A 28-year-old Dane battles storms, snow and meter-high waves to become the first person to move around his home country on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP).
Casper “The Viking” Steinfath, a six-time SUP world champion, set off from his home beach in Klitmøller – known as Cold Hawaii – on April 2 with nothing more than a tent, a sleeping bag, a cooking set and some packed lunches.
He plans to camp inland every night, relying on the kindness of strangers to help him endure the 870-mile (1,400 km) journey up Denmark’s rugged coastline in some of the worst weather conditions Danes experience all year have experienced.
“Having grown up by the North Sea in Jutland, I’m used to playing in all conditions,” said Steinfath. “But yesterday was pretty awful…I’m currently sunburned, windburned and have frozen fingers. It’s an odd combination.”
He said his coping strategy was “Chapstick, SPF 40, and dancing to Rage Against the Machine every 45 minutes to keep my feet from going numb.”
Steinfath was inspired to take up the challenge while staying grounded during the pandemic. “Before Corona, I traveled the world for water sports competitions for 10 years and traveled at least nine months every year. So the pandemic is the longest I’ve been at home since I was a kid.”
After a short “rest”, he said, he became curious about Denmark and the Danes. “I dreamed of rediscovering my backyard and the hidden gems in it that I haven’t seen before.” He was most looking forward to seeing South Funen, or the Danish Caribbean as it’s optimistically called, and Møns Klint, the 70 metres ancient chalk cliffs that plunge into the Baltic Sea two hours south of Copenhagen.
Would-be Vikings can follow the progress of the so-called Great Danish Paddle via a live GPS map or via @cj_steinfath on Instagram and then join Steinfath to sail, row or paddle with him. “I loved watching Forrest Gump as a kid and the running scene really stuck with me,” Steinfath said, recalling the 1994 film in which the title character is joined by others on a cross-country run, who see him as a guru.
Steinfath’s hopes are more modest. “I don’t mind if one person, 10 people or 100 people come to me, I’m just passionate about any company. The Danes come out of their winter dens in spring and there’s a real energy in the air so it’s a great time to see Denmark.”
He aims to paddle around 25 miles a day and carry 30kg of gear on his board. On a windless day, that means paddling for six or seven hours and consuming about 6,000 calories. “I’m about to eat my second lunch,” he said.
While Steinfath was looking forward to the rest of the trip, he was also nervous. “Denmark appears tiny on a map, but it’s a long way around it on a sup.”
The Great Danish Paddle is expected to last between 40 and 50 days. “But who knows, with the Danish weather,” said Steinfath. “There’s an immovable deadline on the horizon: ‘I’m getting married in August, so I have to be on land by then.”