CATERINA STENTA: ITALIAN STYLE
Caterina Stenta is one of the most up and coming talents in SUP racing! The Italian all-rounder is known for her hard work ethic, on and off the water; she tells us more about her competitiveness, the Italian lock-down and her PhD, in this exclusive interview that was featured in our Summer issue!
Tell us about your experience of lockdown in Italy?
So, we were been in total lockdown for 54 days. When it all began on March 10th, I was in my hometown in Italy. I came back from South Africa on February 20 where I was training and doing the photo shooting with RRD, and at the beginning of March I was in Austria to do some ski mountaineering. I came back home on March 9, and the day after it began what we would have never imagined. We were all attached to the screen listening to the prime minister speech about the start of the lockdown for whole Italy. It was a bit terrifying.
My plan was to continue training for the season in Canary Islands, in Tenerife, but here I am, still in Italy! The first thing I told myself when this lockdown started, was that I needed to stick to my training plan, in order to keep in my routine! I tried to make the most out of this time without getting crazy. So, I bought some bike rollers to do some cardio training at home, and when allowed I was going out to do run intervals in short distances. I have a long term plan with my training and that helped me to maintain the focus, I know that I can’t stop training otherwise I will lose months of work, so I’ve just changed the routine but I kept up the work. The worst thing was to not be able to enjoy the outdoors and run or paddle, or ski during what would have been a perfect ski season, or just be out enjoying nature. I don’t even have a garden at home, and it hasn’t been fun at all. But I saw this time as a mental training for resistance. I thought “if I am able to train in 100m like a hamster up and down the stairs, or road around my house, when I will be able to run and paddle free again, I will enjoy it more and be more motivated”. So, once I accepted these circumstances, I saw it as a time to strengthen my mind. I have just focused on training and using time wisely.
What did it feel like when you were finally allowed to the outdoors to practice sports?
It was awesome! The day we were allowed again to move free in our city I put on my running shoes and went out for the longest run I ever done! 41km. I was so happy to be able to enjoy nature freely again that I just took some water and snack and went out to reach the highest hill around.
How long was it before you could paddle again?
There was a small gap where only professional athletes with a permit from the federation could train, and on the 4th of May we were all allowed to do all the sports again and move free around the region.
How did your first paddle back on the water feel?
It felt almost unreal that what once was normal to me, it felt so special.
Are things getting back to normal in Italy now?
Yes, life is almost back to the normal rhythm now. Everything is open again; shops and businesses are working, and people are enjoying the summer outdoors. But at the same time, life is not like before and you can feel it. We wear masks, mandatory only indoors but you can see many wearing masks even outdoors, businesses, shops, gyms, hospitals, everything has now new rules and new habits to be followed. I try to be as much outdoor as I can and avoid indoor places. You can feel the difference between the people, less hugs, less kisses, a bit colder compared to what we were used to!
Are you allowed or planning to travel?
Yes, we are allowed to travel, but I didn’t travel anywhere yet, because I am waiting to see if the SUP season will start and if it does I will travel to the races and these will be my next travels. Until then I’ve decided to stay home, train here and give some SUP clinics here in my hometown.
What are your strong points as a SUP racer sprints or long distance?
At the beginning of my Sup Career, I think I was more into Sprints, although I was training mostly for long distances. I found out I was good at Sprints when at the ISA Worlds Championships in China I got a silver medal, in my first Sprint race. But year after year I am enjoying more and more the endurance aspect of the sport and I am loving the long distances, specially the training you need to do for it. This year I got again a podium at the Sprints at the ISA Worlds championship in El Salvador, so I guess that’s still a strong point, but I feel I have improved a lot even in the long distances.
What type of training do you do?
There’s a whole world about training specially endurance training! There are so many different training methods and so many things to learn! Endurance training is so interesting, it’s a real science. But basically, what I do is a mix of continuous training and interval training. I do a steady-state paddle, to accumulate hours in the lower hearth zone rate. It can be really low intensity paddle, tempo or progressive distance. In the interval training I basically go fast, then recover than repeat. And by combining these two you should get a good overall endurance training.
You seemed to be racing really well at the indoor in Paris how did it feel for you?
