The adventures of Stein Hoff
There is more to Stein Hoff than racing as a masters rower at regattas. Norwegian adventurer, Hoff has not only taken part in the first trans-Atlantic rowing race in 1997, but is now preparing to retrace the row done by Harbo and Samuelsen from the United States to Europe in 1896.
Hoff, 69, began rowing in Norway as a teenager and continued it when he studied at university in Scotland. This included rowing for Scottish teams before making it onto the Norwegian national team for two seasons. Now Hoff is a regular competitor at the World Rowing Masters Regatta and other regattas - when his is not off on adventures. Stein talked to World Rowing about his rowing endeavours.
World Rowing: When did you start rowing?
Stein Hoff: I started rowing when I was 17 years old. At that time I lived in Sandefjord which is by the sea. So we rowed in big wooden boats on the sea. I have more or less rowed ever since in many different clubs.
Nobody before me in my family had rowed, but several other family members have rowed since. I met my wife, Diana through rowing.
I now take part annually in the World Rowing Masters Regatta as well as a couple of regattas in Norway. I also take part in kayaking, off-road biking, and indoor rowing races annually. My wife and I did a lot of running, including marathons and triathlons in the past. But the sport I have done best in has always been rowing!
WR: You crossed the Atlantic twice in a rowing boat.
SH: The first time I crossed the Atlantic was in 1997 when the Atlantic Rowing Race was held for the first time. I rowed it with my partner, Arvid Bentsen in a double. It took us 69 days non-stop. My partner and I never had cross words and it worked really well between us.
Probably with our experience now we would have done some things differently. For example we brought a lot of stuff and much of it was rather luxury, like books. We even brought a guest book as we had many friends and family coming over in Barbados (the finish) and they all signed the book.
It’s nice and an honour having been part of the first edition of this race now that it became more and more successful and popular.
I;ve also rowed from Lisbon to Guyana in 2002. This was my first solo row. It took 97 days. Having rowed alone east to west, I would love to also do it west to east.
WR: How do you keep yourself fit?
SH: The best way to keep yourself fit are knee bends (squats). It’s just such an easy and space-saving solution. I even do these on the sailing boat when we used to be on the water for months. The problem that people have once they get old is getting out of the chair since the legs just lose their power. So you stay in your chair and get immobile. Knee bends are the perfect way to avoid this.
Also I have my own racing single at home so I go out for a little paddle regularly. My double partner and I try to get out in a boat as often as possible but I sailed across the Atlantic (in 2014) so I missed out training several times.
WR: And your next project?
SH: I want to cross the Atlantic in 2016 to celebrate the 120 years anniversary of the first crossing of the Atlantic in a rowing boat. In 1896, two Norwegians started this trip, from New York City to Scilly Isles (Great Britain). My plan is to start on 15 May at the Battery Park in New York. I hope I won’t have any problems with the authorities there (smiling).
In 1896 they two rowers did it in 55 days but there have been speculations that they had help. They didn’t bring enough food and water so several passing boats might have provided them with food. If I can make the trip in 80-90 days I would be more than happy. The most important thing is to be back in Europe before the autumn starts.
WR: How do you prepare the night before an ocean trip?
SH: You can’t really prepare. I just take it easy and try to be well rested before the start. The first day is actually pretty dangerous when you are still close to the land and you can easily get blown back to the land. Once you have managed to get away from the shore, things are much easier.
WR: How is your boat equipped?
SH: Of course you try to keep your equipment as small and light as possible. I can prepare drinking water with a distillation device which is run by solar panels. Also I will prepare a spare rowing space in my boat so that in case of anything breaking, I have a second space to row. And I will build a little cockpit to put my food in.
I have an iPad with me. It’s crazy how these little things have changed our lives, including when it comes to navigation. I can use my iPad as a GPS device.
It is crucial to protect this equipment somehow. If you capsize, all the communication devices would be immediately destroyed by the water and you have to make sure that all the hatches are closed.
In some way we are cheating nowadays. Nevertheless I want to be completely unsupported during my trip.
WR: What does it feel like to come back on land?
SH: The feeling when you arrive back on land is unbelievable. It’s like being reborn. During the trip, especially in adverse weather conditions you think to yourself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” But I like challenges.
I’m a doctor and the aspect of fitness of elderly people really fascinates me. I want to see what the human physiology is capable to. I might be the oldest person that has ever tried something like that and I want to prove that it is still possible to do something like that in my age.