October 20, 2017, San Francisco, California – After narrowly missing the podium in 2016, Naish’s Casper Steinfath redeemed himself this year and paddled his Naish Maliko 12’6”to victory of the 2017 Red Bull Heavy Water, the final event of the APP (Association of Paddling Professionals) World Tour.
Starting on the outside line up, racers had to navigate in and out of the relentless, 15 ft+ Ocean Beach surf three times before making the sprint to the finish line in front of Crissy Field. After the third in-and-out to the beach, Steinfath emerged from the chaos with a wide lead rounding Land’s End Point, roughly the halfway point of the seven-mile course.
“Last year the waves were solid but this year was definitely a step up in both size and consistency. In 2016 I made the big mistake going out for my last trip through the waves, I was next to Kai Lenny and I was so tired I just went into auto pilot and just followed him, I didn’t look around and we ended up getting pounded and completely rejected by the shore break while Connor [Baxter] snuck past us by just taking a step back and looking for the rip. So last years mistake became the key to victory as I stayed on the beach for around 10 seconds at a point and just looked for the rip current, took a deep breath and went for it,” said an elated Steinfath after the race.
It was this hurry up and wait approach that allowed Steinfath to grab a massive lead after waiting on the beach while competitors charged forward.
Although there was no official live broadcast, fans were able to tune into a Facebook live stream thanks to SUP the Mag where it was clear there was a lot of moving water with tidal currents, backwash and wind chop. When asked about the conditions, Steinfath was able to confirm what viewers had glimpses of.
“The conditions were definitely brutal. The swell was building as we raced. When we looked at it at dawn there were some solid 10-15 footers out there and conditions were rough. It was kind of stormy with little bit of wind still. We started outside the surf and as we were about to start the race you could see the big spray being blown out the back but you couldn’t really tell if the wave was five, 15 or 25 foot. It was gnarly! Then after paddling through the waves at Ocean Beach we still had another five miles to paddle around Lands End, the Golden Gate Bridge and to Crissy Field and that was really gnarly negotiating with the current and backwash from the cliffs.”
Steinfath was paddling the 2018 Naish Maliko 12’6” a board that he has been able to help greatly in its evolution over the years.
“The Maliko once again proved it’s a good board in the surf and dealing with bumpy conditions. Especially when we got to Lands End with all the current, backwash and chop, I felt so stable on my board. It felt like it was way bigger than it actually is and is fast like a missile.”
After making it through the surf it was an all out sprint around Lands End, under the Golden Gate Bridge and to the finish line at Crissy Field. Once he had made it through the surf Steinfath made the decision to make a quick wardrobe change by stripping down the top half of his wetsuit as he began to overheat. Once he had his body temperature under control he was able to muster up some reserve energy and shift into overdrive for the final push.
“Paddling under the iconic Golden Bridge I was able to find some extra motivation. I felt tired and my heart rate was sky high but somehow I found another gear for the last mile or two at Crissy Field to just push through and not look back. It’s always nice to get that motivation at the end of the race and crossing the finish line was one of the sweetest feelings I’ve ever had,” said Steinfath.
Also taking on the challenge was Naish’s Kai Lenny, last year’s event runner up and big wave extraordinaire. Lenny, who currently sits on top of the WSL Big Wave Tour rankings, was charging in the front of the pack when he was caught inside by a big clean up set and pushed back in the pack. Lenny kept battling with a relentless tenacity throughout the race and was able to salvage an eighth place finish, but it was clearly Steinfaths day.
While Steinfath is far from an underdog, the Red Bull Heavy Water is a race that many analysts would pick strong results from the Hawaiian and Australians who are known globally for their prowess as great watermen. Hailing from Denmark Steinfath is filled with pride to represent his home country and show the world that Vikings still know how to navigate gnarly waters.
“I feel super honored to coming from Denmark, we’re not thought of as a big surfing nation. Frankly I was surprised to be out in front amongst all the strong Hawaiian and Australians in the surf. I love surf racing, I love doing good and I just aspire to be up there with all the best watermen. Today was like a fairytale for me.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull
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