Travel Lessons: Casper Steinfath’s Unlikely Path to SUP Stardom

Casper_JP VanSwae
Casper Steinfath finished top 10 in the pro division of his first-ever SUP race at age 15. Now 23, he's a top contender at elite races around the world. Photo: JP Van Swae

Danish racing champion Casper Steinfath won his first-ever title at age 15 on a board borrowed from Robby Naish. Then his car got towed. Then he became a world champion.

CS: My SUP racing career started off when I lied about my age and the police towed our family car.

It was 2009, and I was a 15-year-old kid from Klitmøller, Denmark, who had a passion for SUP but had never traveled to paddle or compete.

While I loved paddling back home, it was a lonely activity in Denmark. I wanted to travel and broaden my horizons about what SUP truly was. When I heard about the SUP World Cup in Germany, I convinced my dad to drive seven hours so I could compete in the amateur division.

When checking in for the amateur race, a mean-looking lady asked if I was 16 years old—the minimum age to compete. It felt like the floor was being pulled out from underneath me. My dad whispered, “Hold your poker face and go with it!” Attempting to stay cool, I told her in in broken German that I was 16. Thankfully, no ID was required.

Steinfath takes the inside line on his way to the overall champion title at the 2017 SUP World Cup.

Until that day, I had never heard of Robby Naish. He became my hero when he lent me his personal board for the amateur race. I had never even set foot on a raceboard prior to this event. Terrified of scratching Robby’s, I paddled hard to get away from everyone and crossed the finish line in first place, securing a wildcard to race the pros later that day. When I finished in the top 10 against them, I was hooked for life.

Afterwards, we heard over the loudspeaker system that a Danish-registered car was being towed from the street behind the event. We spent the next three hours at the impound lot, trying to get our car back.

Racing in Germany opened up a whole new world to me and sparked my passion for SUP. Sometimes we must travel to find our passion—even if you have to learn not to park your car in front of a bank entrance in downtown Hamburg. –Casper Steinfath

This story was originally published in SUP’s Winter 2017 Travel Issue as part of SUP’s package feature on unexpected lessons learned from traveling to SUP. Grab a copy for more SUP travel tips!

More cautionary tales from the path less paddled:

Packing Wisely

Driving Abroad

More SUP Travel

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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