The combination of raw, striking landscapes, auroras, mists rolling off the mountains, Viking heritage, myths and legends Norway is indisputably one of the world’s most fascinating places to explore. A home to UNESCO protected natural wonders, Norway is the global leader in sustainability and innovation, dedicated to protecting local ecosystems and communities. This scenic country is also fast becoming famous for the stand-up paddleboarding experience attracting SUP enthusiasts from around the world. TotalSUP caught up with Titus Kodzoman, Founder of SUP Norwayand Chief Expedition Leader, to talk about the Norwegian SUP phenomenon and find out more about their unique and exclusive fjord stand-up paddling adventures powered by passion, knowledge and the Red Paddle Co quiver.
Hi Titus, with stunning locations and through beautiful visual storytelling, SUP Norway expeditions have captured the imagination of the global SUP audience. What is the secret to building a strong SUP brand today?
Hi! The most important thing is integrity, to be passionate about and loyal to your own brand values. Once you sacrifice these just for more money, then you are lost. For example: we have strict limits on group size and number of expeditions because our brand is about maximum experience and minimum ecological footprint. We provide and pay for the absolute best equipment, food and guides possible because we know this value will return to us. When you are loyal to your brand values, guests will be loyal to you. Having an excellent product also helps.
You’re a Founder, Ex Royal Marine, surfer, kitesurfer, freediver, lifeguard, yachtmaster and SUP distance paddler – a true all-round waterman. How did you discover the sport of stand-up paddleboarding?
I came to Norway 21 years ago. As a Cornish surfer with no nearby surf, I did whatever I could to get into the water. Kiting and freediving were first. I even did the world’s first international under ice free diving competition alongside many world champions in 2009 (I came last). It was 2010 and all my surfing mates were raving about SUP. So I got a Starboard K-15 and paddled from Oslo to Sweden to see what all the fuss was about (125 km in 22 hours). It was an amazingly beautiful experience and a light-bulb moment. I realized there were endless possibilities for some incredible SUP touring in the fjords and along the coastline of Norway. (With a coastline stretching over 64,000 miles, Norway has more coastline in relation to its size than any other country).
I started the SUP Norway expeditions and when people saw our images and films it just exploded. It’s hard to take a bad photo here.
SUP Norway is leading stand-up paddle fjord expeditions using Red Paddle Co touring boards exclusively. Could you tell us more about your collaboration with Red Paddle Co?
Although there isn’t an official collaboration, we are certainly friends with Red Paddle Co and a couple of their team members have joined us for an expedition. I love their boards and Red love the images we put out. I can truthfully say that we have never had a single puncture or failure in the five years we have used them. We have had other SUP companies offering to give us their boards for free if we use them in our media but that’s not what we’re about. We don’t want or need sponsorship. Integrity, remember?
What Red Paddle boards do you have in your quiver?
We use the Red Paddle Co 13’2”x 30” Voyager+ almost exclusively. When I first got my hands on one (then called ‘Explorer’) to make sure it was up to the job I used it to paddle the world’s longest navigable fjord (Sognefjord 204 Km – 3 days). Straight after that, I ordered twelve. For 2020 we’ll have 32 of them. This year we are also trying out a Red Paddle Tandem board (15’0” x 34”) and we’re really looking forward to see how it handles an expedition.
Stand-up paddleboarding is the perfect low impact way to engage with the unique, UNESCO protected ecosystem of fjords you call home. What are the most remarkable SUP locations?
Nærøyfjordenis a truly magnificent paddle and where most of our expeditions take place. Thanks to SUP Norway, it is now fairly popular and there are only a few places to camp legally if you don’t have the landowner’s permission. Best to hit it just out of season, May is beautiful, uncrowded and the waterfalls are going off!
Paddling Geirangerfjord is just awe-inspiring in the true sense, especially passing under the Seven Sisters waterfalls. We paddle this on the first day of our ‘3 fjords’ expedition.
I have yet to explore the Lofoten Islands in the North and personally but I just can’t wait to get there. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful. I hope to lead an expedition in 2021.
Being able to access local knowledge is one of the most important aspects of SUP especially when it comes to safety. What is your advice to paddlers looking to explore fjords unassisted?
I have written many articles on this and could write a whole book: Planning & preparation; Safety first in everything; Weather forecasts (2 at least); Good quality gear; Good medical kit & the knowledge to use it correctly; Spares for everything; Stay within limitations of the weakest group member; Good communication – there’s limited signal in fjords; Leave your route plan with people that will miss you; Have the worst case scenario escape plan for every paddle at hand; Seek local knowledge; Respect nature and property; Paddle in a group; Leave no trace; Bury forest poos deep; Get sufficient experience & knowledge first.
What are your most memorable SUP moments of 2019?
There are just so many. When you are on an SUP expedition, you are not just an observer of the nature and wildlife but become a part of it. Sharing this with a group can be a powerful and overwhelming experience. The most memorable times are observing and sharing in the guests’ moments of joy, happiness and wonder and knowing it’s because of SUP Norway. For me, it doesn’t get better than that! The new ‘3 Fjords’ expedition we piloted in 2019 was also incredible.
What are your SUP plans for the 2020?
We are establishing a permanent fjord-side SUP base camp and plan to offer a much larger variety of events including winter experiences for the hard core brigade, shorter more family friendly events in the summer with boat support and safety and we have more ‘3 Fjords’ expeditions but these are already almost sold out.
For 2021, I’m hosting the first ‘Maverick’ expedition where you get me, an expedition vehicle full of gear,the West of Norway and no plan. It will be scary, but EPIC!!!
Thank you for your time, here’s to an epic, new decade of SUP!
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