Sebastian Steudtner: 'This Wouldn't Happen in Any Other Sport'

Jason Lock

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Updated 33d ago

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed Rodrigo Koxa's mammoth record breaking wave emerging on social media once again. Except, it's not Koxa's wave. Sure, Rodrigo's tagged in it, but the wave is actually that of German hellman Sebastian Steudtner from a different session altogether.

Big deal, you may ask. Well, for big wave surfers whose career it is to ride the biggest waves and to get exposure from that wave, it's pretty major. This is a livelihood and more exposure means our favourite big wave protagonists can continue their chosen career path. More exposure means more sponsorship dollars. And a ride stacking hundreds of millions of views over the past few days, the epitome of viral, is crucial.

Sebastian's wave.

Now Sebastian has the anguish of watching that view count go through the roof – millions upon millions of views. Even Steve-O from Jackass shared it, tagging Rodrigo and there's currently 21,000,000 views attached to that video.

It's a sticky situation for both Sebastian and Rodrigo – Koxa doesn't get the credit he rightly deserves for his wave, and Sebastian can do nothing except watch it unfold. Of course, Koxa has released a clarification on his Insty page, as has Sebastian, but the damage has been done - news networks have picked up the story and run with it, incorrect credit and it makes for a bit of a nightmare. What's expected to have happened is the video was syndicated to a major news network, they've broadcast it via Insty and once again the video has surfaced, with wrong credit.

So, I spoke to Sebastian this morning to get his read on the situation and to set the record straight. Steudtner said they've attempted to contact the major news organisations to get the credit changed but it's either fallen on deaf ears or been ignored altogether. He also said that this isn't about pride, but more the impact on the business aspect. After all, big wave surfing isn't a charity.

MSW: Hey Sebastian, well, this is a pretty bizarre scenario right? I mean, your wave, your footage but with claims it's Rodrigo Koxa and I've seen some vids with upwards of tens of millions of views...
SS: I've put together the numbers and it has hundreds of millions of views already.

Rodrigo's wave.

That's insane, think it would be good to set the record straight though. The world record set by Koxa was ratified back in May and for some reason this has come back around, what the hell is going on?
Well, I think what's happened is, the video has been licensed to a social media agency and to the wider media and now, the wrong info has gone through. Think some editors outside of the surf industry saw that, didn't pay attention, thought it looked dramatic and ran it. But the wave I was on in January looked dramatic and the one Rodrigo was on was kind of pulled back, so I think somewhere along the lines, they've got them confused. If you search the hash tag rodrigokoxa on Insty, then it's still there – it's my wave with claims to be the biggest surfed by Rodrigo.

What's really frustrating is we flagged it wherever we could and no one's changing it. Steve O (from Jackass) shared it and the vid's got 20 million views. My overall take is that it might just be an honest mistake. They may have presumed the wave I rode was the biggest, I don't know.

I remember seeing your wave back in January, the footage was something else. Back then, I was convinced it was one of the biggest ever surfed at Nazare. And it may well be. But I don't think people outside of the surfing industry understand how important this is. You know, big wave surfers train hard all year round and the reward is the XL awards, some recognition, or general awe from the masses about what you've done. To have that credited to someone else has got to be an annoyance, to have that credited to someone else and then the view count stack up to the hundreds of millions is disheartening. How're you feeling about it right now?
First thought was how the hell has this happened? I instantly contacted Javier, the filmmaker, and he told me about it going to a social media agency and it all started to piece together. I think there's something fundamentally wrong here and this wouldn't happen in any other sport

It's difficult, you know, we work hard to surf and put ourselves in the biggest waves of all time. It's what I do. I'm trying to smile about this situation but it's making a bit angry, you know? All that time spent to be in the right place, all that time training. I think there's something fundamentally wrong here and this wouldn't happen in any other sport. You perform and you're supposed to get rewarded for it.

I've learnt from it. And other valuable things in progressing my business. In one hand, it opened new insights and on the other, I'm pissed. It's not so much about the pride, I don't need that but it's the business aspect and the professional side of it.

21 mil views and counting.

21 mil views and counting.

This is your livelihood, it's what you do. I think people won't quite understand the frustration until it's put into context – in any other job, if you perform well and someone swoops in and takes all the credit (or in this case, inadvertently from Rodrigo) it's going to leave a sour taste. And when the reward is one; the XL Awards and two; the exposure to the public, it's important that these rides are credited.
Yeah, I mean it's comedy when you think about it. Imagine Usain Bolt, running the 100 metres, breaking the world record. Then a few months later a video comes up of a Russian sprinter and the tagline it's Usain Bolt....it just doesn't happen. I mean, that's super bizarre but that's context.