I loved Paris! It was my first time there. It was just after two intense weeks of racing at the ISA Worlds in El Salvador, it was the last race of the season, I was pretty tired from all the traveling, but at the same time excited for this new race for me and I think the adrenaline gave me that last bit of energy to compete well. I was surprised of my sprints at the pool, with the sitting start, the buoy turns in the pool, I was just trying to do my best with not too many expectations, but I actually got a really good time. I got like the third best time at the quarter final, but due to the man-on-man heat, I was out at the quarters. But still, I was stoked to prove myself in such a competitive field and be at the top with the times.
What are your ambitions as a SUP racer?
As a SUP racer, but more in general as an athlete, I just want to keep having fun doing what I do. The moment it will be more tiring and will feel more like a job than a passion, then I think I will stop. So, my ambition is to keep having fun, growing as an athlete, improving and enjoying the journey while I do it. The rest will eventually come. Of course, I train to be at the top level of the international rankings, I want to do more podiums on the Euro tour, APP World Tour and the ISA!
Tell us a bit about your background where you were brought up and how you got involved with water sports?
I grew up in a very sporty family, both my parents are mountain enthusiasts and windsurfers and I have been used to training since I was young. I started competing first in gymnastics, that I started with 5 years and I have been doing until 16 more or less. I already started skiing and ski mountaineering when I was three. As soon as I could walk, I already had skis under my feet.
I got to know Watersports as a kid as well, I got into windsurfing thanks to my parents. Every summer I’d travel with them to Greece to windsurf and they taught me the first steps when I was seven, but it was only at 16 that I really started to like it though and get really hooked. Since then I’ve been organizing my life around windsurfing! I changed university (I moved to Gran Canaria first when I was 18 and then to Lisbon to do my masters). I changed all my plans in order to have as much water time as possible and windsurfing quickly became the number one priority in my life.
I joined the PWA World Tour back in 2014 to improve my level and since then I have been regularly doing the PWA events and have dedicating my life to training in Windsurf all year long.
Sup came only later, around 2017 and I was not planing to do it professionally
What attracted you to Stand up Paddle?
I got into SUP racing quite by chance. During a photo shoot for RRD, I was doing windsurf and there were some riders of the RRD SUP team as well and I joined them just for fun in their Sup trainings and then I started training a bit with them. RRD gave me a board to participate in some Italian races and pushed me a bit to do some more races. I got into it very quickly and for three years I’ve been competing in the international SUP race scene as well.
What do you love about racing?
I am competitive, so what I love about racing is this competitiveness of racing side by side with other girls, that in windsurf wave we don’t really feel. I love to prove myself with the best in the sports and to see my level growing along my training. I love the effort you need to put to reach something and the fact that you always want to keep improving to try to reach your maximal potential. The race might last one or two hours, but what I love most are all the training hours behind the race, the commitment you need to have, the training lifestyle and the continuous learning on how to improve, how to know better training methods, how to combine different sports. What I love as well about racing is the community you share the races with. I feel we have lot in common and to share some travels and time with other strong girls or guys it’s fun and inspiring!
Any advice to any new girls out there who might want to get involved?
Just try it, try some races to see if you like them and if you do, then enjoy the training process. It’s okay to train in a serious way, but don’t take it too seriously, just enjoy the ocean in every condition and share it with other friends!
What will it take to beat the likes of Seychelle and the other girls at the top?
Pushing and learn to suffer during the trainings and then just keep training and believe in myself, I think.
What is it like to be on the RRD and how do you like the concepts of Roberto Ricci?
RRD is a multi-sport brand and as a windsurfer and ocean lover, I like it a lot. With RRD you can enjoy the water no matter the conditions, from sup to windsurf, kitesurf, foiling, wing foil. You name it, they have it. I have been with them seven years now, it’s a long time and I am so grateful to have been able to have them during my journey, from my first PWA competitions to the first podium in SUP. Roberto Ricci always tries to evolve and his strong point I think is that he is always ahead on the market. What I like most and have enjoyed most are the team riders met along the way, from each of whom I have learnt something.
Where do you see yourself in ten years-time?
I would love to keep working in the sport industry, not necessary Sup or windsurf, but outdoor sports in general is what I really love and the direction where I try to go.
Three words to live by?
Live, Love and Lift others!