Björn Dunkerbeck: “The sea is my life”

“In Gran Canaria you can row along in just your bermuda shorts in December”, so says the champion and promotor of the Stand Up Paddle Race Pro-Am.

When you sit opposite Björn Dunkerbeck you get the feeling a wave might be coming in any moment. You can almost hear the throb of the ocean behind his every word. That’s nothing strange in someone who is practically an amphibian, as he spends as much time in the sea as out of it. His WhatApp profile says it all: “Call me later. I’m out windsurfing...”. After forty two world titles, the sea’s fastest inhabitant is now promoting the Stand Up Paddle Race Gran Canaria Pro-Am, held between 15th and 18th December along the coast of Mogán.

Björn Dunkerbeck on his SUP board in Arguineguín, Gran Canaria

-Tell us, how did you get into the world of Stand Up Paddle Surf? What attracted you to this discipline?
I’ve been windsufing and surfing all my life, but about eight or nine years ago the first paddle surfers began to spring up in Hawaii. It’s just perfect. On the one hand, the smooth water allows you to get to places you can only reach on a Stand Up Paddle board. And you can also catch the waves.

-What’s the attraction for the general public?
Well, one really positive thing is that anyone can learn to do it with the right team. For the general public it is the perfect tool to go on a leisurely trip. You can go literally anywhere along the coast you normally couldn’t get to, as long as you are able to steer the board. It is advisable to go to a school so they can provide the right board for your weight. The range of Paddle Surf is quite wide. At the schools we have there is not one single person who hasn’t learnt so far. We work with children and when there are no waves we do Stand Up Paddle.

Björn Dunkerbeck on his windsurf board in Playa del Aguila, Gran Canaria

-What expectations do you have for this year’s championship?
Last year it was around about this time and was the last leg of the Canarian circuit. This year, the winner of Sunday’s race, the Waterman League of the European Championship, will also be crowned European Champion. We have raised the standard and will once again be the last race on the Canarian and Spanish ciruit. It is important to point out that we have a race with inflatable boards, which are really comfortable to take travelling, as they fit inside a bag, you just stick it on the plane and you can be in Gran Canaria rowing along in just your bermuda shorts in December. This is what we want to transmit to the European television and press. I would like to add that on Saturday and Sunday there will be races for everyone to join in and get on a board, free of charge. We also invite all the schools in Gran Canaria to come along with their clubs and set up their tents on the beach. 

Björn Dunkerbeck on his SUP board in Mogán, Gran Canaria

-I imagine that the exceptional climatic conditions in Gran Canaria set you apart from other regions and make it apt for all kinds of nautical and sports activities, don’t they?
That is precisely one of the secrets behind the nautical champions from Gran Canaria, because they can be out there training and practising 365 days a year if they wish, and this is a huge advantage. We have to remember that we have World and Olympic champions from here, in all disciplines. And the standard in all these aquatic sports is rising all the time. Champions will continue to come through because we have the perfect setting for training.

Björn Dunkerbeck
Björn Dunkerbeck on his windsurf board in Playa de Vargas, Gran Canaria

-Your passion for the sea and nautical sports is quite striking, after so much success over so many years.  
The sea is my life, really. Next year the Dunkerbeck Schools are celebrating their fortieth anniversary. I actually competed for thirty years running in the World Cup. My parents opened the first school in Faro de Maspalomas and I took my first steps in the Charca pond. Also my mother set up the Pozo Izquierdo World Cup and my father was involved in it for 23 years.