becomes a natural process for the competitive-minded community.

What makes a pro SUP athlete?

In my opinion it’s pretty much the same as in most other sports. Commitment, ambition, training and passion. Obviously a lot of everything is needed to become a pro who’s racing for world titles.

Watch the Laible vs Lauble SUP duel and check Claudio’s fireside chat below with Manuel Lauble!

Hi Manuel, what does SUP as a sport mean to you?

Stand-up paddleboarding is a sport I can do all year-round, on every stretch of water and in all conditions. It doesn’t matter if there’s wind or swell. In the ocean, the lake or on a river, I can do it literally anytime and everywhere. And thanks to the inflatable SUP boards I can also go on an excursion with my family and always have a board with me.

Photo credit: Andy Klotz Photography / SUP Alps Trophy

Important to me is finding the balance to my all-day office job where I mainly sit. So I’ve experienced paddling and established it as my workout. That way I can train my inner muscles, strength and endurance while clearing my head in nature and gain new energy.

How will SUP evolve?

For myself, I just started paddling four years ago and became a competitive racer three years ago. Even in this short time the sport has become so much more professional. The level increases from race to race – on both the athlete and the organizer side. Top-athletes started training with professional coaches and created very structured and individual training programs to become world class. But who knows where the sport will develop to. Will SUP racing one day be an Olympic discipline?

Where do you see the biggest difference between a professional and an amateur?

First of all, I believe both want the same – having a good time on the water, be active and enjoy the nature. Other than that, I think the biggest difference lays in the choice of the equipment. An amateur paddler is most likely to be the happiest with wider board, that offers more stability, is robust and easy to transport. A professional on the other hand is looking for a narrow and light board, which makes it a considerably faster board. Those specially for racing optimized boards, are manufactured by Indiana in a hollow construction made of carbon.

What are your career highlights so far? And what goals do you have?

There are many highlights in my “short” career. For example, my first participation in the World Championships in Ungarn last year, where I was able to stack myself against the absolute world elite. Or the first participation at the German Championship where I landed a great 3rd place in the long-distance race. Short-term – my goal is to race to a podium spot in all categories (sprint, tech and long) in the German Championships.

Could you tell us more about your collaboration with Indiana?

It’s beneficial that Indiana shaper Andi and Kurt live and work close by in Constance at Bodensee. That way I’m always able to test new prototypes and can therefore have an impact on the development process with my feedback. That is how the DHC 14’0 race board was developed and it’s in my opinion an unbeatable board with its great manufacturing quality, super lightweight and offering incredible performance. I’m super grateful for the support and the shown trust in myself as an Indiana Team Rider. I’m proud to be a part of the team and I’m sure that we will further develop our partnership and achieve big goals together.

To find out more about Indiana Paddle & Surf, visit:
>> Indiana Paddle & Surf

>> Explore Indiana SUP racing boards here

>>Follow Indiana on Facebook and Instagram

>> Explore the 2023 Look Book here 

Follow Claudio Laible on Instagram

Follow Manuel Lauble on Instagram

*Manuel Lauble quote

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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