If there is a name to remember from this year then its Caroline Küntzel. The young Danish paddler appeared on numerous podiums this year and surprised her competition with her amazing performance. The last time we saw her was back in May in Switzerland at the ICE Race. Since then lots has happened. It was time to catch up with her to hear how she is grasping her success:
Aloha Caroline thank you for taking time for the Stand Up Magazin. First of all congratulation to an amazing year so far.
Hi Mike, thank you so much for having me.
Tell us a bit about you: How did you get in to SUP and what motivated you to become a competitive SUP Athlete?
I started with SUP when I was 15 years old in 2017. Before I already knew about water sports and tried it a few times as a kid. My dad was a professional windsurfer and German champion back in the 90s and later got introduced to kitesurfing, Surf, SUP and foil. So I grew up watching him chasing storms and big waves. I always liked being by the sea, but was also very afraid of being out on deep water.
One day my world turned around, the ISA Worlds was hosted by Denmark in Vorupør September 2017. I went with my family. I decided from that moment to work towards this myself.
I got a SUP surf board as a birthday present 2 weeks after. From that day I went SUP surfing every day taking the bus with my board from school. 7 months later Casper Steinfath approached me and asked if I wanted to attend the qualifying event for the ISA Worlds. This was my first ever event and I won, as well as qualified. Few weeks after there was a race in Scharbeutz Germany. Casper teached me how to use a race board and a week after I was competing.
My earliest record of having a result under your name dates back to the ISA SUP World Championships in 2018. Was that your first big race or should I have gone further back in time?
Tell us a bit about that.
Yes, the ISA Worlds in 2018 was my first big race and the 3rd race in my life. After my participation in Germany, I attended the danish race championship and qualifier for the worlds. With a win in the junior girls I got selected to represent Denmark in Hainan China.
With only a year on a SUP it felt strange to already be participating at a world championship. My main discipline was still SUP surf back then, so I did the Womens SUP surf and placed 13th. I learned something in every heat and felt so much improvement. Casper was a huge support here again and taught me the important basics of competition. He has been by my side ever since I started which I am very grateful for!
Later in the week I did the Juniors technical race. I had a bad start, but during the laps I learned taking the conditions and my wave knowledge to my advantage. Paddling towards the reef instead of a straight line and catching a wave got me close to the podium. Suddenly I worked myself to a bronze medal. That was when I knew I wanted to race rather than SUP surf.
Let’s first rewind for a second to the moment I saw you last, at the ICE Race in Thun. Already there you were dominating the heats but then ran out of steam in the final. It looks like you learned to preserve your energy. What was your main takeaway from that race?
I think the sprints and technical race at the ICE Race was one of my most important races this year to learn from. I had amazing heats leading up to the finals in both Sprint and technical. I let myself get caught up in the moment and to a point where I didn’t have more energy, but plenty of races to go and no breaks to recover. I was happy with my races, but also curious of what possibilities there would have been if I had raced differently.
What were your goals and motivation after the ICE Race?
I took these feelings of hunger and wanting more with me for the future races. I wanted to reach the podium at one of my races this year. I needed to focus even more than before, get stronger and work smarter.
How did you train and prepare yourself for the big events of this year such as the ICF SUP Worlds and the EUROSUP?
After the ICE Race I went on the Euro Tour in Mallorca and Santa Pola to gain a little more experience. I wanted to approach my race preparation a little differently.
Then I came home and barely got back to training, when I suddenly got a major injury in June. I got a stress-fracture in my foot, which put me out of water for 11 weeks. June, July and August was pretty much just sitting still inside all day and going to the gym once a day on my crutches, only training my upper body. This was horrible and I didn’t think I had any chances at any of the upcoming events.
I did a whole lot of special training in the gym to simulate sprinting with my upper body and cardio training on the rowing machine only using my arms. These 11 weeks were so difficult and during that time I learned a lot about how mindset is everything and getting through this definitely made me stronger towards the season. I got the green light to go back on water for 20-30 minutes a day, 2 weeks before the European championship. I didn’t know if I was able to compete, up to the very day of the race, it all depended on how far my recovery could get in 2 weeks.
Which one was the most important for you and why?
My dream from earlier in the year was to win the European championship, but with my injury I didn’t expect anything. When I stood on the sprints final start line at the EUROSUP, all I could be was grateful for being able to be in the final after everything I went through with my injury. The key to my performance in this race was all the hours on water before my injury and then all the work in the gym with my strength and my mindset. When I crossed the finish line as 1st woman, I was so emotional and couldn’t believe my eyes. This race was definitely my most important and meaningful race. Then getting a silver medal in the ICF Worlds technical race the week after, was just unbelievable and I can’t believe that I could perform and achieve 2 of my biggest dreams within 2 weeks.
Now that you just got back from the APP in Korea, tell us a bit about that experience and how SUP is being received in Korea?
First of all, winning the sprints and overall in Korea was truly amazing. Another big result this year and a dream coming true. The setup in Korea was incredible. They prepared a lot for us athletes and showed great hospitality. We did a lot of sightseeing and as you might saw, watched a drone show from a yacht. There was a lot around the race, which made it very spectator friendly and also very busy for us athletes. There was so much to see!
The venue itself and races were well organised and everything was on time. The kids and open races showed a lot of talented SUPers coming up in Korea!
What are the next big (and small) races you are looking to attend this year?
I am definitely attending the ISA Worlds in Puerto Rico and then the APP World Tour in Alicante. After that I will take some time off to prepare for another season.
Once the season is over and we are in the winter, what are you going to do and how are you preparing for the SUP Season 2023?
Every off season for me starts with a few weeks of having fun, with no pressure. Usually lots of surf – long boarding, short boarding and SUP surf. I also love to bake, drink tea and nerd race technique with my boyfriend Jeppe.
Then I will get back into my focus zone and work on my physical shape, strengthening and improving my racing in Klitmøller Cold Hawaii. I love this part, but to be able to get through all this training, my batteries need to be full and that is why the weeks off are so important. I used to do all of my training plans myself, but after starting to coach for others I want to put this aside and work together with a trainer to reach my own goals. So I am now working mainly with Larry Cain, but also the Danish National team with Jesper Carlson and Kona Sports, where I develop with Magnus Lindstedt and Linköbing Sportslab.
The danish winter is pretty cold and rough, so this year I might look for somewhere to go prepare for the season. Definitely somewhere in Europe, I just need to see where.
Caroline Küntzel BIO
- Year born: 2002 (19 years old)
- Nationality: Danish, my dad is German and my mom danish.
- Place born: Thisted, Denmark (20 minutes from Klitmøller)
- Occupation / Studies: Currently working on my personal trainer education certificate and have already opened my own SUP coaching company, to teach other people race technique and SUP surf skills, as well as how to prepare for a competition.
- Activities outside of SUP: Yoga, biking, the gym, some foil and surf.
- Sponsors: Kona Sports & Hvidbjerg Bank, and some other local ones!
- Instagram: Athlete profile @carolinekuntzel and SUP trainer profile @SUPcarolinekuntzel
- Facebook: athlete profile @SUPcarolinekuntzel