Surfing-World record holder Steudtner finds peace in chaos

By Thomson Reuters Apr 29, 2024 | 6:25 AM

(Reuters) – Surfing the face of a wave as high as an eight-storey building would fill most people with terror – but Sebastian Steudtner says he finds his job peaceful.

The 38-year-old German was already the record holder for the biggest wave ever surfed when, in February this year, he was recorded tackling one measured at 28.57 metres in Nazare, Portugal.

Due to be officially ratified later this year, when it is confirmed, it will surpass Steudtner’s current record of 26.21m.

“It’s very peaceful, in a very humbling way,” Steudtner told Reuters in Munich last Friday when asked what it is like to take on the extremes of the Atlantic ocean.

“I realize how small I am as a human compared to mother nature, and to the largest physical energy in the ocean.

“It’s a very powerful feeling because me, as a tiny little human, I have the ability to perform a sport within this chaos and within this energy.”

After setting the current world record in 2020, Steudtner was confident he could better it, but only by harnessing science and technology.

A drone prototype was used for quick and precise wave measurement during the huge swell on the day of the record attempt, while Steudtner used new surfboard technology to reach speeds of up to 100 km/h, compared 80 km/h previously.

The project, named Mission Wave Alpha, also saw Steudtner study how waves work and how surfers interact with them.

“We went to wind tunnels to see aerodynamics of a surfboard, we created a measuring device, we created a coating for the surfboard that makes it faster, we scientifically checked my body – what happens on the wave and through sports science changed my athletic ability,” he said.

Despite the hours of preparation, surfing huge waves is inherently dangerous, and Steudtner says that he could not have achieved his latest mark without significant support.

“I knew… I could surf bigger waves, (but) the mindset for me changed when I saw this surfboard is faster, my jet-ski driver is more aggressive,” he added.

“When I saw the rescue team that we created, in, you know, in a partnership with the German army, and I look at everyone in the water and I’m like, ‘wow, those are the best in the world, I can trust them 100 percent’, that gives me confidence.”

(Reporting by Ayhan Uyanik and Christine Uyanik; Editing by Christian Radnedge)