Sebastian Steudtner: the Kaiser of Nazaré

October 30, 2020 | Surfing
Sebastian Steudtner: the German is one of the most experienced surfers in Nazaré

Sebastian Steudtner is a professional big wave surfer with German and Austrian nationality benefiting from more than 19 years of professional surfing.

He is one of the most experienced Nazaré surfers and an absolute expert on the surf spot at Praia do Norte.

Aged 16, Sebastian Steudtner followed his ambitious dream to become a professional surfer and moved from Nürnberg to Maui, where he was raised by a Hawaiian surf legend.

As the very first European, he wrote history by winning the XXL Big Wave Awards in 2010 and 2015. Among other accolades, he was awarded surfer of the year in 2011 and 2012.

Sebastian surfed the most famous wave ever in 2018 at Praia do Norte, Nazaré.

Gaining close to one billion views on his epic ride, Sebastian established himself as the surfer leading the hunt to surf the biggest wave ever and a role model for European big wave surfers.

On a never-ending search for the biggest waves on Earth, Sebastian first surfed in Nazaré in 2012.

He is one of the most consistent, most prepared, most trained Nazaré surfers, and therefore an expert on the spot.

On- and off-season, Sebastian and his team follow an intense training plan to make sure they are focused and prepared for the swell.

His team of sports scientists, military doctors, and physiologists support the action team in maximizing their performance and pushing their limits on the big waves.

The Magic Duo

Sebastian's training and big wave partner is the Brazilian professional big wave surfer Maya Gabeira.

Years ago, Maya and Sebastian partnered up as Team World and continued to push each other to break records.

As a team, they broke Maya's own world record in February 2020 on the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman.

Maya is also an absolute expert on the waves formed by the underwater canyon.

The most gigantic waves on Earth break in Nazaré, a small fishing village 130 kilometers north of Lisbon. The underwater canyon of Nazaré is 230 km long and deeper than the Grand Canyon.

It ends 500 meters before the coast, creating the most massive waves worldwide at Praia do Norte.

The rough fall and winter storms push the water up the canyon, not only making the biggest but also the fastest wave worldwide. Praia do Norte is the only spot where "freak waves" break in such proximity to the shore.

Praia do Norte is the biggest, fastest, strongest, and therefore most challenging wave in the world.

With determination and never-stopping perseverance, Sebastian optimized both the material and his athletic performance to the spot in Nazaré.

Together with a designated shaper, he developed the fastest boards manufactured to ride the biggest waves ever.

Further, he established his signature move, an S shape, leveraging on the G-forces and maximizing the speed when surfing.

The ideal condition to surf giant waves, a phenomenon of nature, is a perfect combination of external and internal aspects.

External factors are the absence of wind, a high period between the sets of waves, and a big swell forecasted.

Internal factors are the constellation of the performance team, the athlete's shape, and a strong safety system on the water and onshore.

Sebastian is co-founder and president of the Nazaré Surf Rescue Association (NSRA), actively involved in improving the safety standards in big wave surfing.

This storm was the first time the NSRA team, doctors and lifeguards, are at the beach prepared for the worst case.

Against public perception, big wave surfing is indeed a team sport building on blind trust on all team members on the water and onshore.

A team of three jet ski drivers, two spotters - one on a jet ski and one on the cliff - doctors, and lifeguards on the beach make Sebastian Steudtner's performance a true team effort.

Sebastian Steudtner: riding a giant beast at Nazaré on October 29, 2020

Hurricane Epsilon

On October 29, 2020, the duo enjoyed an exceptional big wave surfing day.

The swell was very special, it was sunny all day, and with huge waves. This combination of conditions is extremely rare.

Sebastian Steudtner and his team decided to go into the water by the first sunlight and were the very first team on the spot.

"The waves were incredibly big. There were, for sure, multiple rides I will remember forever. It was the first day of the season. This is just the crazy beginning," said Sebastian Steudtner.

"Today was good. If everyone is alive and plenty of waves ridden at this size, it's a very good day," added Gabeira.

On the biggest wave surfed by Sebastian Steudtner, Maya Gabeira was on the jet ski spotting the line-up and carefully deciding which wave to ride.

Together with a well-experienced team of spotters onshore, they detected the swell arriving and knew right away that the wave will be one of the biggest Sebastian Steudtner ever surfed.

The 25-second long ride was extremely challenging not only through the high speed but the steep angle of the wave.

The big wave surfboards are shaped to reach a speed of 70 kilometers per hour.

While surfing, the feeling of the surfboard riding through the powerful mass of water let the athlete assume his speed was much faster than any wave surfed before.

"We had very big waves today, one of the biggest days in the last years and extremely much action," noted the German.

"I had a wave that was extremely big, extremely fast, and felt like one of the biggest waves I have ever surfed."

Sebastian Steudtner: he always teams up with Maya Gabeira at Nazaré

The Wipeout

On the wave before, Sebastian Steudtner experienced a serious wipeout - a monster wave hit the surfer and buried him under tons of water.

His safety jet ski driver managed to drive through the turbulent whitewash and rescued Sebastian Steudtner.

He was taken care of by the Nazaré Surf Rescue Association onshore.

Despite the situation being perceived by the spectators as extremely dramatic, Sebastian Steudtner continued chasing the biggest waves.

"The wipeout was pretty brutal and very close to the cliff. I tried to outrun the wave. I was not fast enough. The breaking part of the wave, the lip, landed on me," explained Steudtner on his fall from a gigantic wave.

"I came up from the first wave; then a second wave came that broke from two sides on me, which was brutal. I did three tumbles, got a stiff neck, but my safety vest inflated."

"Then I was alone in the white water for a while. It completely washed me again. And then Maya and Alemao, our team on the water, came and rescued me."

Maya Gabeira knew what to do.

"I saw this wave, and I saw it was going to land on him. Then I coordinated with Alemao, our jet ski driver. It was quite hard to see Sebastian. Luckily Alemao got him," concluded Gabeira.

Sebastian Steudtner, the Kaiser of Nazaré, will continue chasing some of the biggest swells the Atlantic has to offer.

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