Interview Lake Rocks Festival Race Director Rudy van Haven

We are on the verge of one of the biggest SUP events of the year, the Lake Rocks Festival, which marks the kickoff of the SUP Alps Trophy. Rudy van Haven is the race director and a paddle sport enthusiast. Anyone who knows Rudy knows that he leaves nothing to chance and is open and honest with his opinions. We spoke briefly with him just before his trip from Vienna to Lake Faak.

Aloha Rudy, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with Stand Up Magazin just before this big moment. The Lake Rocks Festival is more than just a SUP race. So, you are also a Festival Director and not just a Race Director, and you do all this on the side. Have you had to take any vacation time, or how do you manage to juggle everything?

Thank you, Mike, for giving me this platform to shed light on important aspects and backgrounds of THE LAKE ROCKS SUP FESTIVAL and my role in it. Indeed, I work an average of 60 hours a week for my hometown Vienna in disaster protection and crisis management, and besides SUP sports, I have also developed a great fondness for culture and charity projects, leaving my mark there as well.

Rudy van Haven is effectively an identity-less fictional character whose task is to analyze processes and needs and to suggest necessary adjustments.

I enjoy bringing people together who would hardly find common ground in “real” life. SUP sport is the perfect vehicle for this, and when I start to feel that I have contributed to an important development and set the course, I will retreat back into the eternal tide. No one is irreplaceable, and everything has its time.

In this respect, I am just a small whell in the exceptionally well-functioning organizational machinery of the paddle city of Villach.

Are you already on site, or when will you be at Lake Faak to oversee the logistics?

I will be on site from Wednesday and will be delighted to see that the fantastic team, led by Helga Kaltenbacher and Michael Sternig, has perfectly implemented their logistical concept on the shores of the magnificent Lake Faak. In this way, I am stepping into a well-prepared situation and can focus on the sporting necessities with Gerd Weisner. Perhaps the small secret of our festival lies in the description of this situation. Division of powers and competencies, as in any well-managed company, is an indispensable necessity here as well.

The entire team consists of about 20 people, excluding water rescue and other security personnel, with about 10 of them directly involved in the competitions. An external drone team additionally provides new perspectives, and the electronic timing system will be an important step towards increased professionalism this year.

Happy participants are important.

How is security on the lake arranged?

Athlete safety: My greatest concern overall. Surely, some readers might have witnessed my legendary “outburst” at Lake Wolfgang when a motorboat entered the competition course. Everyone knows that I’m not using this phrase lightly. To put it in perspective: A substantial five-figure sum in euros is invested in athlete safety. Enough said!

Another aspect of the race is that the ICF has included it in its World Cup, so we’re getting a livestream. You’re a former canoe athlete and surely know the ICF very well. How does the ICF affect your work? Or differently put, what do races that work with the ICF have that others don’t?

(Ad on by Ed.: The live stream is required by the ICF in order to qualify to be included by the ICF, the event would have had a live stream regardless of the ICF, there fore the ICF does not get credit for the live stream. The organizers wanted us to be clear about that.)

That’s a question with almost political sensitivity, which I also prefer to avoid publicly. The contribution that the ICF makes to the spread of SUP sport can be judged by their actions in the future. With the exception of the skillful performance of the Hungarians at Lake Balaton, I see this contribution as mixed so far. The ICF does not have a noticeable impact on my work; I have learned to differentiate myself. And anyway, the Lake Rocks Festival is entirely under the banner of the SUP Alps Trophy. I am arrogant enough to claim that The Lake Rocks has a unique characteristic and a radiance that extends far into other sports events, which is not to the detriment of all those who are illuminated by it. My motivation is my SUP family, here my heart beats, and it lets me perform above the norm – that is my message!

Rudy mitte mit Gred Weisner (links) Tourchef der SUP Alps Trophy und (rechts) SUP Starphotograph Andy Klotz

Let’s go back to the participants. For a core magazine like Stand Up Magazin, it’s highly interesting to see which names from the sport will be attending, rather than how many hobby paddlers there are. With EUR 12,000 in prize money, many stars of the scene are attracted. The biggest name among the men is Michael Booth, but among the women, we have Susak Molinero. However, there are still several notable absences.

We primarily see ourselves as an event that brings together paddlers from all performance levels. With the XXL Board, Beach Sprint, Short Distance, and the City Event, we are effectively hosting four fun events. Of course, it’s good for the ego to know that some big names are at the start, and there will surely be some surprises appearing on the start list, I can reveal that much, but it’s not the end of the world. For my part, I prefer to accompany Jule through her competition and thus bring myself into the spotlight.

But I have good news for all SUP race fans, as Esperanza Barreras and Juliette DuHaime have just registered.

I hate to mention it, but the question arises: We have a scheduling conflict that weekend with the Sancti Petri SUP Race in Spain, which is also part of the EURO TOUR. What do you think can be done better in the sport to coordinate such dates? The athletes now have to choose between the SUP Alps Trophy and the EURO TOUR.

You would think that with a major event like yours, others would avoid scheduling on the same weekend. Can you share your experiences with us and make some suggestions? We as a media outlet can certainly contribute as well.

Personally, I don’t see the Euro Tour as a relevant competitor for a tour like the SUP Alps Trophy and its main events like The Lake Rocks or Adria Sup Challenge. There is, first, the geographical distance, and second, you can see from the prize money that the Euro isn’t as readily available to investors anymore. This will make several providers obsolete if they don’t manage to structurally change. My credo of #MAKESUPGREATAGAIN means producing a big SUP event for all people, not just for the pros. Personally, a Greek championship on the same date bothers me much more.

When I first appeared as an organizer in the SUP sport in 2004, I had 11 starters in the field, and we had incredible fun. Starting Wednesday, I get to personally greet and hug many of the numerous participants — the fun has remained the same, that was the goal.

In that sense, thank you for your insights. I wish you much success with the big weekend. We are all looking forward to the livestream.