Stand-up paddling professional Paulina Herpel rides the wave on the coast of Biarritz.

Natural Champion


Natural Champion

Words by Magdalena Behrens
Photography by Marko Mestrovic
September 1, 2018

Stand-up-paddleboarding pro Paulina Herpel takes the e-Golf to the coast around Biarritz in south-western France to seek out the perfect wave. She knows the best surf spots well. Electric mobility, on the other hand, is new territory for her.

Charge the lithium-ion battery of the e-Golf overnight via a household outlet.
Surfing is a sport for early risers because the best conditions can often be found in the morning. For this reason, Paulina makes her way to the beach at daybreak. She simply charged the e-Golf’s lithium-ion battery using a household socket overnight at her tour accommodation. In this domain, mobility is indispensable. The best surf spots are usually only accessible with a car.
Stand-up paddle in the boot of the e-Golf
The boot of the e-Golf offers enough space for the stand-up paddle, wetsuit and everything else Paulina needs throughout the day.

Water (H2O) is, by definition, a chemical compound of the elements oxygen and hydrogen – for Paulina Herpel, it is more than this: a sense of happiness. Perfect waves, a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), a paddle – fundamentally, this is all that is required to conjure up an animated smile on the face of the Hamburg native and 2017 German champion in the SUP disciplines of Wave, Technical Race and Whitewater. The 20-year-old is a real water lover – as she puts it, maybe even a bit of a “water addict”.


Passion for water and waves

Her surfer parents laid the cornerstone for this, taking every opportunity with their children, and still doing so, of spending their free time and holidays close to the water. This connection to the wet element really does involve the whole family: even both dogs take their places on the stand-up paddleboards on quieter tours. “When it comes to planning holidays, the idea comes up at regular intervals to switch to a normal city trip or similar for a change,” Paulina grins. “But the passion for water and waves is too strong. So we always end up near rivers, lakes or the coast.” Denmark’s Klitmøller, also known on the surf scene as “Cold Hawaii”, has thus almost become a second home for Paulina. Her enthusiasm for stand-up paddleboarding even has its roots here. Paulina Herpel now travels around the world with her board and paddle.

e-Golf with full LED headlights
The appropriate Volkswagen accessories: Paulina’s stand-up paddleboard is securely attached to the surfboard rack on the roof with straps. The front view of the vehicle is characterised among other things by the full-LED headlights whose colour is similar to daylight. The integrated blue band is typical for electric models. Another typical feature is the LED daytime driving lights with characteristic C signature.
I especially like the action-packed disciplines where technical skill and quick, intuitive actions are required.
Paulina Herpel
Stand-up paddle board on the roof rack of the e-Golf
Paulina is preparing for her next surfing session. After putting on her wetsuit, the athlete frees the board from the roof rack. The 20-year-old’s growing sense of anticipation is palpable – because in a few minutes, she will be in the water, her favourite element. She always loved being in the water, which is why the sport suits her so well.

“Stand-up paddleboarding is a very diverse sport that can be practised on all types of water. This diversity is what is so appealing to me. I especially like the action-packed disciplines where technical skill and quick, intuitive actions are required.”


First contact with electric mobility

Paulina spends a lot of time on the water because of her sport. This has led to a very deep connection with nature. “When I’m waiting on my board for a wave, looking towards the horizon, and I see this seemingly infinite expanse, then that is something special. I hope we can enjoy this beauty for a very long time. I have often organised so-called beach clean-ups with friends – rubbish collecting in groups – so I can at least make a small contribution to this. Because of this affinity with nature, I also find topics such as electric mobility fascinating,” explains Paulina. The tour with the e-Golf through Biarritz is a premiere for the likeable athlete: this is the first time that she has driven a purely electrically powered vehicle. “With the e-Golf, I especially like the combination of a powerful but incredibly quiet drive and the dynamic driving feel. I think it’s great that the tendency is for our future mobility to be more heavily based on alternative drives.”

Waves on the coast near Biarritz
Looking to the waves: with her board clasped under her arm, Paulina makes her way to the beach.
Wave ride with the stand-up paddle board at Biarritz
Paulina in her element: even if the water sports enthusiast knows how to appreciate a quiet SUP tour with friends and family on calm waters, she still prefers hurling herself into the waves. Here, balance, the right technique and, every now and then, courage are required. When surfing, the paddle serves as drive, steering and as an aid for increased balance and stability.

Mobility is an important aspect

In order to practise her sport, it is important for Paulina to be mobile. Because, without a vehicle, a number of surf spots would not be so easily accessible. What’s more, the time factor is another significant aspect: good conditions are not always present all day, but only at particular times. Often, they are at their best in the early morning. This is why, during Paulina’s trip to Biarritz, it was important to be out of bed as early as possible.


A shrill alarm at six in the morning would well and truly spoil most people’s mood, but not the SUP pro: “I’ve already looked at the waves at one of my favourite spots on the webcam; there are really good sets coming in. Let’s go!” With well-versed hand movements, Paulina happily packs the equipment in the boot of the e-Golf and fixes the stand-up paddleboard to the roof rack with straps. A familiar practice. Only one detail is different: the purely electric drive of the vehicle that will take her to the surf spot.

