After our refreshing SUP session on Schlachtensee we caught up with Philipp Wilhelm, founder of Steh-Paddler, to learn more about Stand Up Paddle Boarding and find out why it’s become so popular in recent years…
USC: What’s your background with sport?
I was an Artistic Gymnast for a very long time. I used to compete at a high level and would perform gymnastic routines on bars, rings and horses etc. However at such a high level it becomes very intense and as a result isn’t very healthy.
I always wondered what will be the next sport for me? I wanted to find something that trained my muscles and cardio system, but I didn’t want a high impact sport – some forms of cardio can be very bad for your knees and back.
How did you discover SUP?
I tried SUP on a trip to the Baltic Sea and instantly knew it’s the sport for me. At the time I was looking to change my job as a salesperson in the medical device industry. My son had just been born and I didn’t want to train in gymnastics anymore. So I started this SUP business and adopted a new approach to life: to combine sports with wellbeing.
USC: What did you enjoy about SUP when you first tried it?
It’s very comprehensive and easy to pick up and it’s wonderful to be in touch with water which is the element of life. Here at Schlachtensee the surroundings are idyllic. It can get crowded in summer but if you come here early in the morning you have the lake to yourself. You can watch the sunrise or sunset in the evening.
USC: Is SUP a competitive sport?
Yes – there are plans to make it an Olympic discipline. Because I was in the competitive world for so many years, I don’t want this place to be like that – it’s for the masses. I want to attract as many people as possible so they can try it and see that it’s a great sport. SUP is for everyone – from small kids to elderly people. Last year the oldest customer was over 90 years old.
You can have fun and mess around in the water or you can learn to compete by training properly and working on your technique. It’s totally up to you – everyone can find their own fulfilment from it.
USC: Are there SUP competitions around the world?
Yes there are many global competitions. Competitors will travel with about 10 different boards – depending on the type of water (lake, river, ocean) and weather conditions you choose a different board. Some are more stable, some are faster – it’s very diverse.
Many people think SUP is just a leisure activity but there’s a lot more to it. We have a SUP shop that sells all the gear including drysuits for winter so you can fall in the water without having a heart attack. In 2019 we plan to open another rental spot with a focus on the competitive side of the sport. So Steh-Paddler is for leisure and the next place will be for training and technique.
USC: Why has SUP become so popular in the last few years?
It’s definitely become more popular but still there’s lots of people who don’t know what it is. It’s so easy to pick up and people keep coming back. We opened 4 years ago with just 5 boards that I had to import from China. Now we have 40 boards and I see people with their own boards all the time.
Recently inflatable SUP boards have become available which is a total game-changer as they are super easy to transport and store.
USC: Is there a community for SUP in Berlin?
When we started in 2014 we collaborated with other SUP companies and created a NYE SUP event. It was great. There are also Facebook and WhatsApp groups that people privately organise themselves.
USC: What advice do you have for USC members who want to get into SUP?
You can always turn up and paddle around for fun, but if you really want to learn the technique and how to work with a board then I recommend an introductory course.
USC: What health advice do you have for USC members?
I was a competitive athlete but now my approach to health is completely different. For example, this summer I told myself that I’ll run around the lake at least 3 times per week and paddle board to the other end of the lake each time. But after a few times it just wasn’t fun anymore. So my motto now is: It has to feel good. When it stops feeling good, do something else.
Check out steh-paddler.com for all their latest news, events and updates.
USC has plenty of SUP partners across Germany. Take a look at our site to see which one is closest to you.