OUTSIDE: How does a German even get into surfing?
STEUDTNER: In 2001, I came to Hawaii on a student-exchange program, and while there my friend introduced me to a family of big-wave surfers. The first thing we did is go tow-surfing. It was 15 to 20 feet. After the first wave, I knew this was my sport.
Why go straight to tow-in surfing?
Because you get so many more waves than in paddle surfing. And you're able to surf bigger waves. I come from fast sports, so that was a better match for me than the regular paddle surfing.
Did your background as a windsurfer help?
I'm used to doing sports where you're not moving your feet on the board. I like the way that feels. And in windsurfing, you learn how to read the wave earlier because you catch the wave earlier. That's true of tow-in surfing, too.
What do people say when you tell them you're a German tow surfer?
A lot of people laugh. They think, You're joking. But they understand it, too, like the Jamaican bobsled team. It's kind of the same thing—except that I won.