With the e-Golf, I especially like the combination of a powerful but incredibly quiet drive and the dynamic driving feel.
Paulina Herpel
Find charging station and recharge e-Golf
Find charging station and recharge e-Golf
Find charging station and recharge e-Golf
Digital cockpit with energy display
Charging the e-Golf is practical and convenient: Use the infotainment system to find a charging station, activate the charging process at the destination, remove the plug, plug it in, lock the car - that's all. During the 45-minute charging time, Paulina visits a friend in the surf shop.
Water sportswoman Paulina Herpel at the wheel of the e-Golf
e-Golf on the coast near Biarritz

Paulina’s tips  

Surf spots

The beaches around Biarritz offer optimal conditions for surfing. Paulina’s favourite spots include Lafitenia, Cenitz and Bidart. Anyone surfing here needs to be confident with their board.

Hang Loose

Straight from the board to the dinner table? No problem. The restaurant “Le Surfing” at Plage des Estagnots is one of the hotspots on the surfer scene. Anyone eating here will be taken on a little journey through time: the walls are adorned with surf posters in a retro look.


At Plage de Marbella, there is a little snack bar called “Debololo”: from here, you not only have a fantastic view of the lively hustle and bustle on the beach; you can also marvel at the sunset with a refreshing drink.


Paulina, who has been to this area for surfing many times before, knows the way to the best spots in and around Biarritz by heart. But she still activates the navigation during the drive. This gives the driver the possibility of viewing registered charging points in the area using the radio navigation system “Discover Pro”. “A practical feature, especially if you don’t know the local charging infrastructure so well.” The energy flow display, a range monitor or the recuperation statistics can also be called up.


During the trip to the nearby surf spots, the roadsides are lined with lots of green. Time and again, impressive panoramas across the Atlantic open up. Waves break on the beach and the sunlight refracting through the mist kicked up by the swirling foam creates a surreal lighting mood. The weather in this region is as rough and changeable as the Atlantic. But this is what sets it apart: without rain, there would be no rich green. For Paulina, it’s the ideal mix: “I think this is what makes the area so appealing: the combination of French charm and the surfer scene. There are cool shops and restaurants. Then there is this unbelievable natural backdrop – and, of course, the perfect surfing conditions. The odd rain shower just belongs in the Basque country, too.“


Biarritz, surfing hotspot

Just as typical for the region as the changeable weather are pedestrians carrying their surfboards under their arms through the town to the next beach. Surfing is a tradition in Biarritz. The hype began in 1956 with a visit from the American screenwriter Peter Viertel, who wanted to film a Hemmingway novel there. It is said that when he saw the waves at Grand Plage – the central city beach – he sent for his surfboard. He used the breaks in filming to spend as much time as possible on the water. That was the trigger – the rest is history. Within a short time, Biarritz has evolved into one of the most popular surf hotspots in Europe. For decades, the Basque coast was populated only by people with classic surfboards, but now, more and more bring a paddle along. Stand-up paddleboarding is on the up and is transforming from a trend sport to a mass phenomenon. A change is in the offing.

Stand-up paddling pro Paulina Herpel with the e-Golf on the coast around Biarritz

Paulina reports: “To begin with, I got sceptical glances now and again. Some surfers on the water worried about their safety. But as soon as they’d notice that you had the board under control with the paddle as well as they did, they would become more relaxed. I am riding the waves with a really short board. This makes you faster and more agile. I usually wait approximately level with the surfers for the next wave. There is more likely to be a problem if I start from further out. A surfer who is closer to the breaking part of the wave at first has priority.” There is an unwritten rule that new things conjure up a mixture of curiosity and scepticism. However, those who see for themselves how much enthusiasm, commitment and – above all – talent Paulina brings to her sport will quickly forget their initial scepticism vis-à-vis the relatively young discipline.


At each stop at the surf spots, she fetches the stand-up paddleboard from the roof rack with a few hand movements and the rest of the equipment from the spacious boot. Then she runs to the beach, fastens the leash strap to her ankle, screws the fins to the board – and in the next moment she is already on the water. With strong paddle strokes, she reaches the so-called line-up, the area behind the zone in which the waves break, in order to wait for the next breaker. As soon as a suitable wave is in sight, it’s down to perfect timing. Out of the seated waiting position, up into the standing position on the board. Paulina’s left foot is in front; the right is in parallel a little way behind. She paddles the wave with short, quick strokes and catches it at exactly the right moment. The board picks up speed, glides into the wave trough and Paulina is surfing. Once a wave has been ridden, she paddles out again and waits for the next one. Tirelessly. Again and again. Two hours pass by quickly. For the last surf session of the day, she exits the water after sunset. She lays down the board and the paddle on the beach, retrieves a towel from her backpack and looks out on the Atlantic again. And there it is once more: this animated smile of happiness.


Exhilarating drive form

To date, the e-Golf has captivated everyone. In order to make the appeal of alternative drive forms tangible, you have to do it like Paulina: experience it yourself.

Do you want to take your next trip to the beach with your own e-Golf? More information on the e-Golf can be found here:

To the e-GolfOpens an external link

Portrait of stand-up paddling professional Paulina Herpel
Paulina Herpel is Germany’s model athlete in the SUP ladies’ category. Anyone chatting with the 20-year-old will soon realise that she is passionate about this sport. As a digital native, she uses social media channels to share her enthusiasm with her fans and followers.